AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson discussed the scope of the problem:
While much of the coverage of the #MeToo movement has focused on high-profile cases in the entertainment industry and politics, this survey underscores why AFA has long been pushing to eradicate sexism and harassment within our own industry. The time when flight attendants were objectified in airline marketing and people joked about ‘coffee, tea, or me’ needs to be permanently grounded. #TimesUp for the industry to put an end to its sexist past.
Nelson noted that the problems associated with the harassment go beyond the harm caused to the flight attendants:
Flight attendants are first responders. Their authority when responding to emergencies is undermined when they are belittled and harassed. Likewise, harassment makes it more difficult for flight attendants to intervene when passengers are harassed by other passengers. Flight attendants must be confident that airline executives will back them up when they respond to and report harassment of crew and passengers.
Here are some of the key facts uncovered by the survey:
- 68% of flight attendants have experienced sexual harassment during their flying careers.
- 35% experienced verbal sexual harassment from passengers in the past year.
- Of those who have experienced verbal sexual harassment in the past year, 68% faced it three or more times, and one-third five or more times.
- Flight attendants describe the verbal sexual harassment as comments that are “nasty, unwanted, lewd, crude, inappropriate, uncomfortable, sexual, suggestive and dirty.” They also report being subjected to passengers’ explicit sexual fantasies, propositions, request for sexual “favors” and pornographic videos and pictures.
- 18% experienced physical sexual harassment from passengers in the past year.
- Of those who experienced physical sexual harassment in the past year, more than 40% of those suffered physical abuse three or more times.
- Flight attendants said the physical sexual harassment included having their breasts, buttocks and crotch area “touched, felt, pulled, grabbed, groped, slapped, rubbed and fondled” both on top of and under their uniforms. Other abuse included passengers cornering or lunging at them followed by unwanted hugs, kisses and humping.
- Only 7% of the flight attendants who experienced sexual harassment reported it to their employer.
- 68% of flight attendants say they haven’t noticed any employer efforts over the past year to address sexual harassment at work. According to AFA-CWA, airlines Alaska, United and Spirit have led the industry in addressing this issue.
This blog was originally published at AFL-CIO on May 11, 2018. Reprinted with permission.