Airline fined over ‘sexist’ lipstick and high heels dress code

High heels can cause lower back, hip, and knee issues (Getty Images)
High heels can cause lower back, hip, and knee issues (Getty Images)

Vueling has been fined by the Catalonian authorities after imposing “sexist” appearance regulations on flight attendants.

The Spanish low-cost carrier was issued with a €30,000 (£26,400) fine after a complaint was filed by Stavla, the union representing cabin crew working for the airline.

While male flight attendants working for Vueling were only required to have a “clean and neat appearance,” female flight attendants were required to wear foundation, eyeliner, mascara and heels that are two to three inches high.

Catalonian authorities stated that Vueling should introduce “less burdensome and [a] more balanced corporate image, without affecting fundamental rights”.

Vueling, which is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG) – the parent company that also includes British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus – has now stated that it will no longer require male and female members of cabin crew to abide by separate appearance standards.

In a statement shared with The Independent, Vueling said that it has been working on “an inclusive image” for more than a year.

“The process initiated by the Labour Inspectorate of Catalonia includes a sanction proposal that is not yet definite. Vueling is currently studying the process to present allegations making use of its rights.

“The company has been reviewing its style guide and has been working on an inclusive image for more than a year. We always consider any concerns that our crew may have and these are factored into decision-making and implementation. The company’s aim with the dress code is to always ensure comfort and safety in all environments. In fact, the style guide was drafted with the cooperation of the crew member representatives.

“In addition, some of the crew members’ suggestions have been gradually incorporated. An example of this is the adaptation of the guide with regards to the use of make-up, in which there is now no gender distinction or obligation to wear make-up.”

It’s not the first time IAG has come under fire for its uniform regulations.

Flight attendants working for Iberia launched a petition in 2022 to protest their employer’s compulsory high heels rule, following the carrier’s first uniform revamp in 15 years.

When the new uniform policy was unveiled, women working for the airline found that, although they could wear trainers while in the air, they were still expected to wear high heels in airports and while boarding.

“I’m not stewardess Barbie!” read the petition, started by Maria Fernandez. “Iberia: DO NOT force us to wear heels. Let us choose!”

“At Madrid airport we walk an average of 6-8 kilometres a day or spend more than two to three hours on foot,” wrote flight attendant Maria Jesus Serrano Huertas in the petition’s comments.

“This plus the hard ground of the airport makes wearing heels insufferable. We have the right to choose how to take care of our feet.”

“In addition to being sexist and discriminatory, the use of heels harms health,” commented Concha Diaz.

A representative for Iberia confirmed to The Independent that female staff are no longer required to wear heels, however.

“After engaging with our staff, the employee representatives, and the occupational prevention service on the uniform guide, we defined the possible combinations and flight attendants can choose two different shoe models from four available options: two different heels – with different heights – flat shoes/ballet flats and ergonomic trainers.

“Flight attendants are allowed to wear ergonomic trainers always if they decide it.”