Dragonair attendants demand better terms

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am

Cabin crew are apparently not reaping the benefits of rebounding profits at major airlines - more than 100 Dragonair flight attendants vented their frustrations over long work hours and 'unfair' employment conditions yesterday.

In a sign that all is not well among carriers despite increasingly full business-class and first-class seats and surging inflight sales, about 150 protesting flight attendants, chanting 'Dragon Air, Never Fair', rallied at the airport, calling for more humane working conditions and fair compensation.

Winnie Poon, chairwoman of the Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, said cabin crew were often called on to do extra shifts at the last minute.

'We are just asking for basic human rights. Cabin crew - they are working more than 10 hours a day. They don't even have 10 minutes for meals or to go to the toilet. We are requesting more manpower from the company and a backup roster,' Poon said.

'We don't even know what time we can go home. When we get back from a flight, at 9am for example, if there is not enough manpower in the afternoon, the company will request the cabin crew to operate two more sectors. That means they need to work until 9pm.'

Although there are Civil Aviation Department regulations over how long cabin crew can work before they are required to rest, Dragonair often schedules the maximum allowable flying time for its flight attendants. This means a flight attendant who works 15 hours will have 11 hours of rest time, although this is cut short by the time needed to go home and shower, for example, Poon said.

Some cabin crew are also told to go home at the last minute when a flight is not full. Usually, a full Airbus A330 requires 13 cabin crew members but Poon said some relatively empty flights last month needed only eight to 10 crew members.

'In a 30-minute flight to Guangzhou, we need to provide full service, including meals, wine service, coffee or tea, and even sell duty-free products. Worse still, only five of us are serving a total of 200 passengers. It's impossible,' one flight attendant said.

Another flight attendant said many cabin crew members had urinary tract infections because there was not enough time to go to the toilet. 'We just drink as little water as possible to reduce the frequency of going to the washroom,' she said.

In a statement, Dragonair said the airline had implemented some measures to address staff concerns, including compensation for transport and meal expenses, and suspending non-essential training.

It said the airline also rewards cabin crew who delay their annual leave, work on their holidays and extend their flying time with flexibility in their rosters. Flight attendants are also given more flexibility to pick their days off if they are willing to work extra shifts, known as carry-on duties.

Poon said the airline planned to recruit 72 cabin crew in October.