- Written By – Sruthi Sadhasivam
In India, although air hostesses need to have educational qualifications and have to undergo vigorous training, the job of an air hostess is seen in a degraded manner. It is not considered as a dignified profession to be in. Furthermore, stewardesses face grave challenges in workplace as well. Some of them are discussed below.
CHALLENGES THAT AIR HOSTESS ENCOUNTER IN THEIR DAY TO DAY LIVES
Air hostess are never treated with respect by fellow passengers. They might be expected to be extremely hospitable and get used to rude comments in flight. It becomes even more difficult for air hostesses in the time of the pandemic as they are responsible to ensure all safety protocols in the flight and must be able to handle the arrogant careless passengers who flout covid protocols.
Apart from this, there is immense rate of sex discrimination in the aviation sector. Despite being highly experienced than the male counterpart, a woman is always posted as subordinate to a male crew member. Women are never given the opportunity to be in supervisory roles and are provided junior roles even in the executive positions. Every time, an air hostess board their flights, they need to check their weight and if they are overweight, they are either disallowed to fly or are penalized for the same. While male attenders are allowed to fly even if they are overweight. Women flight attendants above 35 years of age need to undertake a mandatory medical examination every year. They are allowed to marry only after 4 years of service and in most cases, they also lose their jobs if they marry. They are only allowed to have a maximum of 2 children.
Male passengers often behave inappropriately with the air hostess. Many air hostesses are victims of sexual assault and harassment from fellow colleagues or passengers. Most of them take to alcohol and drugs to come to terms with the fight life. They suffer from serious mental health issues because the job expects them to keep a smile all day and hide their true feelings. It’s not easy to stay in a closed enclosure hours together catering to mostly unpleasant people. In addition to that they lack emotional or social support as they are isolated from their family, jet lag can cause mood swings, sleeplessness, stress and tiredness. The airlines do not provide proper psychological support as well making it difficult for them to cope up with such a taxing lifestyle.
IS AVIATION INDUSTRY SEXIST IN NATURE?
In general women are hired to serve the passengers due to a strong belief that women are sweet, hospitable, and not arrogant like men. Specifically, attractive women are chosen for this job as it is believed that they would be able to pacify temperamental passengers. Doesn’t this sound cheap? Using woman in this intention is not only an insult to the whole woman populace but also indicates the narrow mindscape of the aviation sector.
Why is it assumed that women are good caretakers and thereby best suited for the job? What has beauty to do with being hospitable? Likewise, why is the retirement age for women discriminatory? As long as women are healthy and meet all the health criteria, what is the need to have them grounded or make them retire earlier than men?
The duty of an air hostess is to cater to the needs of the passengers and to adeptly handle emergency situations. But are the eligibility criteria for this job based on these requirements? Why is that in addition to communication skills, these people are required to look stylish and pretty? The way flight attendants are recruited are also racist in nature. Although there are certain skills and educational qualifications required to bag this job, one’s complexion and face texture are one of the uppermost qualities that matter the most in the selection of air hostesses. Irrespective of their educational qualifications, one must have a clear face that is free of any kind of blemishes and must also be fair skinned. Are they going to serve the passengers or are they going to go on some fashion parade? Moreover, isn’t it cruel to expect a woman to maintain the same weight throughout her tenure while men are let off the leash? The reason given is to economize flight expenses. These reasons seem to have been developed for the sake of providing an explanation and justification for discrimination.
Why should a woman be tall, pretty and preferably unmarried and young to acquire this job? They have no freedom of aesthetics as well. Air hostess cannot have piercings or tattoos in their body. They need to wear strong make up with bright lipstick. The latter criteria is in place so that the passengers can read their lips during emergency situations. Are passengers suffering from serious eye problems that they require bright lip colors to follow instructions during emergencies? If the latter is true, why aren’t male flight attendants not required to wear lipstick? It is essential that the flight attendants look fresh and energetic so that passengers will look up to them if there is anything that they need. I totally understand the need to have a decent professional look but what is the need to have strong make up in an air-conditioned plane where the chances of people perspiring is so low? What is wrong in having tattoos and piercings in their body? Does that make them look less professional in the eyes of the society or cabin crew? The dress code and appearance in most cases make them the victims of male gaze. Where they hired to cater to the essential requirements of the passengers and to handle any crisis situations or to provide “pleasurable” travel experience for passengers? These practices are undoubtedly an absolute violation of their body autonomy. Are they human beings or sexually objectified dolls?
A complete overhaul of the aviation industry is inevitable. It is high time, people are given jobs based on their skills and educational qualifications rather than their skin, weight, attractiveness, marital status and beauty.