Skip to main content

Report: 27% of flight attendants sexually harassed

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
updated 12:31 AM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
In a new report, about 27% of responding flight attendants (29% of women, 17% of males) reported being sexually harassed while on-duty in-flight in the last twelve months.
In a new report, about 27% of responding flight attendants (29% of women, 17% of males) reported being sexually harassed while on-duty in-flight in the last twelve months.
  • Hong Kong Flight Attendants Alliance sent survey to its 9,000 members
  • Sexual harassment mostly manifested in form of unwanted physical contact
  • About 59% of the sexual harassment came from customers, about 41% from fellow workers
  • In Hong Kong, no legal provision protects airlines against sexual harassment by customers

(CNN) -- "Patting, touching, kissing and pinching."

As many of us probably suspect -- and as a number of books about the industry have suggested -- flight attendants are often the target of unwanted attention.

Now a survey puts hard numbers -- and descriptions such as the one above -- to the sexual harassment encountered by flight attendants while on-duty.

The Hong Kong-based Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) announced its findings in a press release on Thursday.

Conducted in partnership with the Hong Kong Flight Attendants Alliance (HKFAA) , the survey results are based on 392 responses to 9,000 questionnaires distributed between November 2013 and January 2014 among employees of the HKFAA's member airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, British Airways and United Airlines.

Of survey respondents, 86% were female and 14% were male.

MORE: 20 most annoying things people do on airplanes

EOC spokesperson Mariana Law told CNN that the percentage of respondents was low likely for two reasons.

"Most HKFAA flight attendants are not based in Hong Kong, so it may be difficult for them to respond," said Law. "Another reason is that some people may consider sexual harassment an embarrassing or difficult subject and they may not feel comfortable disclosing this information to others."

Among the report's findings:

• About 27% of the respondents (29% of women, 17% of males) reported being sexually harassed while on-duty in-flight in the last twelve months.

• Sexual harassment experienced by flight attendants was mostly manifested in the form of physical contact, described as "patting, touching, kissing or pinching."

• Other forms of sexual harassment encountered included lewd jokes, "staring in a sexual way," "showing obscene or pornographic materials" and explicit requests for sexual favors.

• About 59% of the sexual harassment came from customers, about 41% from fellow workers, including senior cabin crew and cockpit members

MORE: Turbulence on United Flight causes passenger to crack ceiling with head

According to the EOC, flight attendants and the airlines that employ them are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment initiated by passengers or clients.

"There is currently no legal provision protecting providers of goods, services and facilities against sexual harassment by their customers," said Dr. John Tse Wing-ling, who leads the EOC's Policy and Research Committee. "In this connection, the EOC urges the (Hong Kong) Government to extend the coverage of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance to protect service providers against sexual harassment by customers, which the EOC has long recommended."

According to the EOC, most international airlines have a policy statement on sexual harassment.

MORE: Most outrageous travel stories of 2013

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
Scrap all those other bucket lists you've been compiling and start saving -- these memorable-for-a-lifetime trips don't come cheap, or easy.
updated 9:40 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
A squabble over a device that limits how far a seat can recline has brought inflight etiquette into the spotlight again.
updated 6:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Thirst for victory competes with thirst for booze in event where competitors raise their glasses long before they cross the finish line.
updated 5:57 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
At these fun Los Angeles bars, the the drinks come with a chaser of kitsch.
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
From dining next to massive predators to drinking atop a rock in the middle of the ocean, Africa boasts some of the most interesting places to eat.
updated 1:12 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Just weeks after Bill HIllman, known as a veteran, expert bull runner, was badly gored in Pamplona, he's back at other smaller bull runnings in Spain, but walking with a cane.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Why not create your own, as many people have done. We uncover the parallel world of "micronationalism."
updated 9:41 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
LUSAIL CITY, QATAR: In this handout illustration provided by Qatar 2022, the Qatar 2022 Bid Committee today unveiled detailed plans for the iconic Lusail Stadium. With a capacity in excess of 86,000 and surrounded by water, the stadium would host the World Cup Opening Match and Final if Qatar wins the rights to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup. If Qatar is awarded the honour of staging the 2022 FIFA World Cup, construction of the Lusail Stadium will start in 2015 and be completed in 2019. It will retain its full capacity after 2022.
Grab a glimpse of the near future. Plans for the desert city of Lusail include man-made islands and a host arena for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
A CNN producer experiences China's poor on-time flight record firsthand as his plane takes off eight hours late.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
New Yorker Kerrin Rousset's exploration of Swiss city aims to lure cocoa fans over to the dark side.
updated 4:39 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Some things are just better after dark. These experiences around the world prove it.
updated 11:59 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Lebanon's winemakers are adopting new tactics to get their products noticed.
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
the Teufelsberg or
Spooks have left their mark on a once-divided city still thought to be an espionage hotbed.
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Sun August 24, 2014
nanjing, handicrafts
With more than 6,000 years of history, Nanjing is one of the few cities in China still practicing the country's endangered traditional crafts.