A Quarter of Qantas Cabin Crew Were Sexually Harassed by Their Own Colleagues Last Year

November 4, 2019


A leaked internal email sent to cabin crew at Australian airline Qantas suggests a quarter of its flight attendants have been sexually harassed by their own colleagues in the last 12-months. But according to the Financial Times, only 3 per cent of those affected reported the harassment to airline bosses.

Qantas is said to have commissioned the report in the wake of the global #MeToo movement which first gained worldwide media attention in 2005. According to Human Rights Watch, the movement has “sparked significant social, cultural, and legal change” but many challenges still remain – as is clearly illustrated by this latest report from Qantas.

The survey of 1,650 cabin crew and 750 pilots found that one in four cabin crew had experienced harassment from a colleague and 15 per cent had been sexually harassed by a customer in the past 12 months. Female pilots were also three times more likely to be sexually harassed than their male counterparts.

“To be clear, we have zero tolerance for any form of abuse or discrimination in any part of the Qantas Group,” Rachel Yangoyan, chief operating officer of Australian Airports at Qantas is reported to have said in an internal email to staff. “If you experience or witness behaviour that is unacceptable, I encourage you to speak up,” the internal email continued.

Around a third of those affected said they didn’t bother reporting sexual harassment because they had managed to put a stop to it themselves. Others, however, are reported to have kept quiet because they feared being ostracised or damaging their careers.

The Australian Transport Workers Union blasted the airline saying the report showed “shockingly low levels of reporting sexual harassment when it happens but NO plan to deal with it.” The union has demanded to see the full report and for the airline to “face up to the problem it has.”

Michael Kane, the union’s national secretary claimed reporting was “vastly lower” than the national average of 17 per cent or a separate TWU cabin crew survey that showed reporting levels of 31 per cent.

But Qantas said in an emailed statement that it was working to support crew who wish to make a sexual harassment report as part of immediate actions triggered by the report. A new confidential and independent counselling hotline for cabin crew would also be set up, as well as new guidance for staffers on how to deal with and report sexual harassment.

A separate report from the Flight Attendant Association of Australia (FAAA) earlier this year found that the vast majority of Australian flight attendants had been abused by passengers in the last year. According to the union, 97.5 per cent of cabin crew had been the victim of passenger abuse and a similar number said the abuse was happening more often. 

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