Last year, TUI Airways faced some fierce criticism after it emerged cabin crew had gender-stereotyped child passengers and given out stickers that said “Future TUI Captain” to boys and “Future TUI Cabin Crew” only to girls. At the time, TUI Airways (formally known as Thomson Airways) said this was an innocent “mix-up” made by the cabin crew on one particular flight and that it would work to improve training… Unfortunately, it’s happened again.
A couple of days ago, Mark Munro the chief executive of Scottish Athletics was travelling with TUI Airways to Antalya in Turkey with a group of young athletes. Again, the cabin crew went through the cabin passing out the two stickers and again the stickers were distributed based on gender – boys were assigned the pilots sticker, while girls were handed out the cabin crew sticker.
To make the situation even worse, Munro claims cabin crew told children they had picked the “wrong” sticker when girls chose the pilots sticker or boys the cabin crew sticker. Munro labelled the airline a “disgrace” on social media and said it should be “ashamed”, ending his Tweet #equalopportunities.
According to TUI Airways’ latest gender pay gap report, female employees at the airline earn an average of over 42 per cent less than their male counterparts. Women only account for 6 per cent of TUI’s highest-paid employees, whereas nearly 80 per cent of its lowest-paid employees are currently female – many of whom are cabin crew and other customer-facing frontline staff.
One of the reasons that female employees at the airline earn on average just 58p to every £1 that male employees earn is because the vast majority of high-earning pilots are men.
What a disgrace @tuiuk . Your staff have just given stickers to every child on the flight to Antalya. Every boy got given a ‘future Tui pilot’ sticker and every girl a ‘future Tui cabin crew’ sticker. This is an absolute shocker and you should be ashamed #equalopportunities
— SALMarkMunro (@SALMarkMunro) October 10, 2019
According to figures from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, just 5.30 per cent of pilots at TUI Airways are female. The average for European airlines is just 5.61 per cent. Many airlines have made public commitments to increase the number of female flight crew but progress is slow.
“We work hard to be a diverse and inclusive business and would like to apologise to any customer upset at the sticker their child received on their recent flight to Turkey,” a TUI spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Independent.
“Both future pilot and future cabin crew stickers are in our TUI blue colours and are not designed for boys or girls but for all children,” the spokesperson continued.
“We use the stickers as a way for our crew onboard to create special moments for our customers and the feedback continues to be positive. We realise on this occasion some customers are disappointed by this and we will be working with our crew to ensure children have a choice of which sticker they receive.”
While TUI points out that the stickers are gender-neutral, the airline seems to be missing the fact that this does nothing to challenge deeply ingrained gender stereotypes. For many of TUI’s largely female cabin crew workforce, it would only seem natural to assign boys as the pilots – that is their reality and without proper education, this “mistake” will continue to happen.