Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Now this was awkward.

Here was John Slater, United Airlines' vice president for inflight operations, emailing Flight Attendants to do something about their, well, comportment.

As Skift reported, Slater criticized some Flight Attendants for general sloppiness in attire and, it seemed, personal care. He spoke of a need for them to improve their "personal grooming."

"We lost our focus on the value uniform standards have on our customers' perception of our company," he wrote. 

Some might mutter that customers' perception of the company might have been more affected by dragging a paying passenger down the aisle of a plane as his face bled.

Still, who doesn't like to see airline employees neatly turned out?

Slater was worried about stained shirts and irregular skirts. He moaned about scuffed shoes that might be giving customers the blues.

Indeed, he seemed so excited that he sent his email seemingly before he was finished.

Shortly afterward, he sent a second version that was -- some believe -- more elegantly phrased.

Why, though, now? Why might this issue have suddenly come up?

Had passengers been complaining about unusually sloppy Flight Attendants? Not as far as I'm aware.

Instead, some Flight Attendants tell me they believe this was an attempt to deflect from a horrible situation that had occurred earlier in the week.

Images of potential new Flight Attendant uniforms had been leaked onto the United Facebook Galley Gab page.

"Flight attendants were going crazy," a United Flight Attendant told me. "The samples really looked awful. They were not finalized versions of the new uniforms, but we were all up in arms. Colors were terrible and so were the actual uniform pieces."

When you say crazy, how crazy exactly?

"People were so upset they were emailing Oscar to express their disappointment," my flying source told me.

The Oscar in question is United CEO Oscar Muñoz.

And so it seems that Flight Attendants are connecting the dots here. One Flight Attendant source put it like so:

This sudden interest in uniform appearance is really just a clever way to redirect the narrative from the Flight Attendant uproar about the uniform designs. You know, 'Sorry you hated what you weren't supposed to see but let's talk about the way you wear the current uniform right now'. 

Naturally, I asked United whether there might have been a connection here. An airline spokeswoman told me:

Part of putting our customers at the center of everything we do means making sure our employees are representing care and professionalism in their actions as well as their appearance. When our employees feel and look their best, it makes it easier for them to deliver the top-notch service our customers deserve.

All quite, well, corporate. 

It's entirely true, I'm told, that some Flight Attendants have become a little haphazard in their grooming and attire.

It's also true that some suspect management is trying to deflect from the idea that it will impose new uniforms on staff.

Indeed, I'm now told that Flight Attendants have been reassured that this won't be a situation akin to the bonus lottery debacle, in which United tried to remove employees' bonuses in favor of a game show.

With the new uniforms, employees have been told they will be asked for input.

That should be an entertaining conversation. Worthy of Project Runway, I shouldn't wonder.

Published on: May 20, 2018