The profession of an ‘air hostess’ also known as cabin crew members is one where women workers are in majority with many airlines deciding against hiring male crew members altogether and even if some air lines do hire them, their hiring ratio is usually very less than the women in the profession. However, this does not make the profession an ideal or progressive work arena for women. In fact, sexism is rife in the profession and sexual objectification has been made a part and parcel of the job of an air hostess. Since, the profession is guided by patriarchal norms and values, even the male crew in the industry do not feel satisfied as they are also subjected to the unfair wage practices in the profession which largely ignores not only the emotional labor of its workers but also the actual hours of work they put in when it comes to their remuneration.
The passengers or the society at large hardly understands the real work of cabin crew members, which is to ensure the safety and security of passengers in the flight and for this they undergo rigorous training and pass multiple exams every year before they are cleared to fly. While conducting a research on the problems and challenges of air hostesses in Delhi-NCR, I came across a lot of their issues and concerns allegedly ranging from exploitative work conditions to physical & mental health issues.
During the course of my research a lot of air hostesses and male crew members from Go Air wanted that its exploitative work culture must be publicly called out as the life of crew members especially their personal & social life and mental health was getting severely affected by the work environment and unethical rules and regulations of Go Air. Go Air, is allegedly one of the lowest pay masters in the industry when compared to other low cost carriers like Indigo, Vistara, Spice Jet and Air Asia which are its counterparts but even this is not the primary problem which its crew members are facing. Their problems are manifold and I am highlighting just some of them.
Infringement of Privacy of Crew Members
Go Air has circulated a Whatsapp message to the cabin crew on their official Whatsapp group that if they take a sick leave then the company representatives can come to their homes to check them if they are physically present their thus heavily impinging on their privacy. A screen shot of the same message if available with me. They even ask for live locations from their crew members on Whatsapp when they are on sick leave. Reena (Name Changed) who is working in Go Air as an air hostess, shared one such disturbing experience in this regard.
“I was once down with heavy fever so reported sick and a member from the base station came to my home to check if I was at home or not. They do not pay us for the sick leaves, so if we take one how can they intrude in our privacy and come to our homes. They did not notify it to us through email that they will come to our homes because they know it is illegal and hence sent that message to us in the whatsapp group. The lady who came to check me did not stop there, she hugged me intentionally just to check if I was under the influence of alcohol, when she got convinced that I was actually sick, she just asked me to get well soon and left. They even expect us to come to the airport on our sick leave day and get checked from the airline’s doctor and therefore we hardly get any mental rest even on the day we report sick,” says, Reena (Name Changed).
Giving sales targets for food and merchandise sales to its crew members
Talk to any cabin crew member across the globe about their job and the first thing they will tell you is that their primary work is to ensure the safety and security of passengers in the flight. By allegedly giving sales target to its crew members for food and merchandise sales, Go Air has indirectly compromised with both safety and security of passengers as the attention of the crew is diverted from their job and it also puts the crew at a lower pedestal than the passengers as they now become prospective customers for them. Priyanka (Name Changed), an Air Hostess working in Go Air shared her problems regarding this culture of sale targets in the flights.
“The sales targets which we get divert us from our primary work, we are not able to direct passengers authoritatively regarding the safety procedures in the flight as we also have the pressure of selling food and merchandise to them and if they get offended by the slightest of our gesture then they will not buy anything from us. If we do five flights with ‘Nil Sales’ then we have to give an explanation as to why we could not sell anything in the flight and after five nil sales we are even called to Mumbai for counseling on our expenses. I and many of my other colleagues also buy merchandise from our own money to avoid nil sales in our flights. Our salaries are already the lowest in the industry and above that we also have to bear these unnecessary expenses of buying the Go Air merchandise to save our jobs,” says, Priyanka (Name Changed).
Abandoning the Cabin Crew at the middle of the night
Many air hostesses have shared that they are supposed to get Hotel rooms in case they land during night hours at any airport which is not their base station but many a times they have been denied a hotel room as a result of which they had to spend hours waiting in the airport lounge during night hours in the same uniforms and make up in which they did their previous flight; before they are given a return seat in any flight to their base station. This also exhausts the crucial rest period of twelve hours as air hostesses and male crew members are not able to get proper physical and mental rest that they require for performing their duties in the next flight.
Apart from all this, the process of taking sick and even casual leaves for the cabin crew in Go Air has allegedly been made tedious and complicated and they are very often denied to take such leaves even when it is their lawful right under their terms of employment. The cabin crew members have shared that there is a complete lack of crew friendly environment in the company and even in cases where passengers are at fault it is the crew which eventually gets penalized. All of this also leads to frequent resignations of crew members from Go Air but the current employment scenario in India always lets them have access to other prospective crew members whom they can exploit and hence even mass resignation do not help in rectifying their exploitative work culture which has now started becoming toxic for its crew members.
During, the Jet Airways Crises, many crew members from Jet Airways joined Go Air at half the salaries and they now regret their decision and feel their situation was exploited by Go Air which even at the time of recruitment clearly told them, “We have not come to hire you, you have come to us, so take it or leave it, you should feel happy we are giving you something,” shares, Mohit (Name Changed) a male crew member who joined Go Air when Jet Airways shut down its operation over night. While Go Air did nothing wrong legally in hiring Jet Airways employees at half of their previous salaries, it did fail severely on grounds of humanity and fairness which should be the guiding principles of any organisation be it public or private. It is high time that Go Air realizes that its exploitative work practices are affecting the physical and mental health of its crew members and it is time that they become a more crew friendly organisation as crew members are the backbone of any and every air line and they deserve to be treated well.
I have also tweeted this article twice to the official twitter handle of Go Air hoping to get a response from them but I have not received one yet.