Cathay Pacific flight attendants want their uniforms redesigned since they are "too sexual" and invite harrasment from passengers.
The Flight Attendants Union says the white blouses (pictured below) are too short and the skirts too tight. Flight crews at the Hiong Kong-based carrier complain that the uniform exposes too much skin when they’re working.
"The blouse is too short and does not cover enough. Whenever a flight attendant bends down, her waistline is exposed,” says FAU honorary secretary Michelle Choi. “We believe the company intentionally does this to make us look a bit sexier and to let the passenger see more."
Choi believes the uniforms have led to an increase in sexual harassment by passengers, particularly by those in Cathay Pacific’s "Marco Polo" frequent flier club, some of whom believe their membership offers them some "privilege" to treat attendants inappropriately with impunity. Choi says attendants lack legal recourse to hold offending passengers accountable and the airline should offer better guidelines on how to handle harassment on the job.
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“When you report it to the flight manager, they always say it is the crew member's decision whether or not to call the police. They tell you, ‘It's your decision. Do you want to delay the flight by calling the police?’ That puts stress on the flight attendant and it is sad the company is not actively supporting and protecting us in cases like this.”
A February survey by Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission found that one in four flight attendants reported being harassed in the last 12 months. FAU Vice Chairwoman Vera Wu Yee-mei said that figure was probably on the conservative side, because many flight attendants don't bother to report sexual harrasment as they see no point if there is no punishment.
According to that survey, flight attendants reported harassment physically, verbally and in gestures like "staring in a sexual way."
The current uniforms, launched in 2011, were actually redesigned to have longer blouses and looser skirts at the behest of flight crews. The original designs were made after consulting "more than 100 Marco Polo members and 1,000 uniform staff."
In a written statement, the airline invited crew members to exchange their uniform if they believe "the fit is not right," but it hasn't formally acted on the complaints. The airline told the South China Morning Post it does "not tolerate any form of harassment and take the issue of sexual harassment seriously."
The FAU intends to bring up the issue with the airline at a meeting with airline management on May 13.
Cathay Pacific became the third largest airline in the world in terms of market capitalization in 2010. Its main hub is Hong Kong International Airport and it serves 42 countries worldwide.