As a rule, CargoForwarder Global deals with air freight and logistics topics. Yet, this shocking aviation news merits an exception. This week, the sexist and racist recruiting practices of a Turkish agency contracted to hire flight attendants for Kuwait Airways came to light. Female candidates were made to strip down to their underwear and remove their outer clothing to prove their “suitability” for the job. These disgraceful hiring practices took place at Madrid Barajas Airport last week. The case has since triggered waves of outrage. Also, because candidates of color were immediately eliminated from the applicant pool.
Tattoos, scars or moles
“I felt like I was in a zoo,” one applicant described her humiliating experience. Another, named Bianca, reported that she was asked to lift her skirt according to Spanish paper, elDiario. When she reluctantly complied, a female member of the recruiting team pulled her skirt up to her panties. “We are checking to see if there are any tattoos, scars or moles visible,” she argued.
Others reported having to open their mouths and recruiters checking their teeth. One candidate was turned away “because we don't like your smile.” “You weigh too much, you have pimples, you wear glasses or braces,” were other reasons for rejection. An applicant with African roots initially passed the selection round successfully but was still turned down by the recruitment agency a short time later: “We are sorry to inform you that Kuwait Airways does not hire flight attendants with dark skin,” she was told via WhatsApp.
The Turkish sourcing agency, Mectti, hired by Kuwait Airways, reacted by delivering this statement through a Spanish law firm: “The company strongly denies the veracity of the defamatory allegations.”
Meanwhile, Kuwait Airways has also taken a stance, printed in Barcelona-based paper, La Vanguardia: “As an airline of great reputation in its 68 years of employing people from all over the world, and of which such a serious accusation has never been made […], we wish to emphasize that Kuwait Airways totally disapproves of any process that humiliates or degrades any person.”
Further to this, the Gulf carrier assures that it has initiated “a full investigation with all parties involved. Based on the findings, appropriate measures will be taken.”
Lothar Moehle, Executive Director of Cargo iQ, an IATA sub-organization specializing in air cargo, had this to say: “If these allegations about the interview techniques of the recruiting company are true, I hope that the principle of this agency is taking the necessary steps towards their vendor and reviews their contract. Not only in today’s environment, but also in the past, an interview procedure expecting any job applicants to strip off to their underwear is completely unnecessary and simply unbelievable.”
And in a separate post on LinkedIn, the manager said: “What does a possible tattoo on a usually concealed part of a flight attendant's body have to do with the skills, language proficiency, safety competence and training standards that this applicant brings to the table? The same is true for the nationality, gender, or race of an employee of an international airline. I am well aware that my understanding of diversity, equal opportunity, etc. may differ from that of people in other countries and cultures, but I hope that, after having to endure this embarrassing and humiliating ‘process’, applicants will have the presence of mind to think about whether they want to work for this company if they are offered the job they applied for.”
“I look forward to seeing what further investigation by this recruiter and airline client brings to light,” the IATA official concludes.
Harsh punishment could be the result
Meanwhile, the Spanish government has also responded. Labor Secretary, Joaquin Perez Rey spoke at a press conference of “unacceptable recruitment practices.” If investigations reveal that there have been violations of the hiring procedure that are relevant under criminal law, heavy fines in the six-figure range could be imposed.
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