Flight attendant: Every second person has been sexually harassed

men and women
:So often are flight attendants sexually harassed

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  • Rebecca Erken

Flight attendant in the cabin

According to a survey, almost everyday life: the sexual harassment of the flight crew.


picture alliance / dpa / Inga Kjer / dpa

Cologne –

The numbers are alarming: About half of the flight attendants have already experienced sexual harassment in the job. This emerges from a recent survey of the “Independent Flight Attendant Organization” (UFO) with more than 1000 participants.

For women it was 52 percent, for men 44 percent. Between mid-December 2018 and the end of March 2019, flight attendants were anonymous to participate in the survey on the union’s website.

Often sexual harassment by superiors

According to the results, the perpetrators are not just in the ranks of the passengers. Even in almost half of the cases (46 percent), flight attendants were sexually harassed by their supervisors on board. About one quarter of the answers each involved the sexual assaults of passengers or colleagues.

The shocking thing was that most of the harassment was reported neither to supervisors, nor to staff representatives, nor to the police. Only 16 percent dared this step. Overall, only three attacks were reported (0.5 percent).

Many flight attendants do not report abuses – out of fear

Half of those affected stated that they had not reported the incident for fear of occupational consequences. For those who had communicated the attack, this was not necessarily positive. About one in six affected persons said that this caused personal disadvantages.

It is also worrying that just under a fifth of the reported cases had consequences for the perpetrators. Among them warnings, professional demotions and flight bans.

Sexual harassment already in the training topic

UFO stated in a press release that the results were “clear alerts”. Employers would have to set up a suitable contact point for those affected. In addition, the issue of “sexual harassment” for all employees in flight operations should be part of the basic training, demanded the union of flight attendants. Regular courses should become mandatory for all employees. Also, advertising should not contain sexist tendencies and derogate the “workplace cubicle”. Accordingly, passengers should also be sensitized.

An investigation by the US Air Traffic Assistance Association (AFA) came to even blatant results last year. Eighty-six percent of the 3,500 cabin crews surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment during their careers. The survey distinguishes between verbal and physical sexual harassment. About one in three was subject to verbal attacks by passengers in the previous year, and almost one in five experienced physical attacks by passengers during the same period.

Passengers grabbed flight attendants under the uniform

The flight attendants interviewed stated that in the case of verbal harassment, passengers did not just make comments in ambiguous or disreputable comments. In part, they were explicitly asked by passengers for “sexual pleasures, pornographic videos and pictures”.

Concerned individuals who had experienced physical abuse reported being “fingered on the buttocks, on the breasts and in the crotch area”. The passengers therefore also took them under the uniform. Part of the passengers lurked the crew members to hug, kiss or rub against them.

However, the kind of harassment the victims had experienced was not recorded in the German survey. The questions had been formulated partially out of focus, admitted the union. In the anonymous survey, which was publicly available on the UFO website, there was also no control over whether the participants are actually working as flight attendants.

What German airlines do against sexual harassment

On request, large German employers for cabin workers also commented on the results of the survey. At Lufthansa, employees were regularly trained to deal with sexual harassment on board and there are numerous points of contact for those affected, said a spokeswoman. An internal independent body is working on cases of sexual harassment. Depending on the severity of the attack, there could be a warning, warning or termination. Passengers who sexually harassed flight attendants, in addition to an ad in the individual case also expect to be excluded from Lufthansa flights in general. At Condor it was said that affected employees could report violations anonymously via a dedicated hotline.