Ever Noticed That Flight Attendants Almost Always Have Their Hair Up? Here's Why

The signature scarf, the tailored jacket, the garrison cap — some things seem to be a part of flight attendants' uniforms no matter where you are in the world. Besides the clothes and accessories, cabin crew hairstyles often match, too. For women, tresses are almost always swept up in a bun or a similar updo.

This isn't just a coincidence, according to those in the industry. There are strict rules for flight attendants sporting long locks. Flight attendant and influencer Rania, known on TikTok by her handle @itsmekikooooo, posted a video explaining why you'll never see an attendant with their hair down. "If your hair is longer than 15 centimeters [six inches] it needs to be in a bun or up," the text on the clip explains. "This is because in event of an emergency, it needs to be out of your face."

The guideline makes sense — long hair could become a problem while scrambling to evacuate the plane or if a window breaks mid-flight, effectively turning the cabin into a wind tunnel. However, Rania also admits in the video that safety isn't the only concern and that updos are "professional looking for the company."

Updos can protect flight attendants during a fire

In a 2021 TikTok clip, another flight attendant and content creator named Kaylee (@flyingkaylee) shared another crucial reason for airlines' strict hairstyle rules. She explained that cabin crew must keep their hair up in case a fire breaks out and they have to wear a smoke hood. Smoke hoods are head coverings that protect the wearer from breathing in harmful smoke so they can maintain consciousness and work to extinguish the blaze. "And those create a tight seal around your neck, and if your hair is super long and gets in the way, then you won't get that tight seal and it won't work as effectively," Kaylee shared.

Similar to Rania's airline, Kaylee also said that pulling hair up is simply part of the company uniform, and if your mane falls below your shoulders, it must be kept up. She added that when hair is left down, it can get in flight attendants' faces during service and interactions with customers, which can appear sloppy.

Appearance is still a major factor in airlines' hair rules

Flight attendants may tie their hair up for safety reasons, but as both Rania and Kaylee noted, the traditional bun style often worn by cabin crew members also looks tidy and professional to passengers. That reasoning explains several other hair-related guidelines air carriers are known to enforce. For instance, most airlines prohibit the use of hair dye, unless the color looks natural (that means no hot pink streaks or fire-engine red allowed). According to The U.S. Sun, Air India took things one step further in 2022 when it passed out a booklet full of new standards, including a rule against gray hair. Flight attendants with graying hair were instructed to dye it regularly in a natural shade. The booklet also stated that employees with bald spots or receding hairlines must keep their hair completely shaven.

While some airlines may continue to uphold stern hair rules for the sake of both safety and style, others have become more lenient in recent years. In 2021, United Airlines announced it would allow flight attendants to wear their hair down and that there would be no more gender-based hairstyle rules. In 2023, Qantas followed suit with new guidelines of its own. The Australian airline amended its rulebook to allow men and non-binary flight attendants to sport long hair, though it still required crew members to keep hair tied back and off their faces.