According to reports in Malaysia’s The Star newspaper, low-cost airline AirAsia has been forced to roster only male cabin crew on its flights to the Indonesian province of Aceh. Located on the Northern tip of Sumatra, the semi-autonomous province enforces a strict interpretation of Islam and has now said “Muslim female flight attendants would have to don the hijab upon arrival in the region.”
While AirAsia employs lots of female cabin crew who aren’t Muslim, it appears the airline has decided to go one step further in order to avoid any potential for problems. According to sources, the authorities in Aceh said cabin crew who didn’t comply with the new rule would “face punishment by the religious police.”
It’s not clear how authorities in the province would differentiate between Muslim and non-Muslin female cabin crew.
In a statement from AirAsia, a spokesperson simply explained: “For the time being, all AirAsia flights from and to Aceh will be operated by male cabin crew.”
“AirAsia acknowledges the regulation imposed by the authority of Aceh region. We are committed to ensuring that our operations adhere to it.”
The regulation will also effect Garuda Indonesia and fellow low-cost Malaysian airline, Firefly who all fly to Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh. For its part, a representative from Firefly said they are considering adding an extra layer of clothing to the cabin crew uniform in order to comply with the regulation.
But it’s not just Aceh which imposes strict rules like this on foreign cabin crew. When European airlines recently restarted services to Iran’s capital, Tehran, female cabin crew were told they would have to wear a headscarf and clothing that covered their arms and legs.
The regulations imposed by Iran did not go down well with Air France cabin crew, with one source saying the airline was “facing a mutiny” from staff over the rules. In order to appease crew, Air France has allowed female flight attendants to refuse to work on its Tehran service.
It’s not clear whether the carrier also allows gay crew members to refuse to work on the route after they asked for the same privileges because of Iran’s draconian laws on homosexuality which is punishable by death.
Two Malaysian lawmakers recently criticised the uniforms worn by AirAsia and Firefly cabin crew, saying they were “too revealing” and could “arouse passengers”. They called on the airlines to make their female cabin crew uniforms “Shariah compliant”.
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.