Responding to thousands of complaints that its new employee uniforms are causing an allergic reaction, American Airlines announced Wednesday that it won't renew its contract with the manufacturer.
In a letter to employees, the Fort Worth-based airline said it has agreed with garment maker Twin Hill to end its partnership to supply employee uniforms after its contract expires in 2020.
"It is clear we need a long-term solution because the current approach simply does not work," according to the letter signed by American Airlines' senior vice presidents Kerry Philipovitch, David Seymour and Kurt Stache.
Twin Hill, a subsidiary of Fremont, Calif.-based Tailored Brands, issued a statement saying that tests discovered nothing toxic or harmful in the airline uniforms, made of a wool blend, but has agreed to breaking off the partnership with the airline to prevent further harm to the company.
"Twin Hill has determined that the reputational risk, management distraction, and legal and other costs associated with serving American in the future would be unacceptable to our business, given the likelihood of continued unfounded allegations about the safety of our garments," the company statement said.
The problems began in September, when American Airlines began — for the first time in nearly 30 years — distributing new uniforms to its 70,000 flight attendants, pilots and other workers.
So far, at least 3,500 flight attendants have reported negative reactions to the material in the uniforms, including hives, rashes and headaches, according to the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants.
American Airlines has offered employees who complain about the material the option of wearing uniforms made of polyester or 100% cotton, as well as uniforms made by an independent supplier. The company's previous uniforms were made primarily of synthetic material, such as polyester.
For now, American Airlines employees will continue to wear the Twin Hill uniform or the alternative outfits, at least until a new manufacturer is hired after 2020.
"We're pleased that American Airlines has announced today that it will begin the process of ordering and delivering new uniforms for flight attendants and other American employees," Bob Ross, president of the flight attendants union, said in a statement.