“Lipstick-gate” - the controversy over Turkish Airlines stewardesses being forbidden from wearing red cosmetics - has taken another twist with the carrier's boss calling the ban “a mistake”.
A week ago the airline's Media Relations department issued a statement on the use of red or dark-pink lipstick and nail varnish by cabin crew. It said the practice "impairs the visual integrity of the intended look". As a result, said the statement: "Turkish Airlines has adopted a policy that requires service personnel to use personal grooming products that are in a more muted colour palate".
But Dr Temel Kotil, the airline's president and chief executive, told The Independent: "It was not a decision actually, there's no approval". He said that a paper on appearance standards prepared by "low-level" managers had appeared in the media, adding "This is taking us one step back but we're going four steps forward".
Turkish Airlines (THY) is one of the fastest-growing carriers in the world, connecting Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh with its hub in Istanbul. It is emulating the Gulf-based airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, by connecting the UK and Continental Europe with Asia and Africa.
Dr Kotil said "By 2020, we will have 100 million passengers," a rise of 150 per cent on present numbers.
But recent changes at Turkish Airlines have raised concerns among secular Turks that the carrier, and the nation, is becoming more Islamic.
In February Turkish Airlines stopped serving alcohol to economy passengers on many domestic routes, saying "There has been little demand for alcohol and it will be discontinued due to logistical considerations". At the same time, the carrier removed alcoholic drinks entirely from flights to eight Islamic countries. It said: "Where the flag carriers of those nations do not serve liquor, THY will comply with their wishes and suspend alcoholic drink service".
British Airways serves alcohol on all its routes to and from London, including flights to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.