Korean Air Changes Gendered Cabin Crew Titles to Promote Gender Unification


Korean Air cabin crew members showing off 11 different company uniforms. Over the past 50 years, there has been a total of 11 types of uniform, including the scarlet skirt and collarless uniform at its founding in 1969, the miniskirt-style uniform in 1970, the tailcoat-style red uniform in 1986, the dark blue jacket used for 14 years from 1991 and the current uniform with the color of celadon and beige since 2005. Image courtesy of Korean Air.

Jung Chaeyoon, Staff Writer

   Starting Nov. 1, 2022, Korean Air has changed the title of ‘Stewardess’ and ‘Steward’ to ‘Flight Attendant (FA)’ regardless of gender in the Korean airline industry.

   This is the first time that Korean Air has merged the names of male and female flight attendants since its foundation in 1969. Previously, a female flight attendant was called ‘Stewardess’ (SS) and a male flight attendant was called ‘Steward’ (SD). The reason for unifying the names of flight attendants, which were used separately for men and women over the past 53 years, is to eliminate gender discrimination that does not match the times and in consideration of gender equality.

   In Korea, peoples’ perception of gender equality and anti-discrimination has increased, and there are more and more cases of modifying distinction languages related to gender and race that have been used in various names. Even in the international airline industry, the term ‘Stewardess’ or ‘Steward’ has almost disappeared and the terms ‘Flight Attendant’ or ‘Cabin Crew,’ are more commonly used, regardless of gender.

   Along with the name change, the airline’s uniform design, which has been used for more than 17 years since March 2005, will also be replaced. Korean Air aims to introduce this new uniform in the first half of 2023. It would reflect the practical design considering the working environment of flight attendants who stay on board for a long time. In addition, Korean Air, which did not hire new flight attendants due to COVID-19, will be hiring more than one hundred new staff for the first time in three years. 

   Currently, since there is no gender distinction in the English names of flight attendants at the fourth level or higher, the names ‘Stewardess’ and ‘Steward’ were the only ranks that differentiated men and women as flight attendants. The first level or above is called the Chief Purser (CP), the second level is called the Senior Purser (SP), the third level is called the Purser (PS), and the fourth level is called the Assistant Purser (AP). 

   It is expected that this effort will expand to other airlines within the industry and inspire a more inclusive working environment to reduce gender discrimination, starting with this change from the largest airline in South Korea.