Sexual harassment and other abuse is an ongoing headache for flight attendants in Asia. Some VIP passengers think their “elite” status includes the right to grope flight attendants, while other passengers have been known to verbally abuse flight crew, or worse.
Female flight attendants at Kunming Airlines in southern China had things particularly bad—they were forced into overhead luggage bins by their male coworkers, according to photos recently posted on China’s popular messaging app Wechat by an account called “Civil Aviation Tabloid,” and later verified by Kunming.
The photos show female flight attendants lying in overhead bins, some covering their faces with their hands, apparently because they were reluctant to be photographed.
In one picture, a male staffer stands next to his female coworker, making a V-sign:
In another photo, a female flight attendant is nearly “locked” in the overhead bin, as one of her coworkers tries to close the lid.
Almost every new female flight attendant at the airline is put in the overhead bin, after they have completed their first 30-to-50 hours of flight service, according to an article (link in Chinese) posted along with the photos. The “convention” has lasted for four to five years, with the tacit consent of the airline, it claims. Flight crew who were not willing to cooperate were tagged “uncollaborative,” the post claims. One woman who was forced into the “game” nearly fell to the ground as several security staffers tried to lift her into the bin, the post alleges.
Kunming Airlines said in a statement (link in Chinese) on Monday (Oct. 12) that it will put an end to the incidents, after the photos were widely distributed, and sharply criticized on social media in China.
The airline said the incidents, between female flight attendants and male security staff, happened after the crew had finished their duties, so flight safety was not affected. The company had no knowledge of this behavior before learning about it from the article, the statement said, and had never received any complaints.
The male security staff at Kunming Airlines might have taken inspiration from their Western colleagues. Flight attendants posting pictures of themselves squeezed into overhead luggage compartments, with the hashtag #Overheadbin, is a recent trend on Instagram.
The only difference? There are both men and women in those bins, and they seem to be happy: