Being a flight attendant comes with many responsibilities, but also raises a lot of questions from airline passengers. One frequently asked question is around the footwear requirements for flight attendants – do they have to wear heels?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Flight attendants are no longer required to wear heels by most major airlines. However, many still choose to wear heels as part of their uniform.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll dive into the history of flight attendant uniforms, airline policies around heels, factors that go into shoe choices, and differences between airlines. We’ll provide a detailed look at why heels used to be required, how policies have evolved, and what flight attendants take into consideration when selecting footwear for their demanding jobs up in the air.

History of Flight Attendant Uniforms and Heels

Flight attendant uniforms have evolved significantly over the years, reflecting changes in society, fashion trends, and airline industry regulations. One notable aspect of these uniforms is the inclusion of high heels, which have been a subject of debate and discussion.

Let’s take a closer look at the history of flight attendant uniforms and the role of heels in their attire.

Uniform Requirements and Regulations in the Early Days of Flying

In the early days of commercial aviation, flight attendants were predominantly female and were required to adhere to strict uniform guidelines. These guidelines often included wearing skirts, suits, and high heels.

The rationale behind these requirements was to project an image of elegance, professionalism, and hospitality.

During this time, airlines were focused on creating a luxurious and glamorous flying experience for their passengers. Flight attendants were seen as ambassadors of the airline, and their uniforms played a crucial role in creating a positive and memorable impression.

High heels were considered an essential part of the uniform, as they added height, poise, and a touch of sophistication.

Heels as a Symbol of Glamour and Hospitality

The inclusion of high heels in flight attendant uniforms became synonymous with the glamour and hospitality associated with air travel. The uniform was carefully designed to exude elegance and style, and the addition of heels helped to achieve this desired aesthetic.

High heels not only enhanced the overall appearance of flight attendants but also conveyed a sense of authority and professionalism. They were perceived as a symbol of confidence and grace, attributes that airlines valued in their cabin crew.

How Airline Deregulation Impacted Attire Expectations

With the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s, airlines faced increased competition, leading to a shift in focus from luxury to cost-effectiveness. As a result, airlines began to relax their uniform requirements, allowing for more flexibility and comfort for their flight attendants.

This relaxation included changes in footwear expectations. Some airlines started giving their flight attendants the option to wear more comfortable shoes, such as flats or low heels, while still maintaining a polished and professional appearance.

Today, many airlines have updated their uniform policies to prioritize comfort and functionality while maintaining a stylish and professional image. Some airlines have even eliminated the requirement for heels altogether, acknowledging the importance of providing a comfortable work environment for their cabin crew.

It’s important to note that uniform policies can vary between airlines, and some may still require flight attendants to wear heels as part of their uniform. However, the overall trend has shifted towards more inclusive and flexible attire expectations, taking into account the well-being and comfort of the cabin crew.

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Airline Policies on Flight Attendant Footwear

Shifting Cultural Attitudes Led to Policy Changes

Over the years, cultural attitudes towards workplace attire have evolved, and this shift has influenced the policies of major airlines regarding flight attendant footwear. In the past, flight attendants were often required to wear heels as part of their uniform.

However, as society has become more focused on comfort and inclusivity, airlines have recognized the need to update their guidelines to ensure the well-being of their employees.

With increasing awareness of the potential health risks associated with wearing heels for extended periods, airlines have taken steps to prioritize the comfort and safety of their flight attendants. This has resulted in a more flexible approach to footwear requirements, with many airlines now allowing flight attendants to choose from a range of comfortable and supportive shoes that meet certain guidelines.

Overview of Major Airlines’ Current Stance on Heels

The stance on heels varies among different airlines, but the majority have moved away from mandatory high heels for flight attendants. Instead, they have implemented policies that allow for more comfortable and practical footwear options.

Airline Footwear Policy
Delta Airlines Allows flight attendants to wear flats, low heels, or athletic shoes.
United Airlines Requires flight attendants to wear shoes with a low heel, but offers options for those with medical conditions.
American Airlines Allows flight attendants to wear flats, low heels, or athletic shoes, but with specific color and style guidelines.

These examples demonstrate the move towards more inclusive footwear policies within the airline industry. Airlines are recognizing the importance of providing their employees with footwear choices that prioritize comfort, while still maintaining a professional appearance.

Enforcement of Grooming Standards and Footwear Guidelines

While airlines have relaxed their stance on heels, it is important to note that they still enforce grooming standards and guidelines for footwear. Flight attendants are required to present a professional image and adhere to certain dress codes.

The enforcement of grooming standards and footwear guidelines ensures that flight attendants maintain a consistent and professional appearance while representing the airline. It also helps to create a sense of unity and cohesion among the cabin crew.

Flight attendants play a crucial role in providing a safe and comfortable travel experience for passengers. By allowing them to choose comfortable footwear that meets certain guidelines, airlines are not only prioritizing the well-being of their employees but also recognizing the importance of their role in passenger satisfaction.

Considerations for Flight Attendant Shoe Choices

Safety and Mobility Concerns of Heels in Emergency Situations

When it comes to flight attendant shoe choices, safety and mobility are of utmost importance. In emergency situations, such as evacuations or turbulence, flight attendants need to be able to move quickly and efficiently.

Wearing heels can significantly hinder their ability to perform their duties effectively. High heels can make it difficult to maintain balance and navigate narrow aisles or uneven surfaces during turbulent flights.

In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that flight attendants wear flat or low-heeled shoes for optimal safety.

Impact of Heels on Physical Comfort and Health

Flight attendants spend long hours on their feet, often walking miles during each flight. It is essential for their shoes to provide adequate support and cushioning to prevent foot pain and discomfort.

High heels can place unnecessary strain on the feet, causing issues such as blisters, bunions, and even long-term foot problems. Additionally, wearing heels for extended periods can lead to back and knee pain, further affecting the overall physical well-being of flight attendants.

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, flight attendants who wore high heels experienced higher levels of musculoskeletal discomfort compared to those who wore flats or low-heeled shoes.

The study also revealed that flight attendants who wore heels were more likely to report foot pain and swelling.

Finding the Right Balance of Professionalism, Practicality, and Style

While safety and comfort are the primary considerations, flight attendants also need to project professionalism and style. Airlines often have specific uniform guidelines that include footwear requirements, which can vary from airline to airline.

Some airlines allow flight attendants to wear comfortable flats or low-heeled shoes, while others may have more specific requirements, such as a maximum heel height.

Flight attendants are known for their impeccable grooming and stylish appearance. They represent the airline and play a crucial role in creating a positive passenger experience. Finding the right balance between professionalism, practicality, and style is essential.

Some flight attendants opt for stylish and comfortable flats that offer both comfort and professionalism, while others may choose low-heeled shoes that provide a touch of elegance without compromising safety or mobility.

It is worth mentioning that some airlines have revised their footwear policies in recent years to accommodate the needs of flight attendants. For example, Air Canada announced in 2018 that its female flight attendants would no longer be required to wear heels, giving them the option to choose between flats or heels up to a certain height.

This change in policy reflects a growing understanding of the importance of prioritizing flight attendant comfort and well-being.

Key Differences Between Airlines

More Flexibility at Budget Carriers vs. Legacy Airlines

When it comes to the dress code for flight attendants, there are notable differences between budget carriers and legacy airlines. Budget carriers, known for their affordable fares and no-frills approach, tend to have more flexibility in their dress code policies.

While some budget carriers may require flight attendants to wear a uniform, the guidelines are often more relaxed compared to legacy airlines.

For example, at certain budget carriers, flight attendants may have the option to wear comfortable shoes instead of heels. This can be a relief for flight attendants who are on their feet for long hours during flights.

The focus at budget carriers is often on efficiency and cost-saving measures, rather than adhering to strict appearance standards.

On the other hand, legacy airlines, which are often associated with a more traditional and formal approach, tend to have more stringent dress code policies. Flight attendants at these airlines may be required to wear a uniform that includes heels as part of their professional attire.

This can be seen as a way to maintain a consistent and polished image, aligning with the airline’s brand identity.

International Airlines Tend to be More Traditional

When it comes to dress code policies, international airlines, particularly those from more conservative cultures, tend to adhere to more traditional standards. These airlines prioritize maintaining a professional and elegant appearance for their flight attendants.

For example, some Middle Eastern airlines have specific guidelines for female flight attendants that include requirements such as wearing a headscarf or abaya as part of their uniform. These dress code policies are in line with cultural norms and customs, and they reflect the values and traditions of the airline’s home country.

It’s important to note that these dress code requirements are not meant to restrict individual expression or infringe upon personal freedom. Instead, they are a reflection of the cultural context in which the airline operates.

Individual Expression Through Footwear Within Guidelines

While there may be differences in dress code policies among airlines, there is often room for individual expression within the established guidelines. Flight attendants, like employees in many other industries, can showcase their personal style through accessories and footwear choices.

For instance, flight attendants may be allowed to choose the style and color of their heels, as long as they meet the airline’s safety and appearance requirements. This allows flight attendants to add their own touch of personality to their uniform while still maintaining a professional appearance.

It’s worth mentioning that the comfort and safety of flight attendants are also taken into consideration. Airlines prioritize the well-being of their employees and may provide guidelines on footwear that ensures both comfort and professionalism.


While heels used to be a required part of a flight attendant’s uniform, today most major airlines have updated their grooming standards and footwear policies. The evolution has been driven by safety concerns, changing cultural norms, and a desire for greater flexibility and options.

However, many flight attendants still opt to wear heels regularly as they feel it projects a polished, professional image. There remains a balancing act between meeting airline guidelines, consideration for the job duties, personal expression, and style preferences.

So while heels are no longer an across-the-board mandate, they remain a choice many flight attendants continue to make as part of their iconic uniforms up in the air.

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