A former Qantas flight attendant has told an Australian TV channel that she was forced to quit her dream job after being sexually harassed by an in-flight manager. Hannah Rowlands, who worked on Qantas’ domestic network through ‘Maurice Alexander Management’ claims sexual harassment in the aviation industry is “rampant”.
Telling her story to ‘The Project’ on Channel Ten, Rowlands said she had been working as a Qantas flight attendant for six years when in 2015 an in-flight manager sexually assaulted her. But rather than supporting her, Rowlands claims Qantas failed to adequately deal with her complaint against the perpetrator.
The manager, who Rowlands says was “renowned for harassing girls physically” and “saying sexually inappropriate things” started to blow air on her neck during a flight to Perth. Rowlands recalls telling the man not to abuse her but she faced the same manager on a flight the next week.
“He just started slapping me on my backside,” Rowlands said. Telling her story in more details, Rowlands explained:
“He just started slapping me so hard, it was a lot of times. You know when you’re young and your brother slaps you and it stings you? That’s what it was like, that’s how hard it was.”
“I fully shut down, I wanted to say and do so many things but it was like I couldn’t do it.
“I always thought if something ever like that happened to me it would be an instant reaction … and I couldn’t move, I was like frozen or something, I don’t know what had happened. And then he walked off and I just burst into tears.”
Rowlands says she approached her senior managers at the airline and while she didn’t want to get the in-flight manager in trouble, she clearly didn’t want to work with him again. Qantas said the two wouldn’t be rostered together for at least 6-months but Rowlands claims that simply didn’t happen – with the two rostered to work together on at least seven more occasions.
She was the poster girl for Qantas – a star employee and the face of the airline. But Hannah Rowlands’ dream job quickly turned into a nightmare after she says she was sexually harassed mid-flight. #TheProjectTV pic.twitter.com/kZQb34gjTw
— The Project (@theprojecttv) April 5, 2018
In order to avoid the manager, Rowlands says she would call in sick and eventually decided to quit her job.
Since leaving, however, Rowlands says many more female flight attendants at the Australian carrier have come forward with their own stories of inappropriate sexual conduct from male colleagues.
“People are scared. I had grown ladies on the phone older than my mum hysterical going, ‘this one grabbed me by the throat and threw me against the elevator on an overnight’.
“I’ve got a list that long of women who have come to me since it happened.”
But in response, Qantas says it takes “harassment in the workplace very seriously,” explaining in more detail: “Once we became aware of the incident, it was thoroughly investigated. The employee immediately apologised and showed remorse.”
“It was clearly inappropriate (the behaviour) and a number of steps were taken to directly address the conduct of the individual. We offered Hannah lots of support, including rostering flexibility. We assured her that she would never be compelled to work with the person with whom she made the claims.”
Qantas denies allegations that the victim was told she was being “difficult” and instead says it was “very empathetic to her situation and provided her with a lot of support.”
The airline says it provides “numerous” ways to report inappropriate behaviour and all Qantas staff must take part in “comprehensive and mandatory training on the Qantas Standards of Conduct policy.”
The training includes “topics such as bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation.
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.