• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 8:26am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 4:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 9:12am

More respect all round would help Cathay Pacific's harassed attendants

Does wearing sexy clothes make women a more enticing target of sex pests? Cathay Pacific's Flight Attendants Union seems to think so. Indeed, a figure cited by the union's honorary secretary Michelle Choi sounds positively alarming.

Since the introduction of more revealing uniforms for female attendants in 2011, she believes the incidents of sexual harassment by passengers have gone up. By her estimate, a female attendant can expect to suffer on average one such incident on every 10 flights. "The blouse is too short and does not cover enough," she said. "Whenever a flight attendant bends down, her waistline is exposed. We believe the company intentionally does this to make us look a bit sexier and to let the passenger see more."

Somehow, if there is a problem with staff harassment by passengers, I doubt sexy uniforms are to blame. Rather it's Cathay's "class" system for passengers and its differential quality of service for first, business, premium economy and economy "cattle" classes.

Now, I am not disputing Choi's characterisation of Cathay uniforms as being too revealing. I recently travelled in economy - where else! - on Cathay between Toronto and Hong Kong and could testify what Choi said about the waistline is true. But given the watery congee and instant noodle, the minimal service and tight seats, we in cattle class were constantly reminded of our insignificance. One stern look from those attendants would put us in our place and banish what lewd thoughts we may have about them. And guess what? Choi says the problem stems mainly from the upper classes of passengers.

"Some of the Marco Polo Club members [frequent fliers] think they can do things to us because they are privileged and we somehow allow it," she said. "I think part of the reason is that we treat our passengers so well. They are spoilt ... They think it is part of their privilege."

It's no secret that Cathay and other Asian airlines pamper the upper classes of passengers, as they are the engine of profits. That makes clients feel entitled, especially after a few free drinks.

If Cathay shows less contempt for cattle like us and offers quality and professional services for all, its attendants may find they will be treated with more respect.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

I refer to your article dated 6th May 2014 on "Cathay Pacific's harassed attendants" and in paragraph 4 and 5, I am a frequent travelers and am a Marco Polo members of CX flights, I found that your comments are totally not true. For the last 10 years of traveling in CX flights, I have found the service from the business class sectors have deteriorated drastically, hence you cannot assumed that the Marco Polo members are treated exceptionally well......because this is not true from my personal experience.
Easy solution. Just employ tough-speaking battle-axes like Qantas does. Nobody would be harassed sexually or otherwise. Patrons wouldn't be tempted and would be put in their places very fast.
John Adams
AL makes some very good points. But the fact is that CX, KA and most asian airlines do give better service, employ prettier flight attendants and serve better food (even in economy class).
The only alternative is to do what the US and UK airlines do - employ late-middle-aged battle-axes and serve totally inedible food.
(Or employ ruthlessly rude attendants , like the Quantas "lady" who - when I had the audacity to get up and go to where the back where the flight attendants were sitting at nosh and totally ignoring the 'call' buttons to ask for a second beer - told me "no you bloody well can't have one, so go back to your seat !" )
My past experience with the CX business class has not been great. The CX flight attendants tend to offer better services to the younger single male passengers than the grey hairs, like my wife and me. We have much better services from the flight attendants of Air Canada (AC), who are more professional and polite. During our recent trip to Hong Kong, one of the AC flight attendants, whom we have known for 12 years, explained to my wife that some of the younger flight attendants want to get know their future husbands who are likely the younger single male passengers of the business class. I hope her observation does not apply to all CX flight attendants in the business cabins.
How About
Yes the Qantas Lady service in cattle class is legendary which one may stretch to Dominatrixy, and we are certain there are passengers who find those barks appealing- "go squat in the lavatory till I'm done!"
Seriously the unions in US and UK guarantee these battle-axes are still on the airlines payroll till they have enough, which is more than what you can say about CX & KA attendants. So sexy aprons is the least of their problem...
You raised a touchy subject with me. When most airlines proudly show off photogenic and charming young women on its advertisements and in the cabins, Qantas either must get frumpy elderly women on the cheap, or maybe attractive Australian women don't like to be air hostesses, I don't begrudge any woman employment, but I mind when they are brusque and are more interested in holding conversations and make passengers feel like they are an interference to their chit-chat. And will Qantas management please teach them etiquette and how to address others, particularly paying guests? I would have changed airlines but for the Frequent Flyer Points!
Maybe that's why Qantas is failing.
To the reader who disliked this comment, note this quote in Google (Feb 2014):
"Included in that (Qantas) announcement are: 5000 job losses. A fleet restructure. Salary freezes. Route restructures. In other words almost every aspect of the operating business."
1969, the cost of a TransPacific flight between HKG and YEG was around 1200 Canadian. Canadian Pacific Airlines (still remember them?) used DC10 and had to make a stop either in Tokyo or Anchorage for refueling. Yes, the seat was bigger and they used real cutlery and porcelain. Flight stewardesses, as they were known then, were a lot more courteous than todays flight attendants. But there was no inflight entertainment, not even a movie projection on the wall. It makes the flight terribly long. Today, 45 years later, I can get the same flight for about the same price, economy class that is. Whenever I encounter some unpleasant occasions during a flight, of which there is going to be some, the thought of an affordable ticket keeps my blood pressure down. Happy flying.
Ant Lee
I travel around Asia every week with CX and Dragonair and can always see flight attendants treat white guys a lot better than Chinese. Common observations are that they can spend 5-10 minutes chatting with white guys on useless topics during a flight, but if a Chinese passenger needs some basic help (like water or blanket) they pretend to be in a hurry and the Chinese passengers sometimes have to request multiple times for basic services. I am not saying this happens all the time but often enough for me to notice.
I fly regularly all around Asia and in CX -- never has a flight attendant been anything other than professional. I don't think they are nicer to younger passengers. At least not that I have noticed. I have noticed that their shirts are hopelessly short -- always showing some skin. It is hard not to look or notice because if you are sitting it is right at eye level. Having said that, it doesn't do much for me, and if they want to dress more modestly i can totally understand. It really surprises me that the FA cannot complain to the Head FA, and have her take some action. Perhaps keep track of that passenger for future flights, or send them a letter at their home and let their wives know their behavior.




SCMP.com Account