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American seeks uniform answers as attendants demand recall

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American Airlines says it’s pressing ahead to find out what might be causing adverse health reactions that flight attendants are blaming on new uniforms.

By the end of next week, the carrier plans to complete a “joint visit” with union representatives to a warehouse of uniform manufacturer Twin Hill. The two sides will conduct a fourth test in an effort to figure out what’s going on, American spokeswoman LaKesha Brown says to Today in the Sky.

Brown says American’s new uniforms already “have been extensively tested” and were certified to industry benchmark standards before rolling out to workers. In the meantime, American is offering dermatological testing to workers who have reported problems with the uniforms.

“The safety and comfort of our employees has been our top priority since day one,” Brown says.

It all comes after American rolled out new uniforms to more than 70,000 of its frontline workers in September.

The look of the uniforms has been well-received by many of American’s workers. But the airline’s flight attendant union has called for a total recall of the uniforms, claiming the outfits have sickened more than 1,600 attendants with symptoms that include rashes, headaches and eye irritation.

When asked if American had received complaints from other work groups that received new uniforms, Brown said that most have come from flight attendants.

As for manufacturer Twin Hill, it also stood by the new uniforms that went out to the carrier’s employees.

“The safety and comfort of our uniforms has, and will always be, our highest priority,” Diego Louro, spokesman for the Tailored Brand company that includes Twin Hill, said in a statement to Today in the Sky. “Extensive testing conducted by independent labs on the American Airlines uniforms has raised no safety concerns.”

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Still, the complaints by American attendants mirror complaints from Alaska Airlines – another airline that Twin Hill once provided uniforms for. Like American, Alaska Airlines began getting complaints from its attendants shortly after those uniforms were introduced in 2011.

Alaska Airlines also had a difficult time finding a precise cause of the complaints and eventually switched to Lands End for its attendant uniforms in 2013.

“Ultimately we were looking for certain sourcing standards to ensure the safety of the garments and Lands End met those standards,” Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said in an e-mail to Today in the Sky.

But Douro says a court case that stemmed from the complaints of Alaska Air’s attendants ultimately found in favor of Twin Hill.

“Based on all the evidence the parties submitted in a case where Alaska Airlines flight attendants alleged similar claims against Twin Hill, the Court determined that our uniforms were simply not capable of causing the complained of skin irritations and other symptoms,” he said in a statement to Today in the Sky. “Just as in that case, we remain confident that the American uniforms are safe and meet or exceed the safety standards applicable to clothing retailers.”

IN PICTURES: A look at some of US Airways’ airplane liveries from the past 35 years

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