Chennai/ Hyderabad: Flight attendants of the Spicejet Airline were strip-searched by security personnel in the wake of allegations about swindling cash collected from sale of food and beverages on board. The airline individuals conducting the security checks behaved unethically when they touched the women inappropriately, making them feel highly uncomfortable, staff claimed. However, the airline denied this charge.
Flight attendants staged a protest at Chennai airport early on Saturday after they were allegedly strip-searched by the airline's own security personnel. There was no protest at Hyderabad International airport.
Even before the protest broke out on Saturday, a post on social media by a crew member who went through the traumatic experience, but had not been immediately forthcoming, went viral. It read, “This is to bring to your notice that the cabin crew of the Spicejet team is not willing to tolerate this humiliation of getting frisked after or before flights. We are not thieves here, we all come from good families and will not put up with a company that mistreats us. It is not written anywhere in black and white that we will be body frisked or have someone go through our personal belongings in our bags. It's completely disrespectful to all of us.”
“If you still continue to do this, we would not want to work for such an airline. We would like you to stop, else now onwards none of us will report for our duties and you may hire people who are willing to work with you under such conditions. The security teams who stripped us had forgotten our dignity while doing the check and touched our sensitive parts,” it further said.
A flight attendant, who shuttles between Hyderabad and Bengaluru told Deccan Chronicle, “How can they be considered as a brand if they don’t know how to respect their employees? Many crew members kept quiet fearing they would be punished. I hope the aviation ministry will take note of what’s happening in all bases.”
Another former airline staff member, who worked for a different firm, came out in support of the protesting flight attendants on social media, saying, “No respect left. GDCA and Government of India please look into this matter, how dare you (airline) ask your employees to remove clothes and touch their private parts and tell them that you can't protest.”
“One of the objectives of this search is to ensure that there is no pilferage of company money/goods, smuggling or any illegal activity that an employee may be lured into. This also ensures security and safety of our passengers, employees and assets. This search is essentially the same as what any passenger goes through at any of the Indian airports,” a SpiceJet spokesperson was quoted by PTI.
He said the searches were conducted as per the laid down procedures in closed rooms by well-trained employees of same gender. During the searches on March 28 and March 29, a few cases of pilferages were detected and appropriate disciplinary action was initiated, the spokesperson added.
The ‘random pat down searches' were done at few stations on the nights of March 28 and March 29 as part of security and safety standard operating procedures (SOP). However, the airline denied the allegation that the crew was strip searched. The allegations about deviation from SOPs were being investigated and strict action would be taken if anybody was found guilty, it added.