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.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Which cities provide the most memorable party times? A self-proclaimed "nightlife connoisseur" names his top 10.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
Whether you're looking for a post-meeting pint or a wild night out, creativity is on the menu at these hot Hong Kong venues.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1028 GMT (1828 HKT)
An image showing the Istanbul district of Beyoglu where gentrification is changing the face of the neighborhood and leading the closure of many old shops and establishments.
Artists and migrants are moving out as a once-crumbling neighborhood goes upscale.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 0502 GMT (1302 HKT)
They irrigate our farms, are an important means of transport and a source of eco-friendly power.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0828 GMT (1628 HKT)
Open House festivals allow snooping in homes and landmarks normally closed to public
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
Ancient competitions held and yurt town set up to rejuvenate nomadic cultures.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
Playful sea lions, fearless boobies and the only ocean-going lizards in the world -- these islands offer amazing experiences for naturalists and tourists alike.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
A foreign language can be the best aphrodisiac, so we traveled the world in search of the hottest accents.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0657 GMT (1457 HKT)
Hidden from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar's Lethwei boxing is experiencing a revival globally.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
This aging cargo work whale makes more than 60 flights each week, carrying parts for all of the Airbus programs.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0026 GMT (0826 HKT)
Former brothels, public toilets and war bunkers now provide eccentric watering holes for those willing to drink deep.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
Whether filled with electric blue sulfur flames or hissing lava, these mega mountains offer incredible vistas.
ADVERTISEMENT