Air India banned Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from flying for misbehaving with their staff. It was indeed heartening to see a politician being made to face the consequences of a crime he did. It doesn’t usually happen that way over here, you know. MP Ravindra Gaikwad apologized and the airlines weren’t happy with the apology. That is great. [Later they revoked the ban ostensibly due to pressure from Shiv Sena]. This incident clearly means that airlines sure know how to act when there is a violation while flying. But why is it different when the violence is gender based? Not so breaking news: Sexual harassment on flights is common and there are hardly any policies that ensure safety of women on flights.
1. Sexual Harassment Called The President of America
Likes to grab women by their pussies and is still the President of America. Bragging about sexual harassment is ‘locker room banter’ for him.
Jessica Leeds is one of the women came out to speak about how she was sexually harassed by Trump. In an incident which had happened more than 30 years ago, she said that he had grabbed her breasts and had tried to put his hand up her skirt while flying. What an example to set to world leaders. Where is the airways ban on this man? Oh wait, he has a flight exclusively for himself.
2. He who thinks the flight is a bar
Roshni, a frequent flyer, shared an incident of sexual harassment on flights which had happened 8 years ago. Her co-passenger was reeking of alcohol and she was extremely uncomfortable sitting next to him. She had repeatedly asked the air hostess to kindly give her another seat but was told that it was impossible.
- Disgustingly drunk. (for those who think that flights are for flying)
- Drinks more as though that was not enough.
- Stares at your private parts.
- Gets up to go to the loo (can’t blame him, all that liquid inside) and you have to get up and stand aside if he has to cross you because you are not comfortable with the drunk guy who stares at you getting an opportunity to rub himself against you.
The air hostess, Roshni said, was very ‘nice’ to her and kept checking on her.
This looks like a clear case of lack of proper training because in this case, Roshni should have been allotted a seat change the first time she asked for it when she found out that the man reeked of alcohol.
3. The click-happy flier
Sheetal was quick to act when she faced harassment from a passenger while she was working for Kingfisher airlines.
- This one thinks that he is the official photographer of the flight
- His mission? To click photographs of female cabin crew from behind
Sheetal saw her photograph on the passenger’s screen and was infuriated. She immediately reported it to the captain and also questioned the passenger. She also confiscated his phone. This sort of behaviour, however, is not possible from everyone’s side and it is nobody’s fault, least of all, the victim’s. Sheetal confirmed that she had not even heard of a body for handling sexual harassment complaints in airlines and even other companies she had worked for. Sheetal had ventured into business after her job as Assistant Base Manager at airlines. ‘If there has to be an HR, a sales department, there has to be a sexual harassment department.’ she said, emphatically.
4. Thinks your body is his property
Another female staff who has worked as cabin crew and cabin supervisor at Jet Airways and Emirates [She said she couldn’t reveal her name because Emirates had a non-disclosure policy regarding their training details.] narrated a rather strange trend. From what she said,
- Lewd comments were passed on cabin crew regularly.
- Women usually handled it themselves.
- Both passengers and co-workers passed comments.
- Some of the comments? ‘Indian women have big asses, their colour is exotic and sexy’
But this is blatant sexual harassment! Her answer?
‘It is probably horrible in a society where we are shy about our body and colour. [In] most of the western countries people are pretty open about their sexuality or body. In that case these comments can be taken as compliments’.
So next time you are on a flight and someone says how your body is very exotic and sexy, you have to pause and think: is this problematic to me only because I am a woman with self esteem or is it because I am not ‘open’ about my sexuality and body? Clearly, airways staff think that these are compliments. So excuse please, where on earth are women supposed to go for help?
6. The Captain
- Has power over other staff because he is the captain of the aircraft
- Uses it to sexually harass women
- Airlines usually save him because they think it is difficult to hire a captain than a cabin crew.
Rajni who worked with airlines for 12 years. 3 years at Jet Airways and 8 in Kingfisher, narrated an incident of sexual harassment on flights in which a captain had said on Passenger Address System (a microphone) that he wanted to see the ass of all crew in the cockpit.
She said that nobody complained because they knew nothing would happen. Why is that? She explained how most airlines value their pilots over other employees due to the money involved in training and recruiting a new pilot. In another instance, the captain had called Rajni to the cockpit and asked her out for dinner repeatedly. ‘I was still taking it lightly and I said, captain I hope you know I am married. I am busy with my husband. He said ‘husband ke saath to tu har raat jaati hai ek baar mere saath aa’. [you go with your husband every night come with me just for one night]. ‘And that is the time I lost it and I told him that this is the first and the last time you are talking to me like this,’ she explained. She thinks that might have pissed him off because while landing when she reported to him [it’s procedure in all flights], he said ‘SHUT UP’ to her over the microphone.
Airlines conducted an inquiry which strangely said there was no ‘evidence’ to support the complaint. Strange because the blackbox records all conversations which happened thirty minutes before landing. Mysteriously vanished? Heard that one a lot in cases of sexual harassment.
And what are the airlines doing?
RN Choubey, Secretary, Civil Aviation recently made an announcement that passengers who exhibited unruly behaviour will be banned from flying with immediate effect. ‘Airline can ban the passenger from flying immediately, but the passenger won’t come on national no-fly list immediately,’ he said. There are three categories in punishment for unruly behaviour. Level 1 includes disruptive behaviour like physical gestures etc and the ban will be for 3 months. 2: physically abusive behaviour like pushing, kicking, sexual harassment etc and the punishment 6 months. 3: life threatening behaviour with a punishment of 2 years or more. That’s great sir, but excuse me, who formulated these vague categories and how on earth does this address sexual harassment among employees? There are no answers to these questions and there seems to be no solution for sexual harassment while flying.