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Do Flight Attendants Need To Be Young and Pretty?

While promoting the launch of a new Doha – Dublin route, Qatar Airways CEO Al-Baker made a seemingly left-field statement about flight attendants on U.S. carriers:

“By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years, so there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers. You know you are always being served by grandmothers at American carriers.”

My first reaction was to laugh. As far as misogynistic humor goes, this is up there with Trump’s tweet about Mika Brzezinski’s facelift. Then I thought, “What is this, a Britney Spears video? Who cares what the flight attendant looks like?!” Let’s be clear: What makes American carriers “crap” isn’t the age of their flight attendants but the terrible seats and customer service. Both of these are a result of poor leadership, not unattractive flight attendants.

In general, I’m irked by the constant focus on women’s appearances. Across the board, women are largely judged by their appearance while men are judged on competence. 

via GIPHY

But when it comes to air travel, does it really matter if flight attendants are young and pretty? Does it impact their work ethic or customer service skills at all? Obviously, no. Few people care whether male flight attendants are good looking. I certainly don’t think anyone worries about whether their pilot looks like George Clooney. 

Al-Baker’s comment isn’t totally unexpected considering Qatar Airways, like most non-American airlines, places importance on the appearance of (mostly female) flight attendants. In addition to being trained on safety procedures and customer service, Qatar Airways flight attendants have strict rules governing their lives…and makeup routine.

I still find it absurd that an airline CEO would put such a huge emphasis on female flight attendants’ appearances. Especially when that CEO comes from a culture where women are praised for covering up their beauty from the prying eyes of strange men. I find Al-Baker’s “grandmother” comment even more absurd, considering his culture’s reverence for elderly matriarchs. You would think these factors would inform a less misogynistic attitude towards women.

I’m all for airline employees presenting a professional appearance. But I don’t think flight attendants need to be young and attractive to do their jobs well. What I want from a flight attendant, whether male or female, is good customer service and a pleasant demeanor. I know a lot of people are still harboring fantasies of the 1950’s flight attendant with the perfectly coiffed hair, form fitting uniform, manicured hands, and youthful polished appearance. I think it’s outdated and irrelevant to the job. And the times. What’s going to help U.S. carriers compete with Asian and Middle Eastern airlines? A better product and exceptional customer service. Al-Baker should have aimed his criticism towards industry-wide poor leadership that is trickling down to negative passenger experiences, rather than placing the blame on the appearance and age of flight attendants.

But I want to hear from you. Do you think flight attendants need to be young and pretty to provide a better in-flight experience?

HT: Gary Leff

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Ariana Arghandewal

34 Comments

  1. The age of the flight attendant is not relevant. What is relevant is good personal hygiene, a positive attitude, and the ability to help save our lives should anything go wrong.

      • What’s really funny is that Hooters used to have an airline. I believe they flew to Myrtle Beach. I don’t know what their FA’s looked like but I refused to fly on them. Safety is my number one priority when choosing an airline.

  2. While I think attractive female flight attendants are great, airlines don’t necessarily need them to compete nowadays since most flights are overbooked. It is probably good for them to be slim however because the aisles are small. The last time I flew there was an attractive older flight attendant that hip checked me probably half a dozen times as she passed during the flight. I am not sure why she did this. I wasn’t impeding the aisle or anything.

  3. Guys like to be served by a young and attractive flight attendant. So it is good for business, because I’m sure at least half of their customers are men. I don’t claim for a second that it is fair, but I don’t deny that I enjoy being served by young and pretty girls instead of grandmothers.

    That is the same reason why most of the most successful actresses are young and pretty. Looks may have nothing to do with their ability to act, but beauty sells. It isn’t fair to ugly people, but people running a business are doing it to make money, not to be fair.

    • But movies are a visual medium, so it’s understandable that actors and actresses have to be attractive to the audience. An FA’s job is to serve food and keep passengers safe. I’m a straight female and I couldn’t care less about being served by an attractive male FA. Like, it’s totally irrelevant to the job. I just don’t understand why men need to be served by young and attractive flight attendants. And does this extend to women of all professions? I’m not judging you – just trying to understand your perspective.

      • It’s not that guys need to be served by an attractive female flight attendant. It’s that guys LIKE it (and people will pay more for things that they like). I guess it is part of our biology. Guys like to interact with attractive young women as often as possible, period. Yes, it does extend to other professions that interact with the public such as waitresses, masseuses, hostesses, etc. Even if they deny it, guys will enjoy going to eat somewhere with sexy young waitresses even if the food isn’t quite as good as the place with old men waiting on them. It is less of a factor for highly skilled professions where it is really important that they know what they are doing (such as doctors or plumbers…)

  4. I think the comments were directed to their customer base, mostly local men not normally served by women. I agree with you though that cleanliness and efficiency is far more important.

  5. Would you mind explaining how women shoulder some of the burden for society’s emphasis on their looks? I really can’t believe read that….

    • Women are not innocent in this. They constantly reaffirm these behaviors by judging other women by their looks and talking about their own. How many times did you hear women going after Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton based on their looks? The beauty queen jokes, the constant talk about pantsuits and kankles? Walk into any hair salon and that’s what grown women talk about. Or read a magazine interview with an actress vs actor: the actress’ story is going to be focused on her age, her looks. When she’s young, she has to talk about how she keeps her youth. When she gets married, it’s all about how she got in shape for her wedding. When she has a kid, she has to talk about how she got her body back. And from there on out everything else that follows is about her appearance. Thin and thick women talking about being proud of their curves, etc. The press shouldn’t be focusing on it, but women also shouldn’t feed into it. A few wise women have deflected from these questions, pointing to their accomplishments instead. I want to see more of that.

  6. I have to obviously state that the FA’s don’t need to be young and pretty. But as a guy, it really does make the flight more enjoyable for me! Sorry, but it’s true and it’s human nature for most men. My wife thinks it’s funny the way I’ll perk up and act a little flirty when we have a pretty, young FA, but I’m very quiet and disappointed when we have an older, not so attractive one. I still go on about that great Emirates flight we took years ago when all the FA’s were young, beautiful blondes. But I also think it’s inappropriate for a CEO to make a comment like that. There should be no sexism or age discrimination when it comes to a job that is really about safety first.

    • Really?! Wow, you’re the second person to state that. That’s really interesting, but I just can’t relate. To me it makes zero difference what the FA looks like – I just care about the food and overall comfort. But then again, “Men are attracted to what they see, women are attracted to what they hear.”

  7. Dear Ariana — You should seek out help for your issues. I know some excellent therapists in the SF area. Please don’t let this go, as your issues will only get worse.

  8. Why does a car, whose only objective is to transport us from A to B needs to be pretty?…Why does a building whose only objective is to allow people to live in it, has to be pretty? Why does your website, needs to be visually atractive? Why does your phone, whose only objective is to…
    Well they dont have to, but they are…and a thing called psychology and marketing has all the answers for you, if they are not obvious in this western world that you live into and in this point and time. We are being sold a product, not a manual of women concerns of the 21st century.

    • Yes. I’m afraid Ariana is in deep denial about her problems. She will always find an Al-Baker, or someone else, as an outlet for her to release that deep anger against.

      It’s sad, but I sincerely hope she gets some help so she can continue the excellent blogging about MS, etc.

  9. Nope, they don’t need to be pretty or young. But they do need to be physically fit and professional in appearance if they purport to actually be a real profession that could help others in an emergency or at least conduct basic pleasant customer service.

    I’ve repeatedly seen personnel on American carriers who couldn’t save themselves in an emergency much less another passenger and are morbidly obese to the point where they can’t walk the aisle without hitting passenger’s shoulders on either side. Or maneuver a drink cart. I saw one attendant left breathless last week because she had to carry a passenger’s oversized carry on to be checked in. OMG 25 pounds transported 90 feet! Colossal effort. I’m sure the fact that she was 60 pounds overweight played no role in her being bent over.

    Is youth or appearance determinative of these standards? Not necessarily, but they’re correlated. I won’t even get into the frequently pissy attitudes that are all too often found in least fit, grumpiest attendants.

    If it’s a real profession, treat it accordingly and enforce real standards.

    Does anyone ever muse whether we want fat firemen?

  10. Ariana WTF are you acting all insecure?? You are absolutely gorgeous. Yeah, I’ve seen you in person … your a stunner …. bottom line is that we all wish you’d post more pics of yourself and less of these articles “manufactured” to boost your ego.

      • So your argument is that its wrong for guys or girls to want to look at an attractive person while on the place? Its not a “requirement” is a bonus. You are a worldly chick, surely you know how ridiculous this sounds in your own mind. Guys like hot chicks. In other news water is wet and sun is hot.

        • Yeah, no shit guys like “hot chicks.” Do you want to start staffing schools with hot teachers because the male students might learn better? The primary job of a flight attendant is to keep people on the plane safe. The idea that someone totally competent isn’t qualified because they’re not 26 or look like Kate Upton is absurd.

    • Ugh! Another Al Baker clone who only cares about looks. Hey Joe Schmoe show us YOUR picture since you’re lacking in the brains dept.

  11. Fucking creeper comments.I hope airlines hire more ugly women just to make flying horrible for them.

  12. Most of the of jobs for male and female candidates out there do not need to be fill-up base on appearance (actress, models). I feel that if a business decides to add appearance as a requisite to a job, they need to articulate why this is relevant for the position, in the case of flight attendants, their primary focus is to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers during a flight which leaves limited room for appearance as a requirement but I can understand how some carriers might hire flight attendants of certain age and appearance as part of their brand; I’ve personally never chosen one flight over another base on the flight attendance looks but I’ve chosen flights baseon the quality of service (attention, responsiveness) as an example I prefer the service of JAL over American.

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