Last week, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10) joined her colleagues in sending a letter to 30 airline executives requesting they take immediate action to address sexual harassment in the industry, which victimizes both flight attendants and passengers. Comstock and other lawmakers in Washington are asking business leaders in the airline industry to publicly denounce sexual harassment, reinforce the role of flight attendants as safety professionals, and work with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) to put in place policies to address this systemic issue of harassment.
According to a press release, Comstock stated:
“Approximately 80 percent of flight attendants are female and they are often objectified on a daily basis by passengers, coworkers, and superiors. It is perhaps not surprising that sexual harassment is prevalent given the industry’s past objectification of flight attendants. Not long ago, airlines used flight attendants, and their sexuality, as part of a marketing strategy to sell more airline tickets. As recently as 1993, flight attendants were required to weigh-in regularly to maintain their employment.”
The Association of Flight Attendants conducted a survey earlier this month and found that 68 percent of flight attendants reported experiencing sexual harassment during their flying careers. Conducted using the national averages of 80 percent women to 20 percent men, the survey also found that an equal percentage of respondents have not noticed any employer efforts over the past year to address sexual harassment in their workplace.
“Harassment of flight attendants is legendary, but this survey shows just how commonplace it remains even during the ‘#MeToo era,'” said AFA President Sara Nelson. “It’s time for all of us – airlines, unions, regulators, legislators and passengers – to put a stop to behaviors that can no longer be condoned. The dignity and well-being of flight attendants and the safety of all travelers depend on it.”
The action follows the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issue’s hearing on sexual harassment. During the hearing, lawmakers heard an emotional testimony by Nelson on her unfortunate experiences of sexual harassment in the airline industry.
“During our recent hearing held by the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, we heard about the problem of sexual harassment of airline flight attendants and the need for reforms and action to establish zero tolerance policies,” Comstock said.
Over the past year, since the expansion of the “#MeToo” movement, Alaska, United, and Spirit airlines have led the industry in addressing the issues of sexual harassment. Including the three aforementioned companies, the congressional letter was sent to Air Wisconsin Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, ATI, Cathay Pacific U.S., Compass Airlines, Delta, Endeavor Air, Envoy Air, ExpressJet, Frontier Airlines, GoJet Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Horizon Air, JetBlue, Mesa Air Group, Miami Air International, Norwegian, Omni Air International, Piedmont Airlines, PSA Airlines, Republic, Silver Airways, SkyWest, Southwest, Sun Country, TranStates.
“We applaud Spirit, United, and Alaska Airlines for denouncing sexual harassment and supporting flight attendants and taking a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace. We trust all airlines are addressing this issue and will come forward with policies to establish zero tolerance policies throughout the industry,” said Comstock.