The truth beyond the glamour

aeroplane-editedShama Nimkar
NSoJ Bureau

    What easily comes across as a glamorous and well-paid industry to work in, is also an endless cyle of sleep-deprivation, prejudiced placements and overscrupulous discipline. Yes, the airline industry is not as easy as it seems to be. The pilots, flight attendants as well as base managers, are the ones who keep the show running at any given point of time, working hard to provide their passengers with a safe and timely flight.

However, what are some of the major problems faced by the workers of various sectors in this industry? “The constant flying takes a toll over our health. Yes, we signed up for this job but the company should understand that we need rest as well. We aren’t given enough time to rest as the time span between two flights is less than 24 hours. They constantly expect us to fly,” said Preity Singh, an air-hostess working for Indigo airlines. “Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is a common sickness among flight attendants as a result of staying outside the natural environment for long hours. Also, many are seen gaining extreme weight or losing it due to the recurring time spent in the pressurised cabin,” added Preity.

And what happens when these hostesses gain weight? Are they asked to take leave? “You’re right, and to make it worse, the leave is unpaid. We are also expected to be on sick leave if we have acne problem,” exclaimed Preity.

Apart from health problems, the flight attendants also expressed their share of other hardships including the selection process and the extremely strict discipline. “Many of the airline companies hire men and women only below 30 years of age. People above 30 are given base jobs which don’t pay as well as the jobs requiring flying. The selection process is mainly based on communication skills, which is acceptable but I don’t see the point of rejecting a candidate on the basis of his/her looks,” said Nidhi Nair , an air hostess working for Jet Airways.

“Grooming wouldn’t be such an issue if the company-recommended cosmetic products would be a lot cheaper. We have to shell out money from our pockets to invest in these high-end products. The company doesn’t pay for them at all. However, we do have discounts but it’s of a mere 10-15 percent,” stated Nidhi.

However, every coin has two sides. While the airline industry has its drawbacks, it is also one of the largest contributors to the economy. Mr. Das, a crew-trainer at Indigo Airlines offered a different opinion from the cabin crew. He said, “We have a tedious selection process as well as training because we believe that Indigo is a place meant only for best. The candidates have to pass three interviews, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) exam and the company exam.”

Coming to the topics covered in the training he continued, ” The training is divided into two modules. First is the basic training like customer service and grooming while the latter involves equipment, policies, emergency trainings and International services. Finally, all the trainees have to pass an exam on ‘Safety Emergency Procedures (SEP)’. After all the recurrent tests are cleared, the candidate qualifies to be an on-air crew member.”

An interesting characteristic about Indigo Airlines is its policy of recruiting only women as flight attendants. When asked about the reason for this, one of the company’s base manager said,” Why is it such a necessity to have men everywhere? Can’t we carry out a safe flight with our flight attendants. The women are exceptional at their job and are well-trained. They are capable of doing everything a steward can.”
The air-hostesses, pilots and stewards all recieve large perks while working for a company like free air travel at any point of time for them as well as their family, lay-overs at five star hotels like Taj Vivanta, Ibis International etc and countless oppurtunities to see new places in the world.

With all the ambiguity of the aviation industry’s ethics towards their crew, many airline companies are seen receding away from such notions by disregarding gender discrimination and social biases pertaining to one’s looks. The sexual harassment rates have decreased tremendously as anyone accused of harassment faces serious interrogation and consequences if proven guilty. As noticed , this industry is overcoming the prevalence of various retrospective norms, emerging as a better place to work in.

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