So here we are, it’s nearly 2018 and yet sadly sexist attitudes continue to persist in the aviation industry. And while many airlines moved with the times some years ago, using employment practices that are fair and inclusive – basing their recruitment decisions on ability and enthusiasm – the same can’t be said for every airline.
We know that certain airlines (even major carriers like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Korean Air) place greater emphasis on youth and gender than what would ever be accepted (or legal) in Europe and North America. Yet even these carriers have done much to improve the diversity of their cabin crew in the last few years.
The same, however, can’t be said of Azerbaijan Airlines or AZAL as it’s sometimes known. The State-owned airline has got itself in some pretty hot water over a shockingly sexist and misogynistic job advert seeking new flight attendants.
Here’s what AZAL said in its flight attendant job ad:
“CJSC Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) announces the admission of documents from females for flight attendant position.”
“The competition is open only to good looking girls aged 18-30, with height not less than 165 cm and not more than 180 cm. Those willing to apply must be fluent in Azerbaijani, Russian, English or other foreign languages.”
Yes, that’s right. In a blog post, still available to view on the airline’s official website, AZAL actually said it would only accept applications from “good looking girls.”
Of course, we have no idea what AZAL’s HR department would class as a ‘good-looking girl’ but candidates were expected to submit a photo of themselves with their application. No doubt so recruiters could judge and rate applicants based on their looks.
The job ad was posted on the 21st November with the application period ending on the 22nd December. We chose not to report on Azerbaijan’s flight attendant recruitment policy until after this date for obvious reasons.
Sadly, AZAL isn’t the only airline with such a sexist recruitment policy for new flight attendants. Saudia, the Saudi state airline frequently advertises for new female flight attendants through a recruitment agency.
The Skytrax Five Star awarded airline, Qatar Airways also frequently excludes male candidates from its recruitment events – notably in Thailand and Vietnam.
Again, the use of an upper age limit – at such a young age of 30 years old – would suggest AZAL is putting their perception of beauty above competence or experience. That’s not to say the airline’s current flight attendants aren’t lacking in ability, though two professional airline reviews have described cabin staff as “standoffish” and “amateur” in the last 12-months.
Azerbaijan Airlines is just the latest carrier to get itself in hot water over its flight attendant recruitment practices. In April, Malaysian carrier, Malindo Air faced heavy criticism when female candidates claimed they had been forced to strip down to their bras.
The outrage only intensified when the airline’s director of public relations was quoted as saying: “It is the right of the employer to request potential flight attendants to expose their chest to the interviewer,” – claiming the check was necessary as the airline’s uniform is partially see-through.
More recently, Malaysian lawmakers have criticised the uniforms worn by flight attendants at some of the country’s airlines. One senator said the AirAsia and Firefly uniforms were “too revealing” and warned they could “arouse passengers.”
A second senator was reported as saying: “My wife is worried whenever I fly alone on Malindo or AirAsia”. The two senators in the Muslim-majority country are demanding the uniforms be made “Shariah-compliant.”
We’ve reached out to Azerbaijan Airlines for comment but have not yet received a response.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.