Etihad Airways will continue to have a troop of young female cabin crew dressed in ‘sporty’ black jumpsuits in attendance at the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix despite an attempt by the sport’s owners to ban Grid Girls because their presence is “inappropriate” in the Me Too era.
The title-deciding 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is due to take place between Friday December 10 and Sunday December 12 at the Yas Marina Circuit with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen arriving level on points as they fight for the win.
This year, as has been the case since Abu Dhabi first won the rights to host an F1 Grand Prix in 2009, Etihad Airways will be a title sponsor of the event and will be sending a group of up to 50 cabin crew to represent the airline.
Unlike in years gone by, however, they mustn’t be referred to as Grid Girls – who traditionally introduced the male racers onto the opening grid by waving placards with their name and number. F1’s current owners, Liberty Media Corporation, tried to outlaw the practice in 2018 citing the Me Too movement and a drive to put an end to sexist practices.
The ban only lasted six races before Grid Girls started to reappear. Race organisers have found innovative ways around the ban and groups of young women regularly appear at F1 events on behalf of various sponsors – Just don’t call them Grid Girls.
Etihad will skirt the ban by having its contingent of female-only cabin crew serve guests at the exclusive Paddock Club. Rather than wearing the airline’s standard uniform, however, the crew will be expected to wear a tight-fitting jumpsuit.
An Emirati designer created this year’s uniform which features an asymmetrical wraparound belt – said to be shaped and designed to represent the Formula 1 track at Yas Marina Circuit. Jumpsuits have been a staple choice of the Etihad Grid Girl uniform over the years.
Etihad, though, isn’t the only airline sending Grid Girls to its local Grand Prix. Singapore Airlines has also worked a way around the ban and still has the iconic but arguably sexist ‘Singapore Girl’ at the Singapore F1 Grand Prix. This year’s event was, however, cancelled due to ongoing pandemic concerns.
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.