Turkish Airlines is quashing a ban on female flight attendants wearing red lipstick and nail polish, its chief executive said today, after an outcry by secular Turks worried the country is becoming too Islamic.
The national carrier had said in a statement this month the use of red and dark pink lipstick and nail polish would impair the "visual integrity" of its staff.
But Chief Executive Temel Kotil said the order was made by over-zealous junior managers who did not consult senior bosses about the initiative.
"As to the lipstick, we had no problems but somehow low-level managers put together a paper without asking us and that paper leaked to the media and became a big issue," Mr Kotil told reporters in London.
Asked whether there was a ban, he said "no", and confirmed female staff could wear lipstick and nail polish of any colour.
"As you know, some in Turkey are a little bit keen about these issues," said Mr Kotil, who has served as chief executive since 2005.
"We are a great global carrier and we know what we are doing," he said.
Many Turks took to Twitter to complain about the ban, and the president of the airline's Hava-Is union, Atilay Aycin, called it an attempt by the management "to shape the company to fit its own political and ideological stance".
Turkey is 99% Muslim but the NATO member state and European Union candidate has a secular constitution.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party, which traces its roots to a banned Islamic party, has relaxed the state's control over the expression of religion, such as once-strict limits imposed on wearing the Islamic-style headscarf.
Such restrictions were aimed at reining in Islamism and improving women's rights, but effectively prevented many devout women from studying at university or taking government jobs.