Kuwait Airways is taking heat after recruiters in Spain asked prospective female flight attendants to undress down to their undergarments so their bodies could be examined.
Kuwait Airways Asks Flight Attendant Recruits To Undress During Job Interview
El Diario interviewed a trio of flight attendant candidates who had interviewed for the job at a Kuwait Airways casting call in Madrid run by Meccti, a Gulf-based recruitment agency. As noted by Paddle Your Own Kanoo, the event took place on November 5, 2022 at a hotel near Madrid Barajas International Airport (MAD).
A pool of around 60 candidates was quickly narrowed down, with those deemed too fat or too ugly or too old dismissed (often after crude remarks were made at their expense). All male candidates were also dismissed, with the recruiters reportedly saying that Kuwait Airways does not hire foreign male flight attendants.
Then it got even more interesting, as told by Bianca, one of the candidates, when the girls were asked one by one to enter a back room:
“The first girl that came in came out crying and she told us that they had made her take off almost all of her clothes, except her undergarment. It was her first interview. The others came out telling the same thing, it was hard for me to believe it, I was freaking out. But they were not exaggerating.”
Bianca then was called and asked again about whether she had scars, birthmarks, or tattoos, even though she had already answered the question earlier and on her application.
“It was the second time they asked me that. She then asked me to pull up my dress. I pulled it up a little bit, it came down to just below my knees, and she pulled it up to me panties. The dress had a zipper down the back and she asked me to pull it down to my waist and stay in a bra. She said it was to see that we didn’t have scars, birthmarks, tattoos. He was turning around to look exaggeratedly at my body.”
But wait. There’s more. Those who were accepted were asked to pay a €1,900 deposit to offset their training as a means of verifying that they were serious about the job.
“He explained that they were going to invest a lot of money in us and they needed that to know that we would go if we were chosen. The money was destined to cover part of the training expenses, the transfer to Kuwait and initial accommodation. But he also told us that if we went ahead and started working there we wouldn’t spend anything, that we would only gain.”
What a bargain!
A Horrible Story, But Not A Unique One
I want to address this story in two ways. First, I want to address the specific fact pattern of this story. Second, I want to make a broader observation.
When it comes to the specific actions of this story, it should be first noted that such discrimination is illegal under Spanish law. Spain’s Ministry of Labor has expressed outrage and vowed to investigate.
Second, doesn’t it strike you as a little off (hence the casting couch reference) that these flight attendants would be asked to disrobe so areas of the body could be checked that will not ever be exposed when in uniform? Is Kuwait Airways concerned about how the crew might be perceived during crew layovers? In any case, I see no legitimate basis for such an invasion of privacy. Those who recruit labor in Spain must abide by Spanish labor laws.
But here’s the broader issue. This sort of discrimination still goes on quite overtly in the Middle East and Asia in some ways continues all over the world. Remember when United and Emirates launched their partnership last autumn? Did the flight attendants paraded before us with the Emirates flight attendants on video and at the signing ceremony look anything like what we regular United flyers typically see onboard?
I’ve never seen a crew this youthful or all wearing skirts instead of trousers…
What can we draw from this more benign discrimination? While the era of simply objectifying the stewardess (to use that older term) may be over, even the more progressive airlines still choose the pretty ones and the skinny ones and the young ones for their ad campaigns. Beauty may be subjective, yet distinct qualities of symmetry, age, and shape are still highly favored.
While the most important function of a flight attendant is to effectively assist and evacuate in case of emergency, there is no denying that even in 2023 there is a certain mystique that all airlines, in their own way, attempt to capture in the way they market and recruit their flight attendants.
Therefore, while we certainly can pass judgment against Kuwait Airways in this specific situation, we would be wise to remember that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…
I’m not surprised, yet nevertheless horrified by what prospective Kuwait Airways flight attendants were forced to endure at a recruiting event in Spain. I see no justification for asking a flight attendant to strip, with or without prior warning. Even so, there is still an aspirational element of being a flight attendant rooted in beauty that continues in nations that have long moved past the sexist and ageist hiring practices of prior generations. Put another way, I see no valid link between the age or size of a flight attendant and the service provided, yet selling flight attendants remains part of selling airline tickets and youthfulness is still a hot commodity. Let’s not kid ourselves otherwise.
top image: Kuwait Airways