Misogyny in Aviation

Illustration credit: Marcelo Cáceres

The reason I felt I need to write this post is Akbar Al-Baker, the megalomaniac who sits in the CEO seat of Qatar Airways, one of the ME3. The topic itself is important and the issue of grave concern to the community and the airline industry. Whether or not I work or had worked in Qatar Airways, has little impact on what is written below.

Akbar joked that his job is too challenging for a woman, there is a little bit of truth in every joke.

Akbar Al-Baker has always been controversial, I met him around 15 years ago, when his airline was still a regional force trying to establish itself as a competitor in the region. This week he infamously remarked that his job is too challenging for a female and has to be done by a man. Apparently he was joking, but there is always some truth in every joke. The truth being that Akbar is misogynist.

Last year, Akbar commented that cabin crew in the US are grandmother and at his airline their average age is 26. He later apologized for both those cases. The fact that he knows the average age of his cabin crew from the top of his head means it is something that he monitors, or at least cares to ask about. I worked with CEOs who knew the average of machines, airplanes, ramp equipment. The fact is Akbar considers them to be assets, not human beings. That is why cabin crew in Qatar Airways are locked up and never allowed to marry or get pregnant.

Akbar is almost the rule and not exception in almost the majority of the industry. While US and European carriers are trying to put an effort in order to improve on the situation. Skirt only uniforms are abundant in the East, compared to the choice given to many cabin crew in the west.

The video below is from a promotional video for SkyMark Airlines, a startup low-cost in Japan. The CEO sitting in the seat surrounded by his harem, errrm, crew and the videography that starts with a focus on the hemline that is a few inches above average for a girl who is supposed to be bending over and collecting trays from the lowest part of a trolley.

Masakazu Arimori was another Akbar, but his airline wasn’t backed by deep pockets of a Gas-Rich nation and the market failed it.

This fairs no better in my mind than the “Long Legs, Short Nights” of Pacific Southwest. I kid you not, that is what the designer called it.

Or Southwest’s uniform which in the monochromatic image below, clearly is flirting with the passenger. At least it is a short and not a skirt.

Sex sells and clearly men sitting in boards and management teams agree, which is why someone would come up with an unpractical uniform like these one

In the heydays of aviation, we were constantly reminded of how challenging aviation is and how demanding the physical nature of aviation is. However, this is 2018 and it is ridiculous that this issue still persists.

I recently saw this info-graphic on a Forbes article discussing the same issue and it was interesting that airlines are still reporting on the percentage of female pilots in their pilot groups yet none has it as above the single digit.


This is not necessarily the airlines fault, as there are a number of reasons why there aren’t that many female pilots in the airline industry, but also in aviation in general. The FAA which maintains the largest number of pilot licenses in the world estimates that around 6% of their licensed pilots are females.

In Akbar’s apology, he was clearly trying to backpedal his earlier statements, hinting that he was a pioneer in accepting female pilots. That is not true, Royal Jordanian has had female pilots longer than Emirates and Etihad existed. However, in 2018 we need to make sure that the legacy of the females in this industry is celebrated because the only way to combat misogyny is to fight the women and men who practice misogyny.

Talking about herself this is a matter of choice, talking about other female pilots this is misogyny.

I flew with a female pilot once, and she was clear in her position that she was here for the while, but when the gentleman caller came a-knocking, she won’t be able to raise kids and fly for a career. She said she would quit or do something else, as this job is not compatible with being a mother. This is not sexism, to be clear, she was doing the job, she was supporting “all the single ladies” to do the job, but she figured, a family and a flying career don’t mix.

Talking about herself this is a matter of choice, talking about other female pilots this is misogyny.

Fighting them will take a while but it is not a matter of choice, the only way this industry will reach its full potential, is by properly utilizing both genders and encouraging active female participation.


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