Skift Take

Airlines are returning to exploitation of their female crew members in order to stir up interest in their services.

The recent decision by China’s Spring Airlines to hire and market their attendants as “flight aunties” is only the latest example in a disconcerting trend.

Airlines worldwide seem to have reverted to a 1960s mindset regarding their female crew members. After decades of progress saw the position exalted from “sexy stew” to respected profession, flight attendants are once again being presented as nothing more than walking mascots for their airline.

Spring Airlines itself is a repeat offender. Last year, it proposed dressing its flight attendants as maids, an idea it scrapped after criticisms. China’s Southern Airlines held a pageant-style competition to select its flight attendants.

Ryanair’s “Red Hot Fares and Crew” campaign put its female staff in a racy calendar, and Air New Zealand staff posed nude in a campaign to encourage fliers to watch the in-flight safety film.

It’s all a disconcerting throwback to the era of weigh-ins, mandatory girdles, and forced retirement at age 32, all of which were official policy in the 1960s.

Is it really so different for Ryanair to suggest its attendants should always be bikini-ready?

Spring Airlines’ promotion of the “Auntie” attendant isn’t much better, as it still treats female crew members as the sum of their family roles, rather than professionals with their own set of workplace skills.

What’s next, an interview process that asks candidates’ husbands and kids how they’re doing as Moms before considering the women for hire?

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Tags: flight attendants

Photo credit: The "Ryanair girls" of 2008 pose with their swimsuit calendars.

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