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PAL union scores CEB ‘dancing attendants’ as sexist

October 4, 2010 7:32pm

The union of flight stewards and attendants of Philippine Airlines (PAL), the country’s largest airline, on Monday criticized Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) for having lady flight attendants dance while giving out pre-flight safety instructions, branding the gimmick as “sexist and gender-insensitive".

In a statement, the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) said it is “deeply perturbed" by the video spreading on the Internet of flight attendants dancing to catchy songs while doing the pre-flight seatbelt and life vest demonstration.

“While it may look like a harmless publicity stunt to attract passengers at first glance, in the long run the stereotyping of flight attendants as entertainers will surely have a negative and sexist impact in the minds of the public, at the expense of the unwitting female-dancer-flight attendants," said FASAP, the union claiming it has some 1,600 members.

The group said the video, showing the lady attendants dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance" and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls", has been eliciting sexist comments on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

As of Monday, or just four days after it was uploaded on YouTube, the video has breached five million views with some 10,000 comments some of which made references to the “beautiful ladies" and asked why the they did not “strip" at the end of the clip.

The practice is discriminatory and unacceptable, according to FASAP, saying airlines in other countries have scrapped similar gimmicks in the past decades.

“This gender insensitive packaging is a throwback to the unenlightened past during the 50s and 60s when “stewardesses" were made to wear hot pants and mini-skirts to appeal to the dominantly male business travelers," the group said in the statement.

“Flight attendants are safety professionals and to require them to dance in front of passengers is demeaning and undignified… Flight attendants are not entertainers, they are safety professionals," FASAP added.

FASAP is thus urging Cebu Pacific to reconsider its recent gimmick “for the sake of gender sensitivity and professionalism".

The group earlier filed cases against PAL, alleging gender discrimination for its “absurd" grooming standards, forced retirement policy for 40-year-old attendants, and refusal to employ “older" women and pregnant flight attendants.

Exploitative dance

In a separate interview, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said making flight attendants dance is “exploitative" and is not part of the attendants’ job description.

“If the flight attendants feel uncomfortable that they are made to dance, and if they feel that it’s beyond their duties, it’s a kind of exploitation," Ilagan said.

She added the practice may also be a violation of the rights of the attendants, especially if the attendants were not consulted by the airline’s management.

Ilagan said they will consult with the attendants and — if requested — will assist them in working for abolishing the practice.

For its part, Cebu Pacific said its attendants performed the dance routine “whole-heartedly" and in the interest of providing safety information to passengers.

Makikita sa video na ang aming flight attendants ay masayang nakibahagi sa pagsasanay. Ito ay kusang-loob at masaya nilang ginawa para makapagbigay ng impormasyon sa mga pasahero (It can be seen in the video that our flight attendants gladly took part in the routine. They did it whole-heartedly and gladly to give information to passengers)," Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution, said in a text message.

Iyog earlier said in a separate press release the dance routine was the company’s way of having “fun" without compromising safety procedures.

"We still conducted the serious safety demonstration procedures; and the safety demo dance was done at cruising altitude right before our trademark Fun Flights. This was a test demonstration so that we can get feedback from our passengers," she added.

In 2004, flight attendants in Australia sued Pacific Blue airlines and sister company Virgin Blue for asking applicants to perform a song and dance number as part of a pre-employment interview.

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Board ruled in their favor. —VS, GMANews.TV
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