American’s Flight Attendants Union Wants Nicole Kidman to Stop Endorsing Etihad

American’s flight attendants union put out a statement calling out Nicole Kidman because somehow restricting flights by Middle East airlines, which will make air travel more expensive (including for women trying to fly from the UAE, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere to the US) but will pad the bottom lines of US airlines is somehow good for women.

The 25,000 members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants greatly admire and appreciate your efforts to advance women’s rights around the world as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Using your profile and stature for such a noble endeavor is commendable. However, we believe those efforts are at odds with your prominent role in an advertising campaign for Etihad Airways. The United Arab Emirates and their airlines are well-known in our industry for their discriminatory labor practices and deplorable treatment of female employees. Therefore, the APFA must respectfully ask that you – as a leading advocate for women around the globe – not lend your voice, your image, and your good name to Etihad Airways, the second- largest airline in the UAE.

I saw the new Etihad Nicole Kidman ad several times airing on TV last week while in Sydney.

The ad highlights the new Etihad Residence which underscores the ‘halo effect’ that Etihad (and other Gulf carriers) invest in. Their hard product really isn’t better than that of US airlines, but they invest in making us think that it is.

Curiously, American’s flight attendants do not call on American Airlines to cease codesharing with Etihad or to sever ties with oneworld partner Qatar Airways. They do not take issue with American’s partners Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian. And I have yet to hear Delta’s flight attendants speak out against Skyteam member Saudia, despite Delta’s CEO absurdly linking Middle East airlines to 9/11 (while there is at least a reasonable case to be made that some members of the Saudi government were actually complicit in the 9/11 attacks).

Of course it isn’t just women’s rights that major airlines and their unions want to stop. It’s low prices from any source, such as Norwegian.

It’s a cynical ploy for protectionist corporate welfare. But invoking the name Nicole Kidman is good I suppose if you want publicity at any cost.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. ‘Their hard product really isn’t better than that of US airlines, but they invest in making us think that it is.’


    While I’m not a fan of Etihad for many reasons, please show me one US carrier that is even remotely comparable to EY as far as the hard product is concerned. And yes, that includes the service on board.

  2. Why doesn’t American’s flight attendants ask Apple’s Tim Cook to stop selling iPhones in Saudia Arabia?

    In reality, the American’s flight attendants should let the free market decide and come up with their own commercials for US airlines just as good, or better, than the Etihad commercial. I’ve yet to see one.

    American’s flight attendants: 1) Go on diets. 2) Start looking like covergirls, not grannies. 3) Drop the attitude. 4) Let’s see you girls on ladders in front of a library. 5) Disagree with racists like Barraaaack Obama and his ugly wife. 6) Political correctness doesn’t give you high -paying pensions.

    That would be a start. Gee Wiz, there’s 25,000 of you, not as if 50% of them are held at gunpoint to protest 1 women, Nicole Kidman.

  3. @Sebastian service on board is not ‘hard product’ and I’ve written how the US carriers do need to improve here. But I’ve also explained that Qatar and Emirates fly a ton of angled business class, while US carriers are mostly flat in business. Meanwhile, Emirates flies 10-across in economy on the 777 (Delta and United do not).

  4. I agree that Norwegian is a bigger threat especially since most Americans travel to Europe and South America (which is still dominated by the American carriers) versus to Africa/Middle East (where the gulf carriers mainly fly to.)

  5. The Union should be trying to prevent Nicole Kidman from “acting”. That is her real crime.

  6. I guess they have a weak argument with the whole UN women’s rights issue but again that is weak at best. Another thing that struck me about this first is that Nicole is Australian so would it still be an issue if she was on a beach in a bikini in Australia in a Qantas ad?

  7. I was on Etihad last week long-haul and the movies were flooded with all of Nicole Kidman’s crappy movies. Was a long flight without much to watch.

    I agree with John – The Union should be trying to prevent Nicole Kidman from “acting”. That is her real crime.

  8. In a reasonable discussion, there is no place for @ED’s objectionable comments, but they are welcome here?

  9. Hold on, I don’t think this post is painting a clear picture. The FA union simply issued an appeal to Ms. Kidman to reconsider her endorsement of Etihad due to their treatment of female employees. I think that’s well-reasoned and I applaud them for it.

    It’s this damned Americans for Fair Skies group that quickly piggy-backed on the statement, inserting their own agenda into the matter. I don’t see any evidence in this instance that the FA union was making a ploy for corporate protectionist welfare. They were simply highlighting the hypocrisy of a celebrity who chose to be a global ambassador for women’s rights accepting money and endorsing a company that doesn’t acknowledge women’s rights.

  10. @pavel the flight attendants union has been pushing the ‘americans for fair skies’ astroturf campaign, this was clearly coordinated.

  11. @Gary no doubt, but past association is one thing. i think it’s disingenuous to lump this in with the same campaign. it kind of de-legitimizes what in my opinion is a valid criticism of both ms. kidman and etihad’s labor practices.

  12. @pavel – this isn’t ‘past association’ it is a current and ongoing association targeting the same airlines that US carriers are lobbying against (and not targeting kuwaiti, saudia, etc etc).

  13. from what I have read, the treatment of Etihad’s female flight attendants is extremely abusive and would be utterly illegal in Europe or the US. So yes, if you fly Etihad, you are silently supporting these abuses and Nicole Kidman should be ashamed of herself for being part of this ad campaign.

    Gary is right that this is a bit hypocritical (a bit? very!) many of us buy clothes that were made in sweatshops, diamonds that people were killed for etc… the list goes on and on, and everybody has some sins like this. But it’s important to be aware of it, and perhaps make some kind of effort to avoid an airline like this.
    There are other wonderful airlines (like ANA, JAL) which treat their employees decently.

    I would favor pushing for legislation forcing any carrier who wants to fly to the US to allow unionization and to respect basic human right laws, and to prove that they have no connection to terrorism (Etihad would fail the first category, Qatar airways the second). That means not to keep your female flight attendants as prisoners in a compound, as Etihad does.
    If you don’t know what I’m referring to, do a google search.

  14. Regarding September 11 ‘reasonable case’. I just watched ‘loose change edition 3’ ( it’s on youtube). Seems 3 of the ‘ Saudi Hijackers’ are alive and well ( like the one miraculous passport) and not to forget the only airline allowed to take off into US airspace thereafter was the one carrying the Bin Laden Family back to Riyad ( check Farenheit 911 by Michael Moore). No matter what you do in life there is never going to be 100% satisfaction from peers, Nicole Kidman has shaken up things. Well done. US will always turn a blind eye to Saudi and Kuwait airlines like they do to what Israel does to do Palestine. Until the lobbyist, government, FA puts a gun to your head to stop flying Etihad, you should sit back relax and enjoy their excellent fish biryani. ( and wasn’t it Qatar metal who made headlines for its female staff treatment? )

  15. Here we go again. These bludging, lazy, overweight, badly dressed flight stewards with the US based airlines having a go at freedom of choice.

    Get your own house in order and stop worrying about what the rest of the world is doing. Your own house is in complete disarray.

    Whatever happened to freedom of choice America? Land of the free, home of the brave and all that rubbish. God you people have a hide!

    And in case you didn’t realise, our Nicole is Australian. She’s free to do whatever she likes without bully-boy Americans standing over her telling her what she can and can’t do.

  16. Isn’t Etihad employing Americans, while U.S. airlines refuse to employ crews from the countries they fly into?

    Talk about hypocrisy — more ME3 flight leads to more jobs, not less!

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