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Working the airline runway

Swatches | April 1, 2020 | By:

United Airline personnel look good and feel good in uniforms that work for them—because they were designed with their input. Photos: United Airlines.

Remember Tim Gunn’s advice to Project Runway designers to “Make it work”? That phrase takes on a whole new meaning when designing uniforms for United Airlines personnel who literally work the runway.

The airline’s 28,000 technical operations, ramp service and catering operations employees need clothing that can handle the demands of their jobs, including exposure to all kinds of weather from freezing cold to maximum heat and humidity.

United turned to Carhartt Company Gear, a Dearborn, Mich.-based global premium workwear brand, to create a collection of uniforms. To develop the designs, Carhartt went directly to the source—United employees—to understand what they needed on the job.

Carhartt conducted focus groups and wear tests with approximately 1,000 domestic and international workers, using their feedback to enhance the garments’ features and functionality. This included developing fabrics that addressed all kinds of climate conditions.The company also incorporated safety elements including color-blocking on high-visibility gear to address dirt and grime. Practical details like bottoms with custom-designed pockets to fit wands and other tools ensure efficiency.

Carhartt paid particular attention to feedback from female employees, designing a women’s collection that offers proper fit and functionality. Ultimately, Carhartt designed more than 50 pieces made to fit the specific needs of the below-wing workforce. For more information, visit

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