By Laignee Barron
March 30, 2018

Female flight attendants on Cathay Pacific have finally won the right to wear pants on the job after a four-year uniform fight.

The Hong Kong-based airline capitulated to union pressure this week, and agreed to do-away with its skirts-only policy for female crew members for the first time in its 72-year history, according to BBC.

But female staffers may be stuck in their skirts for up to three more years, as the changes will not take place until the next uniform upgrade.

Adding pants to flight attendants’ outfits, “not only provides us one more option, but also provides us with protection,” Pauline Mak, vice chair of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, told BBC.

According to the South China Morning Post, Cathay’s flight attendants have been lobbying for more gender-equal workwear for years, arguing that their clothing policy was not only retrograde, but also restrictive, leaving them in revealing outfits that make reaching or bending over difficult.

Prior to this week’s announcement, all four of Hong Kong’s carriers stipulated a skirts-only dress code for female crew, according to the Post.

Flight attendants around the globe have had to fight over who wears the pants. In 2014, British Airways stirred controversy by prohibiting new female recruits from wearing pants. European budget carrier Ryanair and Saudi Arabia’s Etihad were among the airlines that still banned female flight attendants from wearing pants, the Telegraph reported in 2015.

Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com.

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