Skip to main content

Report: 27% of flight attendants sexually harassed

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 0531 GMT (1331 HKT)
In a new report, about 27% of responding flight attendants (29% of women, 17% of males) reported being sexually harassed while on-duty in-flight in the last twelve months.
In a new report, about 27% of responding flight attendants (29% of women, 17% of males) reported being sexually harassed while on-duty in-flight in the last twelve months.
  • Hong Kong Flight Attendants Alliance sent survey to its 9,000 members
  • Sexual harassment mostly manifested in form of unwanted physical contact
  • About 59% of the sexual harassment came from customers, about 41% from fellow workers
  • In Hong Kong, no legal provision protects airlines against sexual harassment by customers

(CNN) -- "Patting, touching, kissing and pinching."

As many of us probably suspect -- and as a number of books about the industry have suggested -- flight attendants are often the target of unwanted attention.

Now a survey puts hard numbers -- and descriptions such as the one above -- to the sexual harassment encountered by flight attendants while on-duty.

The Hong Kong-based Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) announced its findings in a press release on Thursday.

Conducted in partnership with the Hong Kong Flight Attendants Alliance (HKFAA) , the survey results are based on 392 responses to 9,000 questionnaires distributed between November 2013 and January 2014 among employees of the HKFAA's member airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, British Airways and United Airlines.

Of survey respondents, 86% were female and 14% were male.

MORE: 20 most annoying things people do on airplanes

EOC spokesperson Mariana Law told CNN that the percentage of respondents was low likely for two reasons.

"Most HKFAA flight attendants are not based in Hong Kong, so it may be difficult for them to respond," said Law. "Another reason is that some people may consider sexual harassment an embarrassing or difficult subject and they may not feel comfortable disclosing this information to others."

Among the report's findings:

• About 27% of the respondents (29% of women, 17% of males) reported being sexually harassed while on-duty in-flight in the last twelve months.

• Sexual harassment experienced by flight attendants was mostly manifested in the form of physical contact, described as "patting, touching, kissing or pinching."

• Other forms of sexual harassment encountered included lewd jokes, "staring in a sexual way," "showing obscene or pornographic materials" and explicit requests for sexual favors.

• About 59% of the sexual harassment came from customers, about 41% from fellow workers, including senior cabin crew and cockpit members

MORE: Turbulence on United Flight causes passenger to crack ceiling with head

According to the EOC, flight attendants and the airlines that employ them are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment initiated by passengers or clients.

"There is currently no legal provision protecting providers of goods, services and facilities against sexual harassment by their customers," said Dr. John Tse Wing-ling, who leads the EOC's Policy and Research Committee. "In this connection, the EOC urges the (Hong Kong) Government to extend the coverage of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance to protect service providers against sexual harassment by customers, which the EOC has long recommended."

According to the EOC, most international airlines have a policy statement on sexual harassment.

MORE: Most outrageous travel stories of 2013

Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0556 GMT (1356 HKT)
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1809 GMT (0209 HKT)
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 0226 GMT (1026 HKT)
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0710 GMT (1510 HKT)
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0711 GMT (1511 HKT)
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0749 GMT (1549 HKT)
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 0907 GMT (1707 HKT)
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 2002 GMT (0402 HKT)
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0339 GMT (1139 HKT)
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.