While instances of passengers complaining about airlines' misconduct are not uncommon, the cabin crew members of budget carrier SpiceJet have lashed out at the airline for allegedly carrying out strip-searches at airports. Flight attendants of SpiceJet are said to have protested at the Chennai Airport, Saturday, March 31, alleging that the airline was mistreating them.
However, SpiceJet has denied these allegations and has said that they were just "pat down" checks, which is a standard procedure. The carrier also said that it hasn't received any complaints on the issue.
The air hostesses said that the security personnel of SpiceJet have been strip-searching them as soon as they deboard the flights, reported NDTV. Their bags are also reportedly thoroughly checked with even sanitary napkins being removed.
Here's what SpiceJet told International Business Times India.
"SpiceJet is a responsible airline that takes pride in its employees. As per security and safety SOP, random "pat down" search is conducted on various employees, including cabin crew from time to time -- a global industry practice," the airline said in a statement to IBTimes India.
"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."
Speaking of the air hostess' claims that they were strip-searched, SpiceJet added: "Allegations regarding deviation from these SOPs are being investigated and strict action will be taken if anybody is found guilty."
The crew said that the airline suspects that the flight attendants have not been depositing the correct amount of cash collected from the sale of food and other items on board.
"We air hostesses are stripped naked over the last three days and women personnel touch us inappropriately. A colleague in her period was asked to remove her sanitary napkin," a SpiceJet air hostess told NDTV on the condition of anonymity.
A video of the protest has also emerged online, which shows crew members in uniform as well as plainclothes protesting at the airport. "Someone touched me inappropriately, made me feel very uncomfortable. I was naked," a woman is reportedly heard saying.
International Business Times India, however, could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.
Some flight attendants have now reportedly written to the management of SpiceJet complaining about the search and NDTV has accessed a few of them. "Is this the policy to remove your sanitary pad, touch private parts?" an attendant wrote, while another added: "We cabin crew are hired majorly for safety reasons of the fellow passengers but what about our respect and safety? We talk about rape and molestation, is this any less?"
"On informing the base official that I wasn't comfortable and I'm on my menses she still checked my panty; they pressed my breasts. I've lost my self-respect... Cabin crew is the brand ambassador. We are humiliated as if we have done some robbery," wrote an irate crew member.
However, a senior SpiceJet official at the Chennai airport also reiterated that the "allegations are baseless."