msnbc.com
updated 5/3/2011 6:27:56 PM ET 2011-05-03T22:27:56

A flight attendants' union is criticizing American Airlines for holding a beauty contest to find the most attractive crew members, while the carrier maintains the campaign celebrates flight attendants.

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The aim of the competition was to help American find the best-looking flight attendants — male and female — to appear as models in an upcoming photo shoot, London's MailOnline reports.

In the "Face of Your Base" contest, flight attendants were asked to vote on who looked best in the airline's new scarves, ties and striped shirts.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants blasted the idea. “This campaign just transported us back 50 years to the days of girdles, weight-checks and single, female-only stewardesses having to quit when they were married, pregnant, or reached the ripe old age of 30,” said the union in a statement.

In a statement, American said the campaign was "created by our Customer Experience team in Chicago, comprised of both flight attendants and field managers."

"This campaign is about celebrating the hard work and diversity of our flight attendants, while giving them the opportunity to spotlight their peers who live the American brand," the carrier said.

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Photos: Style in the skies

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  1. Early uniforms

    Designed by Fiolel Colangelo, this is the second generation of the early Boeing/United Air Lines uniforms circa 1933-1936. In the years 1935 and 1936, a “United Air Lines” armband was worn by cabin attendants on the left arm to celebrate the birth of the airline from the union of four smaller carriers. The photo is part of the temporary "Style in the Aisle" exhibit at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash., which runs through May 30, 2011. (The Museum of Flight Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Seasonal look

    Delta flight attendants model the 1940-42 summer uniform, left, and winter uniform as they pose with a DC-3 plane in September 1941. (Delta Air Lines) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Delta style

    A group of flight attendants model the Delta winter uniform worn between 1965 and 1968. (Delta Air Lines) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Futuristic flight attendants

    Fashion designer Oleg Cassini created a futuristic look for Air West flight attendants during the carrier's brief existence prior to its purchase by Howard Hughes. The basic uniform, worn 1968-1971, consisted of a textured polyester dress and a jacket with an unconventional side-buttoning configuration. The pieces came in a selection of bright, solid colors inspired by the natural colors found at Air West's destinations, including fern green, Pacific blue and canyon red. (The Museum of Flight Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Aloha spirit

    In this United Airlines publicity shot, a stewardess serves a passenger. The photo is believed to have been taken during the 1970s on a Hawaii flight, given the clothing. (United Airlines via The Museum of Flight) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Style Down Under

    Flight attendants for Qantas Airways wear uniforms designed by Emil Pucci between 1974 and 1985. In 1974, Qantas made history by evacuating 673 passengers from Darwin, Australia, in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy, setting a world record for the most passengers on one flight. (Qantas Airways via The Museum of Flight) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Cabin service

    A Delta flight attendant, wearing the 1968-1970 uniform, serves alcohol to passengers. (Delta Air Lines) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. All-American image

    Leonard Fisher sought to invoke a pioneering spirit with his “American Field Flowers Collection” for American Airlines circa 1971-74. The uniform consisted of a solid-color dress with either short sleeves or a shoulder-covering yoke across the top. The dress came in a choice of red, white or blue with contrasting colors along the border. A matching jacket could also be worn over the dress. Perhaps the most memorable component of this uniform was a flower-print smock worn over the dress during in-flight meal service. The frilly, white garment was decorated with prints of poppies, cornflowers, daisies and sprigs of wheat. The apron's design evoked the image of resilient frontier women carving a life for themselves in the American West. (American Airlines C.R.Smith Museum via The Museum of Flight Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A new airline

    This 1971 photo shows almost all the Southwest Airlines flight attendants at the time. The airline's uniforms for its first air hostesses, as flight attendants were called at the time, included hot pants and were introduced on June 18, 1971. (Southwest Airlines) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Service with a smile

    A flight attendant models a Pacific Southwest Airlines uniform circa 1973. The discount airline, also known as PSA, was known for the iconic smile painted on the nose of its airplanes and operated from 1949 to 1988. (Pacific Southwest Airlines via The Museum of Flight) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. When plaid was fashionable

    A United Airlines stewardess is seen in the early 1970s in this Boeing 747 publicity shot. In 2010, United and Continental decided to join forces in a deal that will give the new airline United's name with Continental's logo. (The Museum Of Flight Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A new look

    In the early 1970s, American artist and designer Mario Armond Zamparelli was contracted by Howard Hughes to create a new corporate image, as well as flight attendant uniforms, for Hughes’ recently acquired airline, Hughes Airwest. (The Museum of Flight Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A wholesome image

    A Delta flight attendant uniform, circa 1979-1983. (Delta Air Lines) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Crew coordination

    Qantas Airways flight attendants model uniforms designed by Emil Pucci. The crew wore the uniforms between 1974 and 1985. (Qantas Airways via The Museum of Flight) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Helpful attendants

    A Southwest Airlines flight attendant takes beverage orders from passengers circa 2000. In 1999, Southwest flight attendants were named the most helpful, according to a J.D. Power and Associates report. (Southwest Airlines) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Ladies in red

    Delta Air Lines flight attendants pose in the Richard Tyler-designed uniforms. The uniforms, inaugurated in 2006 and still in use today, include a signature red wrap dress. (Delta Air Lines) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Sophistication in the skies

    Delta flight attendant Faye Brown wears a Richard Tyler-designed uniform. The uniforms are meant to evoke a time when air travel was "glamorous and sophisticated," according to Tyler. (Delta Air Lines) Back to slideshow navigation
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