High hopes ‘orange tartan’ will take off

Cabin crew sport the new easyJet tartan in front of a plane named Inverness. Picture: Tim Anderson
Cabin crew sport the new easyJet tartan in front of a plane named Inverness. Picture: Tim Anderson
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FOR half-awake commuters, it could prove to be an “orange eye” rather than “red eye” flight.

An easyJet kilt in the airline’s signature colour was unveiled today, sported by cabin crew on its inaugural 6:40am service from Inverness to Gatwick.

Scotland’s largest airline launched the orange-and-black “Highland aircraft” tartan to mark the new early flight. It said the design was the first tartan to be registered to an airline since records started six years ago.

The tartan also features on cabin crew scarves, and an orange and red version adorns one of the airline’s Airbus A319 aircraft, which has been named Inverness.

However, easyJet said the tartan would not become part of regular cabin crew uniforms and only worn on special occasions.

The move comes a year after Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson and male cabin crew arrived in Edinburgh wearing red kilts to launch its Little Red flights to Heathrow. The airline said yesterday: “Kilts are currently not part of the uniform.”

Tartan-clad cabin crew is most famously associated with now-defunct British Caledonian and its predecessor Caledonia Airways. Staff wore a range of tartans from the 1960s until its takeover by British Airways in 1988.

EasyJet’s orange tartan was welcomed by chief secretary to the Treasury and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Danny Alexander, who was due to be aboard today’s flight.

Mr Alexander, who has sought to use his hair colour to his advantage after Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman called him a “ginger rodent”, said: “I must agree that the ginger tartan aircraft is a great innovation.”

Design expert Susanna Freedman was also enthusiastic. The head of brand at design firm Emperor said: “The launch of its very own registered tartan seems an entirely appropriate way for easyJet to mark its commitment to Scotland.

“Tartan is such an iconic textile, and employed with consideration – as part of an overall design scheme – can add real impact and authenticity.

“I hope we see a ‘less is more’ approach – or innovative execution in its use – that fits with easyJet’s brand positioning, rather than it appearing as a superficial ‘bolt on’ to current easyJet apparel.”

Fashion stylist Lindsay Campbell said: “In keeping with easyJet’s bold design, their new tartan does not disappoint. It is bold and packs a punch. The scarves are a little subtler, in that their thick black lines are hidden within the folds. However, a top-to-toe look would surely overpower.”

Richard Havers, a former British Caledonian general manager for Europe, admires easyJet’s idea but not its design.

He said: “It’s quite a clever idea, but a bit of a dubious tartan. Making up a tartan is a cheap trick. Sir Adam Thomson [British Caledonian’s founder and chairman] would be turning in his grave.

“British Caledonian used about 30 tartans, but none were designed for the airline, that would have been against its ethos. It would have felt it was not the right thing to do.”

Mr Havers said both cabin crew and check-in staff had chosen which tartan to wear.

He added: “Most based their choice on their hair colour, with blondes picking green tartans and those with dark hair going for red ones.”

The former airline executive said tartan had been part of British Caledonian’s brand image, which was the “total antithesis” to easyJet’s. He said: “It was an era when flying was more glamorous – passengers wore jackets and ties.”

Mr Havers said it was a “pity” easyJet appeared to be using the tartan as a publicity stunt.