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Tight uniforms and club entry ‘fuel in-flight harassment’

May 8, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Cathay Pacific’s popular Marco Polo Club frequent flyer scheme and the too-tight uniforms of the airline’s flight attendants are fuelling an increase in sexual harassment, some cabin crew contend.

The publication Quartz (qz.com) quotes a flight attendant union representative estimating that female flight attendants are harassed about once every 10 flights.

Some attendants apparently blame it on an air of entitlement among members of the airline’s Marco Polo Club, who pay USD 50 to join. The Marco Polo Club is divided into four tiers, Green (entry level), Silver, Gold and Diamond, based on the member’s past travel. The Green tier is the entry level to the Marco Polo Club, with benefits including dedicated 24-hour club service line for flight reservations, designated Marco Polo check-in Web-banner-300-250counters, excess baggage allowance and lounge access redemptions, and priority boarding.

“Some of the Marco Polo Club [frequent flier] members think they can do things to us because they are privileged, and we somehow allow it,” Flight Attendants Union secretary Michelle Choi told the South China Morning Post.

Uniforms with tight skirts and short blouses, which flight attendants have repeatedly complained about, contribute to the problem, she said.

While the club’s fee-based ‘elite’ frequent flier club draws revenue from fliers who enjoy early boarding privileges, it can also attract harassers, detractors say.

Cathay still reserves its private airport lounge and other premium benefits for higher-echelon frequent flyers with plenty of air miles and a higher Marco Polo standing.

Flight attendants who are harassed often don’t report incidents for fear of delaying flights, union members say.

Cathay Pacific said it takes the issue “very seriously” and supports “active measures” to discourage and prevent it. “This is a society-wide issue,” the airline said, “that should be addressed by all sectors and industries.”

A survey this year found that over 25% of all Hong Kong-based flight attendants claim to have been sexually harassed while on duty in the air. While details of harassment were not specified, groping and bottom-pinching often feature.

In a strange twist, reports say that Hong Kong’s Sex Discrimination Ordinance law, passed in 1995, makes sexual harassment illegal, but does not apply to Hong Kong companies whose “employees work wholly or mainly outside Hong Kong.”

Written by : Peter Needham

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