The FAA wants the airline industry to fight decades of sexism on airplanes by removing words like ‘Cockpit,’ ‘Airman,’ and ‘Unmanned’

Pilots in cockpit
Airline pilots in an Airbus cockpit.

  • An FAA committee released a report recommending airlines shift to gender neutral language.
  • The group recommended airlines replace words like “Airman” with “Aviator” to promote inclusivity.
  • Women have little representation in the industry. 94% of pilots and flight engineers are white men.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The airline industry may soon move toward promoting more inclusive language in an effort to increase diversity.

On Wednesday, a Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee released a report recommending that airlines shift toward more gender neutral language by removing words like “Airman” and “Cockpit” from their lexicon.

The FAA group recommended airlines replace “airman” with “aviator” and “cockpit” with “flight deck.” It also said “unmanned aerial system” should become “unscrewed aerial system” or “drone system,” to name a few recommendations.

“Research shows that the utilization of general-neutral language can lead to a more inclusive environment that draws more people to the industry and helps keep them there,” the committee said in its report.

The move would mirror changes that other organizations have made to be more inclusive toward women. In 2006, NASA decided that all terminology used in the space program would be gender neutral.

The recommendation from the FAA’s drone advisory committee comes as a result of a push from the Biden administration for more equity in aviation – an industry that has been primarily dominated by white men. While many women serve as flight attendants, there are very few female or minority pilots and flight engineers. To date, about 94% of airline pilots and flight engineers are white men, according to data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By bringing more female representation into the industry, airlines could help combat a shortage of pilots that threatens to halt a post pandemic boom in travel. Though, gender neutral terminology will not target the lack of minority representation in the industry.

The new terminology is one step toward addressing decades of sexism in the aviation industry

In the past, the industry has benefited from the sexualization of women. In the 1950s through 1960s, flight attendants – called stewardesses at the time – were hired based on looks and were required to be unmarried, Axios reports. Most flight attendants at the time were forced to retire by the age of 35, according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

Some airlines became known for their stewardesses and even used them to advertise in the 60s. Braniff International Airways’ slogan was “Does your wife know you’re flying with us?” While Pan Am asked: “How do you like your stewardesses?”

Pan Am
A Pan American (Pan Am) airhostess serving champagne in the first class cabin of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

By the 70s, many airlines had flight attendants donning hot pants and go-go boots. National Airlines spent $9.5 million on a 1971 campaign that read “I’m Cheryl. Fly Me.” The company later expanded the ads to include “I’m going to fly you as you’ve never been flown before” and claimed it saw a 23% jump in bookings.

In the 80s, the industry began to gradually shift away from stringent physical requirements for flight attendants, as well as the sexual advertising schemes. Though, the Association of Flight Attendants notes women in the industry have continued to struggle with representation, as well as pay – the median annual wage for pilots is nearly double a flight attendant’s salary, according to federal data.

In the past year, flight attendants have been forced to grapple with another set of issues. In May, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant allegedly lost two teeth after a passenger assaulted her.

That month, the FAA said it was seeing a spike of unruly and aggressive behavior on airlines, citing moments when passengers hit, yelled, and shoved flight attendants. Last week, several flight attendants told Insider’s Allana Akhtar that they have faced “unprecedented” instances of violence and aggression in-air.

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Flight attendants describe ‘unprecedented’ violence as travel returns and passenger aggression soars

flight attendant on an airplane with passengers sleeping
Flight attendants talk in a nearly empty cabin on a Delta Airlines flight operated by SkyWest Airlines.

  • 7 flight attendants told Insider the rise in passenger violence has worsened their mental health.
  • Flight attendants said the aggression stems from a divisive political climate.
  • Some flight attendants want airlines to offer free, on-demand mental health services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Nas Lewis, a Chicago-based flight attendant, went to cut off an aggressive, intoxicated passenger from drinking more alcohol, he told her: “If I had a Black Lives Matter shirt on, this wouldn’t be a problem.”

Lewis, who is a woman of color, was taken aback and said she found the situation emotionally abusive. The aggression later escalated to where Lewis had to call the police to remove the passenger from the aircraft.

Flight attendants across the country are grappling with the rise in passenger aggression and violence on aircrafts over the last few months. Since January 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration has received 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, most of which involve travelers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.

The agency started keeping track of unruly passenger reports last year after aggression over mask compliance rose, NPR reported. FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor told the outlet the number of reports are “significantly higher” than in the past.

Flight attendants appear to be bearing the brunt of passenger aggression. One flight attendant for Southwest Airlines said she lost two teeth from an assault by a passenger. The FAA charged another traveler $15,000 for pushing and shoving an Alaska Airlines flight attendant documenting which passengers had not worn face masks.

Read more: How JetBlue’s founder plans to offer low prices without a low-end experience on his newest airline, Breeze

Seven flight attendants from major US carriers told Insider they had experienced increased aggression from passengers as travel rebounds in the US. Though some of the sources for this story requested to be anonymous and not share the name of their employer so they could speak without fear of retaliation, Insider confirmed their identities and proof of employment. All flight attendants said their mental health has suffered as a result of the aggression.

A Los Angeles-based flight attendant of 29 years said she has never seen anything like the current level of aggression at any other time in her career.

“It is truly unprecedented,” she said.

Flight attendants worry they are facing a mental health crisis due to rising tensions between passengers and crew.

flight attendants
Flight attendants told Insider increased passenger violence has led to worsened mental health.

Lewis is the founder of th|AIR|apy, a non-profit dedicated to helping flight attendants manage their mental health.

She launched the company in 2019 as a Facebook group when she felt overwhelmed with the stress of commuting to work and leaving her children during flights, and the group now has 3,000 active members.

Lewis told Insider she’s seen a rise in activity in th|AIR|apy support groups over the last three months. Flight attendants have posted photos of themselves crying and told Lewis they had engaged in self-harm and suicide idealization.

Lewis said three flight attendants who were a part of th|AIR|apy died by suicide over the past year.

One New York City-based flight attendant told Insider she used to love her job, even with the ups and downs – but now she feels constantly anxious and worried about whether she’ll have to deal with violent passengers on her next flight.

“Since we’re in a plane up in the sky it’s really scary to feel like you don’t have control of the situation,” she said.

In the last few months, she’s noticed other flight attendants experiencing increased stress. News outlets reported on one off-duty attendant who was taken to the hospital after exhibiting signs of mental illness when he assaulted crew members on a flight.

The flight attendant from New York told Insider that focusing on self-care and mental health has helped her stay positive during this time. She said she stopped drinking as much alcohol, and keeps herself calm by spending time with her coworkers and friends and by going outside.

A post shared by th|AIR|apy, Inc.™️ (@th.air.apy)

Flight attendants attribute passenger aggression to alcohol, mask enforcement, and a divided political climate.

Some airlines have limited alcohol offerings to curb passenger violence.

Southwest announced it would not resume alcohol service until the end of July due to the recent surge in disruptions by passengers. United said it would only offer beer, wine, and hard seltzer on flights longer than 800 miles, and American has suspended alcohol in the main cabin altogether.

Many flight attendants told Insider particularly aggressive passengers had been drinking alcohol prior to or during the flight.

Other flight attendants previously told Insider the pandemic made passengers more aggressive because of differences in mask policies throughout the country and a divisive political culture.

Colleen Burns, a representative with the Association of Flight Attendants union, said she’s faced verbal harassment from passengers numerous times, most of the time with people who were “stone cold sober.” But the instance of aggression that shocked her the most was watching a man crawl over an elderly, non-ambulatory woman after complaining she removed her mask to eat.

“I’ve never seen someone treating somebody else with a lack of respect,” Burns told Insider.

“It seems that everybody is angry at everybody 24/7,” she added. “One little thing sets them over the edge, either they’re upset they have to wear the mask or they’re upset someone else isn’t wearing the mask.”

A woman flight attendant in a Delta uniform waits for the departure of a one-passenger flight between Washington and New Orleans

Flight attendants are calling for better protections from airlines and the government

One San Francisco-based flight attendant said before the escalation of tension on board, she had more patience with passengers; she assumed any misbehavior was due to feeling stressed by travel and would not escalate to real violence.

Now, she and the rest of her crew members have lost patience and adopted a “zero tolerance” policy to all aggression.

Read more: Drone startup that sky drops Walmart groceries receives FAA approval to expand food delivery to thousands of homes

“I’m very sad that passengers have so much disrespect and disregard for their fellow passengers and crew,” she said. “Flying used to be glamorous and fun. And it still can be – if the attitude of travelers changes.”

Lewis said she’s trying to help as many flight attendants as possible with th|AIR|apy’s resources, but urges airlines to instruct passengers on ways to keep flight attendants safe and offer free, on-demand mental health services for crew members.

Burns commended the FAA, which recently proposed $100,000 in fines for several unruly and dangerous passengers, for investigating instances of violence against flight attendants. The New York City-based flight attendant said she’d love to see the government go further by writing bills that ensure harsher consequences for passengers that misbehave.

Daz, a Las Vegas-based flight attendant, said he has not felt threatened or unprotected by the rise in violence due to learning conflict resolution skills and self-defense training from his airline.

But he said he does feel for the majority of his passengers who are compliant with federal mask regulations that suffer delays when violence and aggression occurs.

“There are still federal regulations that require a mask to be worn at all times on our aircraft,” he told Insider. “Until this is lifted, please just follow the rules.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Some flight attendants said they didn’t get sick nearly as much during the pandemic due to extra cleaning and mask-wearing – and they hope airlines keep sanitation a priority as travel rebounds

flight attendant mask covid
Flight attendants they have gotten sick less due to pandemic-era cleaning protocols.

  • Flight attendants said they got sick less during the pandemic due to increased airline sanitization.
  • Airlines began overhauling cleaning in early 2020, when many experts thought COVID spread through shared surfaces.
  • As more people get vaccinated and start traveling, workers hope airline cleanliness will remain.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some flight attendants said pandemic-fueled airline cleanliness has decreased the likelihood of getting sick on board.

One Chicago-based flight attendant, who has been working for more than seven years, said she would usually get sick with a cold or flu around two to three times per year due to the amount of people she was exposed to on the job.

But she told Insider she hasn’t had a cold at all this year. The flight attendant credits the use of masks and decreased passenger interaction to her better health during the pandemic.

“There’s not much passenger interaction, and that’s intentional because of how high risk flight attendants are,” the flight attendant told Insider. “We are flying around all the time. We have a higher risk of infecting more people if we were to contract COVID, so they want us to have as little interaction as possible while still maintaining safety standards.”

The Association of Flight Attendants union reported 3,500 flight attendants contracted COVID-19 as of March 2021. But Insider spoke with seven flight attendants who said they like the industry’s commitment to airline sanitization, and hopes its commitment to public health continues after the pandemic.

All flight attendants interviewed work for major US carriers, though they asked not to name their employers in order to speak openly. Insider confirmed the employment of all the flight attendants featured, including those who wished to stay anonymous so they could speak without fear of retaliation from airlines.

Got a tip? If you’re a flight attendant with a story to share, email the author at

Airlines overhauled cleanliness during the COVID-19 pandemic – and flight attendants said they got sick less.

Airlines around the world began overhauling cleanliness in early 2020, when many epidemiologists believed COVID-19 spread through shared surfaces. Australian airline Qantas and Korean Air began using hospital-grade disinfectant designed to kill MERS and avian flu starting February 2020.

Carriers in the US began using new cleaning methods last year to ensure passenger and crew safety. United, Delta, and American began “fogging” the inside of cabins with electrically-charged, high-grade disinfectant. JetBlue added detailed “dos and don’ts” on preventing COVID-19 transmissions to its entertainment monitors, Insider’s Thomas Pallini reported.

Sarah, a Georgia-based flight attendant with a major US carrier, said the biggest difference she’s noticed at work has been the “cleanliness factor,” or how airlines have stepped up their filtration systems and cleaning in-between flights.

“As flight attendants, we have a lot more of an active role in making sure the airlines are clean,” Sarah told Insider. “There’s just a lot more emphasis on the cleanliness of the aircraft.”

covid airplane cleaning
Brandon Wilson, owner of AvidJet, disinfects a Frontier airplane with a fogger.

Pia, a Detroit-based flight attendant, told Insider she enjoyed working early in the pandemic because people did not know much about how COVID-19 spread and wanted to limit their interactions as much as possible. “It was just a very smooth process,” she added.

As better research showed COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through the air rather than touched surfaces, airlines have touted their high-quality airline filtration to get people back on board. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said passengers “should fly” during the coronavirus pandemic because of how well air cabins recirculate and filter air.

Jenn Ayala, a flight attendant based in New Jersey, said before going on flights she would take vitamin C and hope she didn’t get sick. With additional spraying of cabins and physical distancing, Ayala said she worries less about getting sick on board.

“It just makes you feel safer to know your flight has been disinfected, no matter how short the leg is,” Ayala told Insider. “Even if it’s a 20 minute quick turn, they’re still going to spray.”

Some flight attendants hope airlines’ commitment to public health can stick around for good.

Americans are gearing up for a summer of travel, according to recent data.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1.8 million people at airport security this month, marking a new record high number of air travelers since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed COVID-19 safety guidelines for vaccinated people, but all Americans will need to continue to wear masks inside airports and on airplanes.

The airline industry, which lost significant revenue during the pandemic, is doing away with some COVID-19 safety measures. Southwest rolled back cleaning procedures in August to speed up plane turnaround times, and Delta stopped blocking the middle seat on May 1.

But some flight attendants said they are hoping the industry’s dedication to public health sticks around for good.

One San Francisco-based flight attendant said the profession requires her to be exposed to hundreds of people per day, which requires having a robust immune system.

“I honestly don’t really get sick in general,” the flight attendant said. “I think that flight attendants and cockroaches would be the only people to survive the apocalypse, just because we’re exposed to so much.”

Though the flight attendant said though she did not get sick much before the pandemic, her airline used to discourage employees from taking too much sick time.

She said a positive change from the pandemic is her carrier’s more lenient attitude toward taking sick days. Before the pandemic, calling in sick for two weeks would result in “big trouble,” but her airline granted 14-day quarantine periods for people exposed to COVID-19 to protect the rest of the crew.

“I think that if someone’s sick, they shouldn’t be coming to work, they shouldn’t be pressured to come to work,” the flight attendant added. “So I hope going forward, the airlines will keep [that] in mind.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The FAA is charging fines of up to $15,000 for air travelers accused of failing to wear masks and assaulting flight attendants

flight attendant mask
The FAA slammed airline passengers with thousands of dollars in fees for yelling at and assaulting flight attendants.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed fines of up to $15,000 for five airline passengers accused of interfering with and assaulting flight attendants.

The FAA announced passengers on JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines engaged in aggressive behavior, including hitting, yelling, and shoving, with flight attendants.

One passenger fined $15,000 shoved a flight attendant when the worker had walked down the aisle to document which passengers were not wearing face masks, the FAA said in a release. Another passenger who was fined $10,500 yelled and shouted profanities at a flight attendant after they asked him to put on a face mask.

The agency said it has received 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers since January 2021. About 1,900 of the reports deal with passengers who refused to comply with the federal facemask mandate.

Got a tip? If you are a flight attendant with a story to share, email this reporter at

Flight attendants recently told Insider the pandemic has made passengers more aggressive and less patient due in part to enforcing mask requirements on board.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on January 21 making face masks mandatory on airlines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said both vaccinated and unvaccinated people must keep masks on in airports and on public transportation.

Read more: The auto industry didn’t see the chip crisis coming – and now it’s threatening a recovery from the pandemic

Passengers who receive a proposed penalty for unruly behavior have 30 days to respond, a FAA spokesperson told Insider.

Within the 30 days, the spokesperson said passengers can pay the full penalty, provide documentation and request a lower penalty, provide documentation showing they are financially unable to pay the fine, provide information indicating the violation did not occur, ask to meet with the FAA to discuss the case, or appeal the judge’s decision to the FAA Administrator.

If passengers do not respond within 30 days, the FAA sends a Final Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty.

Read the original article on Business Insider