More than 25 per cent of flight attendants responding to a survey reported in-flight sexual harassment in the past year.

The Equal Opportunities Commission, which is based in Hong Kong, carried out a study in which 27 per cent of those who took part said they had been harassed on duty in the past year.

About 47 per cent said they had either witnessed or heard about their colleagues being sexually harassed during a flight.

Most of the cases cited concerned physical contact such as “patting, touching, kissing or pinching”, while others included “non-verbal sex cues” such as “staring in a sexual way”.

Further incidents that were reported involved “sexual jokes and requests for sexual favours” and showing “obscene or pornographic materials”.

According to those who responded, passengers were more likely to harass cabin crew than fellow staff, with 59 per cent of incidents involving airline customers and 41 per cent involving other crew members.

Complaints were only lodged for half of the incidents reported.

The survey was sent out to 9,000 flight attendants through the Hong Kong Flight Attendants Alliance (HKFAA), which includes members from unions representing the staff of Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, British Airways and United Airlines. Of those, 392 questionnaires were completed, 86 per cent of which were from female respondents.

Mariana Law of the Equal Opportunities Commission explained the low response rate to CNN . “Most HKFAA flight attendants are not based in Hong Kong, so it may be difficult for them to respond,” she said. “Another reason is that some people may consider sexual harassment an embarrassing or difficult subject and they may not feel comfortable disclosing this information to others.”

Last year, a survey suggested that the job of flight attendant was the worst job in travel, coming in a lowly 191st place out of 200 careers surveyed.

Photo Credit: Flight attendants walk down the street near Sapporo Okadama Airport in Japan. Miki Yoshihito / Flickr