Report: Women Applying To Be Kuwait Airways Flight Attendants Required To Strip

Kuwait Airways is under fire after women applying to become flight attendants report being required to strip down to their underwear as part of the interview process.

The interviews, which occurred in Madrid, are under investigation by Spain’s Ministry of Labor, after a contractor conducting the interviews at the Meliá Barajas hotel was said to require these women to bare themselves in order to check for tattoos, scars, and other marks.

[S]hortlisted candidates had been called into a room one by one, where they were told to strip down to their underwear so that recruiters could examine their bodies.

…[C]andidates who made it through the initial cull were then called into a room one by one where a female recruiter looked over them. The recruiter asked Bianca to raise her dress further up her legs but when she only lifted it to knee level, the recruiter lifted it all the way to her panties.

“The dress had a zipper on the back and she asked me to lower it to my waist,” Bianca continued.

Perhaps the contractor was just confused, it’s only men you can tell are Jewish when they disrobe?

Regardless there’s a long history of sexualizing flight attendants. It remains a part of the culture in the U.S. but isn’t nearly as overt as it once was. In part that’s because travel is no longer nearly as glamorous, and airlines in the U.S. rarely promote the glamour of most of their travel experience (and when they do it now focuses on product). U.S. culture would no longer be as welcoming of this as it once was either.

In the U.S. National Airlines flight attendants used to ask customers to “fly me.”

Since Southwest Airlines was based at Love Field in Dallas, they began promoting the ‘love’ theme. LUV is their ticker symbol. In the 1970s flight attendants wore hot pants and gogo boots in a uniform designed by Juanice Muse, the wife of the airline’s first President.

In fact a Southwest Airlines legal case is the basis for a fundamental precept of employment discrimination law. In the “Love Airlines” case Southwest claimed the right to hire only attractive young women as flight attendants in order to appeal to what was then mostly male business travelers. A federal court determined that the essence of the Southwest Airlines business was transportation not sexual allurement, so their employment policy was illegal sex discrimination. (On the other hand a business that was explicitly sexual in nature could discriminate in this way.)

Selling sex is far more common in Southeast Asia – even in predominantly Muslim regions. Malaysian airline Malindo Air has required potential flight attendants to disrobe in their interviews.

The airline’s director of public relations said, “It is the right of the employer to request potential flight attendants to expose their chests to interviewers.” He also suggested that “most airlines do the same” because “cabin crew needed to be presentable.”

  • They were required to remove their tops (but may leave their bra on) “to see if applicants had visible marks” and if they do, where those marks are on the body. The airline’s uniform is “partially see-throughs” however it includes “a corset inside and if it is covered by the corset, it is okay.”

  • They also had to “bare their legs thigh-high” because female uniforms have long slits so “[w]e need to know if there are scars or any marks as you can see their legs when they walk.” But don’t worry,

    “The slit is also tailored in such a manner where it will enable flight attendants to move around easily, especially during an emergency.”

AirAsia responded to this story, by the way, trying to recruit women as flight attendants promising not to make them take off their clothes.

Perhaps ironically, Pakistan International Airlines has started demanding that flight attendants wear underwear.

Explicit sexualization alone doesn’t drive airline success. Hooters Air went out of business. Something about hubbing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Nonetheless a glamorous image can project quality and attention to detail, not something US airlines are known for. There’s a line and a balance, I think, that I’m not qualified to draw beyond Potter Stewarts admonition that one knows it when they see it.

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. I don’t get the policy that allows for women to strip before hire. Isn’t Virgin Atlantic loosening it’s dress code to allow for some tattoos? I love that the airline’s image is being upheld but this is too invasive & wrong.

  2. Sexualizing flight attendants remains a part of culture in the U.S.? Oh, please. I hardly remember when I last saw young and attractive female flight attendant on any U.S. carrier. Maybe 10 years ago. If anything, what catches the eye is a relatively large percentage of male flight attendant, most of them being openly gay – but that’s completely different story

  3. @Andy (the other one)…you just did it in your comment. Who cares if flight attendants are young, attractive and weigh 100 lbs. They only need to do their job. They are not eye candy for businessmen. Andy, are you eye candy? I think not. You just need to do your job. Period.

  4. I was in the Doha QR lounge, knocking back stiff self-made cocktails with hard liquor that the cute ground steward procured for me from the staff room, and this cute ground steward (excuse me, lounge attendant) confessed to me that he had to stay as ground staff and not be flight staff with the gorgeous air hostesses (excuse me, flight attendants) because of barely discernable acne marks on his face. Anyway, QR hires gorgeous muscle boy FAs, and EK and AF hire glamorous female FAs.

    What disturbs me are comments that staff must smile. Especially when they are wearing masks. Demanding a smile is more akin to prostitution/slavery than anything else.

  5. Gary. The “it’s only men you can tell are Jewish when they disrobe” or “if their pants are tight enough” joke is old and boorish and arguably bigoted and not appropriate for “mixed company”. I’ve told it many times, with distinctively mixed reactions. It also adds nothing constructive to this blog post, if anything it repulses readers. You would be doing yourself a great service were you to delete that sentence.

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