China’s flight attendant recruitment process faces backlash

4 Jan 2016 by Clement Huang
An event in China that saw nearly a thousand female high school graduates parade around in swimwear for a chance to work as a flight attendant or model has faced considerable backlash. Prospective flight attendant candidates in swimwear According to, the event, held in Qingdao last week, was organised by Chinese modelling agency Oriental Beauty with the aim of helping airlines to recruit “talent”. The competition is in fact held annually, as part of a flight attendant selection process. The Oriental Beauty website detailed that eligible candidates had to be 25 years old or younger, “elegant, slim, have a sweet voice and have no scars in the exposed part of their skin". In addition, entrants had to be a minimum height of at least five foot six (1.68 metres) – although those who were five foot five would also be considered if they were "exceptionally beautiful". Candidates also wore flight attendant uniforms during the event  In response to the news, the Association of Flight Attendants released a statement with AFA international president Sara Nelson saying: "If discrimination exists anywhere, it is a threat to women everywhere. This is not a fight just for the women of China. In this era of increased globalisation and trade agreements that pit American workers against these abhorrent labour practices, our union understands this very real threat to flight attendants in the US and around the world. "We condemn those responsible for this publicity stunt at the expense of women everywhere. And we will engage with other unions, advocacy groups and anyone who defends equality to stamp out discrimination and the exploitation of women." The recruitment process for Cathay Pacific's flight attendants can take months While physical appearance is undoubtedly a factor taken into account by many airlines when hiring cabin crew, such blatant practices for hiring flight attendants are unheard of in the US and Europe, where strong unions prevail. Even the Gulf carriers, which often face criticism for the treatment of female flight attendants, hire candidates primarily based on standard recruitment requirements such as interviews, language assessments and medical examinations. For more information, visit (Chinese only) Clement Huang
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