Air traffic controllers, never a group to take things lightly, are fighting back with their tongue firmly in cheek (and ankle firmly in view) in their latest squabble with the their boss, the Friendly Aviation Administration. The controllers union, NATCA, or the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, doesn’t have the right to strike, so they have to make their arguments another way. Right now they’re exercised over an FAA dress-code crackdown in which, reportedly, non-union supervisors have disciplined and even sent home controllers who show up in outfits that don’t meet the FAA dress code standards. By some reports, the matter has gone pretty far with guys and gals being dismissed or sent home because of the colours of their trousers or the type of inseam they have. Well, the controllers are fighting back and some of them, some of the guys at least, have begun showing up for their duty shifts in dresses. Yes, nice business-like dresses that were designed for the opposite gender. We don’t know how the FAA will respond; the agency has said in the past that it only wants a professional dress code no more restrictive than those in most business offices. (NATCA’s predecessor, PATCO, struck in 1981, prompting then-president Ronald Reagan to fire some 11,000 members. Maybe that’s worse than being sent home without a day’s work.)
Why don’t these guys take a hint from Alaska Airlines? The Seattle-based carrier spent the other week dressing up its cabin crew in vintage costumes reflecting the airline’s history as it enters its 75th year. Among the most interesting are these Russian Cossack-style outfits, from the days in the 1960s when Alaska was flying regularly to the far eastern Soviet Union. These flights included samovars for in-flight beverage service as well as other touches of imperial Russia. On the other hand, people showing up in Russian-themed outfits at US government installations could send the wrong signal.