|qualifications: young, beautiful, skinny, unmarried|
the specific topic from which this blog post came about was about the 'aunties' that pass for air hostesses in air india and how the slim and svelte singapore girls score over them. in fact, many times, during discussions about the morass that air india finds itself in, i hear arguments about these 'aunties', as if that alone is a clinching evidence of why air india is loss-making and singapore, one of the leading airlines of the world!
now, i do not want to go into the reasons why air india is losing money. i won't talk of aviation ministers who have stakes in private airlines, or those whose offsprings are married to the offsprings of private airline owners, or about each MD wanting to show a profit on the balance sheet and hence, selling off profitable routes, or landing slots, or about the babudom that interferes in the smallest decisions or the late payment to employees. i do not want to talk about how i have almost always had a wonderful experience with air india, or at least that i have had as many bad experiences with other airlines as i have had with air india. i do not want to talk of the funny things i have heard where the only response is "only in (air) india", or some of the outlandish hyperbole i have heard some indians spout when the subject is the national carrier
|"i see, and which hat are you talking through at the moment?"|
in fact, this blog post is not about attacking or defending air india at all, though heaven knows it has a lot going for it, and a lot to answer for. this blog post is generally about air hostesses and their specific role in-flight, as well as the public perception about this particular profession
what is the job description of an air hostess? a small search online listed several items. the following paragraph is verbatim from an airline crew website, and is as good a description as any: "The job of air hostess involves welcoming passengers on board, performing all the safety procedures prior to take off, and ensuring that passengers are made comfortable during the flight. The air hostess will often be serving in-flight meals and drinks from a trolley, helping nervous fliers, sorting out seating issues and selling duty free items. Another responsibility is making announcements on behalf of the pilot, and answering passenger questions during the flight."
i can see nowhere in this description, or the hundreds of others that one can find quite easily online, where it requires the air hostess to be pretty, or slim, or young, or unmarried. yes, these criteria exist in the industry, as can be seen in the job requirements, but they are not part of the job description...and herein lies the rub
|requirement: must fit in ridiculously small dress|
lest you think this is some kind of ultra-feminist rant, let me clarify: i am seriously and rationally questioning the need for certain parameters that have been an integral part of the job requirements of a certain profession and have not moved with changing needs and times. nowhere do i claim that they must be ugly, out-of-shape, badly dressed, unhygienic or inhospitable. i only question the prevailing requirement to be exceptionally beautiful, skinny, and young
i understand that this is a job in the hospitality industry, and that it is a well-researched and well proven fact that people buy more from other people they consider good-looking, but do you seriously think that when i decide which airline i will buy my next ticket from, i care a damn about the looks of the staff? i will not list all the parameters that go into my decision to fly airline A or B, but i guarantee you that in such a hypothetical list, "how beautiful, young and lissome are the cabin crew?" is a consideration that probably ranks somewhere near the bottom
|this picture says: "please read my blog!"|
also, people look at the cost of the ticket, convenience of the schedule and location of airport, facilities on-board etc, than the chances of meeting a supermodel on-board. no, really...have you ever met someone who decides which airline to fly based on the looks of the cabin crew? or, looking at it from another angle: would you pay a premium for a better seat? how about excess baggage? late check-in? choice of food? on-time operations? courteous service? cute air hostesses? the answer to all of the above is YES, except the last question, where, i can assure you, not a single ticket-buying passenger would agree to pay a single rupee extra just for a good face to look at during their two-hour flight. i think we can all agree on that
|which one would you rather have when you are in hospital?|
given that logic, it is hard to see why airlines across the world make it compulsory, to the point of obsessiveness, that the air hostesses they employ are as close to fashion models as possible. not just this, they spend huge amounts of money advertising, recruiting, training, kitting out and maintaining the cabin crew in this shape and form. of course, it is not a surprise that all of this money is recovered from the travellers
honestly, you only require pleasant looks, which are not outright repelling to the normal target user you service, and more importantly, you require the cabin crew to be fit, well-trained, courteous and empathetic...and there is a HUGE difference between 'pleasant looking and fit' and the kind of requirements airlines impose on their cabin crew
in fact, singapore airlines has something called a 'kebaya round'. this requires some explanation. read more about it here. here is an excerpt of the relevant section (the photograph below is of another such nightmare, from another website):
5. Kebaya/Uniform Test
|can't be an air hostess? try your luck on milan runways. it might be easier to get in|
and no, singapore is not the only culprit. every airline has the same rules, some unwritten, some explicit.
|namaskar! do my looks come up to your ridiculous standards?|
why do we care so much? i'd rather have a well-trained, efficient, courteous, fit, and pleasant looking lady as air hostess serving me when at 30,000 feet than a long-legged, unmarried, young, skinny girl. all i care for is the efficiency of service. why should her looks concern me?
in any case, i would not apply that criteria to decide which airline i shall be giving my business to. what about you?