First Class Airline (specifcally Singapore Airlines)

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  • MartynSinclair

    Not sure if people saw the above programme on First Class travel last night, but there were parts of the documentary, that really did not sit comfortably with me.

    The way Singapore Airlines still sells the female vision to such an extreme. The days of the Singapore Girls, appear far from over.

    I know we have discussed QATAR in the past and how they generally prefer to only employ young female cabin crew – but to me it is even more unacceptable the way Singapore Airlines “use” females. Some of the examples:

    1. Female cabin crew who leave to start a family, can return to work, as long as they are able to fit into their original uniform

    2. The strict enforcement of how to apply make up that goes beyond what should would normally be acceptable.

    3. Similarly hairstyles – the size of the girls hair bun was measured for conformity – if it was out by a cm, it had to be redone.

    4. The male cabin crew have more chance of promotion into the premier cabins as they generally do not leave to start a family !!!

    5. The subservient way the female crew are taught to use their feminine charms….

    I found the documentary to portray the Airline’s female cabin crew as remaining in the says of the Singapore Girls, to be a little out of date and unacceptable.


    Never call you a snowflake the way some UK newspapers do,and you make good points about HR procedures for SQ and their government to look into ‘though shouldn’t we enjoy the female/male differences?
    Many countries women still enjoy Miss World and Miss Universe and some female staff have a better attitude to service than some men so its for their government to consider political correctness and let us enjoy their high standard of service?


    The Singaporeans are rather sensitive to criticism.


    Relatively young countries tend to be more sensitive about their culture, it takes about 200 years before they can relax a little,remember the USA complaining about their national flag on bikinis, or am I being chauvanistic again!


    I know it’s only a heavily edited, probably, TV programme but it was interesting to see the only disparaging remarks about the new suites came from a couple of aged British people who were certainly anti the suite and really looked down their nose at it. Still each to their own I guess.. Far be it from me to criticise other peoples opinions.


    Re the HR policies for female cabin crew, I think its a bit unfair to target SQ, as most other Asian and Middle East carriers I understand have similar rules, if not stricter.
    That said, I do think the whole promotion based around the “Singapore Girl” is outdated particularly in the current environment. Imagine if someone PR person today tried to pitch “SG girl you’re a great way to fly”…pardon the pun but it just wouldn’t fly!


    Martyn I didnt see the programme as not aired here, but interesting comments about SQ as they are my home airline… the comment about them all looking the same and the girls being subservient to the males is something I have asked about whilst on many flights. However something interesting happening over the last month, some of the senior management (all female) btw have been flying on all routes to see how people are performing and looking at addressing the balance according to one of the stewardesses I spoke with!

    For me the term “typically Singaporean” (my husband is Singaporean and he agrees totally) comes to mind and each SQ stewardess fits a mould as do the guys, they all look the same they tend not to interact with passengers as well as other crews on other airlines and they are very rigid sometimes to much so in their approach.

    Singaporean culture tends to be “one size fits all” and that in my opinion is outdated and makes the crews automatons on SQ which as stated above may being addressed?


    K1ngston1, completely agree with you that the one size fits all SG culture permeates into the SQ on board service. I fly both Econ and Biz regularly with SQ and while this may work in Econ from an efficiency perspective, in Biz it just comes across as robotic. For instance, recently flew QR and UA (go forbid!) long haul biz and was pleasantly surprised with the onboard service. Crew engaged with you on a conversational level rather than just “here’s the menu what would you like, etc.”


    I didn’t see the program but have flown SQ alot.

    Singapore is a quasi totalitarian State in which ‘Asian Values’ form a big part of the social mindset. It’s not sinister but just a, perhaps overly traditional, mentality where women play a role and men play a different role.

    I have flown SQ and often seen female cabin managers who were far from dowdy and subservient. I remember one handled a difficult male passenger (thankfully not me lol) very effectively. SQ’s brand is linked to the traditions of the Singapore Girl. Yes, the SQ culture is probably not as liberal as that of BA or LH but Singapore is a far less liberal nation than either the UK or Germany. To expect SQ or any Asian airline to adopt a similar culture to those in the west is pure fantasy.

    And frankly, the attention the SQ and many other Asian flight attendants (male and female) pay to their appearance is not a bad thing compared to some of the scruffy FAs and pilots around, esp in the US. Yes, cabin crew and pilots are there for our safety but they’re also part of a brand. And I much prefer an airline brand that values high quality and attention to detail to one that doesn’t.


    Alex_F thats a fair point about the managers on board, as they say in English they have learnt to grow a pair and are almost totally different in their approach, being a SGEG but only flying Y I dont get to interact with them too much…

    Your explanation around Singapore itself is also totally correct it does a wonderful job of looking efficient and “on the ball” on the outside and its a completely different story on the inside, which in the case of SQ is this weird preconception that there needs to be “pretty girls” hosting men hence the Singapore Girl legend was born

    As to your final point my husband and I know a SQ girl who is married had a baby and dieted to such an extreme to get back into the uniform she made herself ill, so I would rather have well slightly scruffy than wafer thin girls not eating to meet the “requirements”


    Just a couple of comments regarding SQ and their corporate culture. I am by far no expert, but I did work for them for over 10 years based between LHR and SIN.

    As far as the cabin crew goes, while the comments might be valid, from a westerner’s point of view, I doubt SQ’s management and the majority of their passengers would feel the same way. Cabin crew who go to work for SQ, both male and female are hired on three year contracts. The ability to stay beyond the three years depends on how well you have done during your tenure. But, one has to realize the competition for the job of cabin crew is extremely competitive in SIN. Virtually all the new hire cabin crew are University graduates who speak a minimum of three languages. If you are a citizen of Singapore, having a cabin crew position on your CV opens quite a few doors should you leave. So, no matter what the West thinks of the job or culture, the job is in demand and is a coveted position in Singapore.

    The simple fact is most female flight attendants will get married and have children and the overwhelming majority of them will not return to work. So, the three year contract works better for them. Most males, while they will get married and have children, they do not tend to stay at home and be a full time care giver for their children. So, the system works for the Singapore culture.

    During my time there, I met quite a few female cabin crew who got married, had children and returned to the company in another function, most not in a customer facing job! So, while it might appear, on the surface, to be a dead end job, the company does take care of their employees and former employees.

    The comments about makeup, hair style are not unique to SQ. EY, EY and QR have the same training. In fact, the programs at those airlines were were designed and implemented by former SQ cabin crew. I have often heard the same criticism or the comments such as the cabin crew are “robotic”. I will agree 100%, but that is what keeps the service level constant. After all, that is what allows a full meal service between SIN and KUL. Try getting that on BA, LH, AA or any other “western” airline. That same robotic training is what the ME3 lack and makes cabin service a hit or miss affair. CX has the same philosophy for cabin crew and it has worked for both airlines in the past. Outdated? Yes, but it works for them.

    Just a couple of my thoughts. Like them or not, that’s the way it is. While I appreciate your comments, you are making them from a western perspective which is not quite fair. After working for them the biggest thing I had to do was try not to judge their practices from my value system.


    philsquares, always good to get a perspective from someone who worked for them, however to correct you, there is no full meal service between SIN – KUL at the end of the day its a 45 mins flight you get a drink thats it before the plane is descending so they are good not super good!

    I have lived in Singapore for 3 years, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion I am married to a Singaporean so I dont think I am coming from a totally Western POV, I admit there could be a bias on my part to that but I am sensitive to the “Asian” way and in particular the Singaporean way.

    I didnt know about the 3 year contracts that probably makes sense, and why there always seems to be a male CSD in charge of the longer more glamorous routes.


    There are many hospitality industry where female employees are overwhelmingly outnumber male, what is wrong with that.
    Most office receptionist are female including western countries. Most of their pays are not high compared to other office job carried out by male employees.
    The disparity between male and female job conditions is a worldwide and fortunately world is changing.
    I totally agree with philsquares assessment.
    Agree a full meal is not given in a sin-kul flight but a full meal and drinks run before that is serviced in sin-bkk flights in economy classthat is only 2 hours max. Very few other airlines will manage that.
    SQ flight attendants in business class engages well with travellers if one wants it. SQ value privacy and I think their goal is to keep passengers well fed, well rested and happy.
    I travel long haul regularly in business. And when I cannnot sleep and wsnt to chat, SQ flight attendants are quite lively and also provides helpful tips for destinations if one asks.
    And if one has status like PPS/Solitaire then cabin manager will surely introduce him/herself and chat with you as long as you want.


    Disagree they are robotic,its just efficient training and service,fly CX regularly and they are fairly strict in routines however never have a problem asking additionally, coffee,wine,newspapers,etc.and you know even if busy they will return, shorthaul flights too.


    I watched the programme last night, and at the end of it just thought it was an hour of free advertising for SQ as they rightly try and re-establish themselves back into the psyche of the UK’s travelling mass.

    And if I was to give some brand advice to SQ management , it would be simply this…….

    Lead with your strength………..and their strength is the “Singapore Girl” and the values they stand for.

    Unfortunately in our easily offended , jump on the band wagon, socially media led witch hunt mass hysteria homogenised neo liberal western valued world we’d no doubt end up demonizing the airline and turning SQ’s highly trained and educated cabin crew into victims.

    Are they being exploited for financial gain ?
    Absolutely, but so am I and anyone who works for someone else under their rules also are !!

    In the instance of the SQ girls, I’d rather flip the coin and focus on their strengths…….As women they are the iconic image of what Singapore stands for !

    And controversially I’ll add this point….If you see them as sub servant sex objects , then I’d ask ……Who’s got the problem with the relationship?

    After all you’re not flying on Hooters Air !!

    One last thing for Martyn, and apologies for being pedantic, but they didn’t say that they had to fit into the same sized uniform, just they had to fit into the required size!!

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