SpiceJet Flight Attendants Speak Out After 'Degrading Strip-Search'
Two female flight attendants with India-based low-cost carrier SpiceJet are speaking out against a strip-search conducted by the airline's security crew on March 28.
Upon completion of the flight, two male crew members escorted the flight attendants to a room where several female ground staff were waiting, along with the in-flight coordinator of the Hyderabad air base. The ground crew told the flight attendants the order came from higher management, and they were required to cooperate.
In a letter to SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh, the flight attendant went into detail about the ordeal she experienced with another colleague, saying, "We were treated like criminals the moment we stepped out of the aircraft."
The flight attendant's identity has been withheld from the public, but she has held an excellent track record with the airline over her five years of employment, she said.
“They opened our bags and checked everything and all the personal and private belongings even though they were sealed. They made us open our shoes and checked the heels of the shoes. After the bag check was over, we were treated in a inhuman way. The staff forced us to take off our undergarments, and we were frisked maliciously and in an inappropriate manner which I am ashamed to mention here. They unzipped our uniforms, put their hands inside it and frisked our private body parts violating our fundamental right to privacy to the core. After the checks and frisking was over, we were told we can leave the room with our scattered bag belongings.
"I was completing my post-flight work they called me and said they need to frisk my body again and took me to that room. The second time frisking was worse and beyond imagination. I feel humiliated, embarrassed, mistreated and insulted. All these happened in front of all those female staffs from the ground service present in the room and some male staffs waiting outside. The room did not have CCTVs — what if people there could have crossed their limits.
"In all my life, I have never been treated like this. My dignity, my privacy has been hurt and violated to the core and my femininity has been targeted and degraded. This kind of environment doesn’t seem to be safe. I speak on the behalf of other honest and dedicated cabin crew that none of us deserve to be treated like this as though we are thieves."
A SpiceJet spokesperson said that random "pat-down" searches were "standard operating procedure" for the airline. "One of the objectives of this search is to ensure that there is no pilferage of company moneys/goods, smuggling or any illegal activity that an employee may be lured into," the spokesperson said. "This also ensures security and safety of our passengers, our employees and our assets. These searches are not only a normal aviation industry practice, but also in multiple industries across the world. SpiceJet has a well laid-down standard operating procedure for such activity, which has been stringently followed."
As a direct response to the flight attendants' allegations, SpiceJet released a statement saying, "Based on a specific security tip-off following certain recent instances in other airlines, SpiceJet's security team undertook searches at few of our stations on the night of the 28th of March." The airline further stated that the searches are conducted according to strict guidelines, in closed rooms with well-trained employees of the same sex.
The airline's full statement ended: "Allegations regarding deviation from these SOPs are being investigated and strict action will be taken if anybody is found guilty. If the allegations are found to be untrue/false, then the media reports are defamatory in nature."
Assault and harassment in the aviation industry has been increasingly covered in recent news. Both cabin crew and passengers have spoken up against fellow employees and other travelers: Randi Zuckerberg and Allison Dvaladze have openly decried their in-flight assaults, and pilot Betty Pina is suing Alaska Airlines for negligence in not disciplining alleged rapist Paul Engelien, a long-time pilot for the airline.