This escalated pretty quickly. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents American’s flight attendants, is calling for answers after a skit that was performed this weekend was posted online. It depicts four ladies in flight attendant uniforms (with red heels) putting on a cabaret show that many are describing as sexist.
Here’s my understanding of what happened:
- Some Executive Platinum and Concierge Key customers got together for an event that was intended to raise money for charity
- During that event a skit was performed, featuring flight attendants and pilots in uniform, which many are saying was both demeaning and sexist
- American says they had no involvement, as this was a private event that wasn’t in any way hosted or condoned by the airline
- It’s also worth emphasizing that none of this would have been made public if one participant hadn’t chosen to share the footage online, as this wasn’t intended to be broadcast in any way
Here’s the 10+ minute skit:
American’s flight attendant union is calling on management for answers.
A video that went viral last night has prompted the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) to demand that American Airlines (AA) CEO Doug Parker conduct an independent investigation of Management’s involvement in the incident. The video, which was posted on Twitter, captured a skit of individuals portrayed as Flight Attendants promoting sex appeal as an attraction to AA’s most prominent and lucrative passengers, those with premium Executive Platinum status. It is set to the musical score of “Big Spender.”
“This cannot be happening in today’s environment. We will not tolerate our profession being objectified in a sexist manner,” said APFA National President Lori Bassani. “We want the facts about the Company’s involvement and we want answers.”
Different perspectives on this
It seems like there are two prevailing viewpoints.
One viewpoint is that this all happened in a private setting, and the event wasn’t at all supported by American. If everyone in the room enjoyed it and it was raising money for a good cause, then we’re all just making something out of nothing.
The other viewpoint is that this skit depicts flight attendants as sex symbols and further reinforces stereotypes that existed about flight attendants decades ago, which has fortunately changed over time (at least in the US). The flight attendants are wearing red heels, they talk about how they want to find a rich husband in first class, etc.
Then there’s the other major element to this. American says they weren’t involved in this, though their logo appears on stage (though it could have been used without their permission).
Does it just matter they weren’t involved in the skit, or what if they provided some sort of giveaways for the event? Furthermore, allegedly at least some of the people on stage are actual American flight attendants, even though they’re not wearing anything branded. Should they be in trouble with the airline?
Obviously I don’t have all the facts, and I wasn’t there. My initial instinct is that this comes across as being in very poor taste. It’s sexist and demeaning to the profession. However, based on my understanding of things, I wouldn’t assign any blame to American, as they weren’t behind this. I’d peg this more on the event organizers, and the person who shared it online.
All that being said, I do feel a bit hypocritical saying that. Just recently I went to see Pam Ann perform. For those of you who don’t know Pam Ann, she’s an airline comedian who has been doing skits about airlines for years. The thing is, she’s really, really, really inappropriate. Every second word is a cuss word or involves sex, and basically her whole skit is sexist and demeaning to flight attendants.
Here’s an example of her performance (again, there’s a lot of bad language, so view at your own discretion):
When she performs she draws audiences of hundreds, and they’re almost entirely flight attendants. No one complaints when she performs. I’ve never seen a flight attendant union call for a boycott of her, but rather you see flight attendants there laughing their heads off.
So I don’t know. Clearly there’s some double standard. It’s okay when a comedian says certain things, until it’s not. I don’t know where exactly this event would fall in comparison to a Pam Ann performance. Perhaps the issue is that this skit is just cringeworthy, and not funny in any way (at least to me).
What do you make of this situation?
(Tip of the hat to @xJonNYC)