Un”fair” hiring game in the skies?

I am glad someone brought this up because I have had these thoughts myself as I watched our airlines grow. We are talking about cabin crew on our domestic airlines. A former US diplomat termed this “racism” in a newspaper column this week, but let me take this a bit further.

Perhaps, racism is not the right word. Skin color bias is the objection I would raise. You don’t see many (any?) dark complexioned flight attendants on our domestic airlines, do you? Actually, there is more. Just look at these job descriptions on various airline sites to discover this. Most are clear about complexion requirements and one has a preferred marital status! Besides, there is age and sex bias as well – all want them young (less than 25/27/30 years), and some only want females!

Spicejet (see “Inflight Services” section) – Wants them fair and prefers singles! :

Cabin Attendants … age group of 19-25 yearsClear skin. Unmarried

Jet Airways – Clear is the preference here as well :

… Age: 18 and below 27 years
Appearance: Clear complexion, unblemished, unscarred, etc …

Go Air – Clear and only females :

Height: Female Cabin Crew (5’3)

Age: 19yrs to 25yrs
Must have a clear complexion

Paramount – Makes it doubly clear, clear, and fair! :

… male/female candidates .. age group of 18 – 26 years with clear skin, fair complexion

Kingfisher – Not as bad as rest, but wants young female models who must send in full length photos :

Inviting “Flying Models” who exude charm, vibrance & professionalism. Females in the age group of 20-30 … application must be accompanied with … full length photograph.

Is this a fair game at all? Skin color, marital status, age and possibly sex blatantly mentioned in job requirements? Skin color and marital status, me thinks certainly not, the rest may be arguable.

If you agree, then please spread the word.


19 Responses

  1. somewhere i had commented – don’t remember where (maybe right here!) – but (until recently) i noticed a religion bias too. all other airlines have been relatively new, so my only noteworthy experiences flying domestic in india have been on jet.

    until my latest india trip – earlier this year – i had come across not one non-christian air hostess (strictly based on name). don’t know whether those were adopted christian names or whether jet really had a religious bias (for whatever reason).

    on my latest trip, i had one hindu and one muslim air hostess serving in my area, and the captain was muslim too. plus, i believe, on another flight, the captain was a lady. that was a first for me (on any flight, domestic or international) :-).

    – s.b.

  2. I also come across ads in classifieds for “good looking” female secretaries.

    Skin color based bias in the Indian context may not exactly look like the racism practiced in the west, but, it is no less evil. Like the caste system, it is deeply embedded in the Indian psyche. Just look at the ads for the cosmetic products that ‘enhance’ your skin complexion and make you become successful!! Bollywood, media and even our literature is full of this crap.

  3. […] Silkboard has noticed bias in the hiring requirements of cabin crew for major airlines in their recruitment advertisements. You don’t see many (any?) dark complexioned flight attendants on our domestic airlines, do you? Actually, there is more. Just look at these job descriptions on various airline sites to discover this. Linked by shruthi […]

  4. BTW, notice this. Jet Airways’ International job ad for cabin crew looks a lot better:

    Experienced Cabin Crew (Male/Female) with minimum one year of flying experience … Aspirants of all nationalities are welcome …

    Compare this with the job ad for domestic cabin crew (see above). How different! Perhaps a case of being careful about violating laws abroad, but not caring much about home country. Or is it that we don’t have such laws in place (that say employers must not use caste/color/age/sex etc as requirement)?

  5. what about ordinary people? have you checked the matrimonies on net, in papers or in person? scandalous.

    how do you explain the hoary status somebody with a talent level,not to mention plasticity and fake-itude, of one ms.rai, enjoys?

    how did we get from saligramas & shilabalikes to amruthashiles?
    how did we get from krushNa the dark one to swami narayan?

  6. Oh forget about air hostesses! To some extent maybe we can argue that they have to look good (I repeat, ONLY to some extent) and presentable. Atleast that’s what the customers (in this case male passengers) want in ANY airlines ;-)

    Recently one of my friends gave birth to a baby. You guessed it right it was dark complexioned. You should have seen her mother in law scold her there in the hospital itself that she didn’t take care of herself well, else she would have had a “fair” baby!!!!
    Tip: My friends husband is dark (very) complexioned!

    So, somehow this fascination for “fair” ness is deep rooted in our society. Only fair is beautiful, mind you :)

  7. shark:

    “Tip: My friends husband is dark (very) complexioned!”

    are you implying that if her husband was a goraguy, her mother-in-law would be within her rights to be angry with her? hello!!! either she or her son chose this woman as the family bahu, so they should be angry with themselves if skin colour were such a big issue!

    – s.b.

  8. You do have a point here. But I don’t know if the blame should go to the airlines. Let’s admit it. A large number of Indians would like to see their air-hostess to be good looking fair skinned female. The airlines are probably just giving in to the expectation, lest they loose out. You would probably know yourself about people admiring the cabin crew and ground staff and kingfisher, don’t you?

  9. Arun has a point. Even the film producers say the same thing, we do what our viewers like it & do there lies the point! :-)

  10. from what i have heard, people go on kingfisher based on the look and feel, not just the looks ;-).

    catering to the viewers is a vicious cycle. like how in the usa, golf (with due apologies to the golf faithful) was (and is) preferred to tennis by tv networks. we (over at the google group rec.sport.tennis, over a decade ago) used to be so upset at the tv networks. what has changed? nothing. tv networks claim that more people prefer golf than tennis. methinks it is more to do with corporate interest than the interest of the commoner.

    so, in other words, it has probably got not much to do with the actual customer – they wouldn’t care less if the physical characteristics of the airhostesses were exactly opposite of what they currently are.

    – s.b.

    disclaimer, having never travelled by kingfisher, i cannot comment on fairness or any other factor.

  11. Yeah yeah yeah. Racism etc is all too explicit and visible in our country and on our minds. Wedding classifieds, “Fair and lovely” like ads, Wanting a ‘fair’ son, Santa-Banta jokes, Stereotype Southie (Mehmood) accent in movies – There are tons of examples that one can cite.

    But how does all this stop? Pick a place where law is clear. Hiring is serious business, there are laws that regulate how and who you can hire. I bet job descriptions that ask for fair, young and unmarried females break some law that exists out there.

    On the same note, I bet those technology job ads that ask for marital status are “illegal” as well. I know the hiring manager wants to know if the engr will be game to for 24/7 sweatpwork or not.

  12. s.b., Whenever I have choice b/w Kingfisher and something else, I avoid KF. And I face this choice every other week. What does that make me, a conservative? Feminist? your_nasty_dig_here ?

  13. fiscally conservative. ;-)

    as to feminism, i will punt on that question. don’t want to get into trouble (in the blog world or the real world).

    – s.b.

  14. s.b: Not at all! Her MIL has no rights to comment on the complexion! The “Tip” was specially mentioned becasue isn;t it obvious where the child got it’s color from? So the MIL can herself have a dark son but her DIL cannot have one?


    Yeah yeah yeah. Racism etc is all too explicit and visible in our country and on our minds

    BUT, when somebody else (faraway in UK) does the same thing, we make the whole world come crashing down with abuses against the abuser… isn’t that hypocritical? Well … finally that’s what we are :-(

  15. You are right when you say this but what do you expect when fairness is one of the most important factors when evaluating beauty? You’ll also see tons of matrimonial ads where grooms or their parents are looking for a “fair” girl. Unless the public perception of how beauty is evaluated improves, I don’t think we are gonna see too much of a change.

    Having said that on a recent trip on JET I did see a couple of dark complexioned female crew.

  16. Again, shark, OI, why get distracted into things like we-are-hypocrites, and public perceptions of beauty vs fairness. Laws are one of the tools (education could be another) to fight these “mindsets”. I was more like inquiring if these explicit job ads break some “equal opportunity” like law our country may have.

  17. Late response, I know, and apologies! Just wanted to note that “clear complexion” does not equal “fair skin”. It simply means no pimples, blackheads, warts, scars etc. I don’t hold it against airlines who advertise for clear complexions. Would you want to be served by a pimply-faced teenager on an airplane? Would the Singapore Airlines ads be as alluring if they featured Asian stewardesses with warts?


    When Paramount Airways was introduced, every one might have been exited that for the first time airline based out of Tamil Nadu was started. There was also expectation that the aviation sector in Tamil Nadu would improve. For a long time Bangalore was the only headquarters for all airline. TamilNadu was a desert of aviation enterprise ever since Air Asiatic wound up.

    There was also reports of Tamil newspapers inflight abort Paramount, which would have attracted exitement in the emotional TN market.

    To tell the truth Paramount Airways is no different from they claim to be. They are just part of the Hindi-speaking herd which are based in Tamil Nadu only in name.

    THeir vacancies within Tamil Nadu DO NOT care for knowledge of Tamil but require Hindi. Speaking Tamil is considered shameful in India’s aviation industry. Speaking Hindi is actual considered good etiquette. Paramount Airways has also shown this preference.

    They barely link 3 of the busiest airports in Tamil Nadu, which others like Air Deccan have already been doing.

    The only thing Paramount Airways is unique is that they are the most expensive.

    To sum it up, being an expensive airline which at the end of the day you get the usual English and Hindi only treatment, you would rather pick others for less.

  19. Hi
    Although to some extent it is true that ‘fair’ skin is considered to be better in India, I don’t think it is merely a skin colour issue. I think it is more related to simply beauty. Being a flawless beauty irrespective of your colour. The examples of ads you have provided mention ‘clear complexion’ and does not mention the tone of your skin. As someone has rightly said in an earlier reply, it is actually targeted to girls with warts, pimples, acne scars, or rather flaws.
    Ask me about it! I’m fair with the worst ever acne and acne scarring and judging by the responses I get from normal people, while just walking down the road, I am confident that I will get only rejections if I apply for any of these jobs.
    Welcome to the real world! Where superficial beauty rules and ‘perfection’ is the answer to all problems!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: