Singapore Airlines has acknowledged that in July the carrier quietly abandoned a long-standing rule requiring the female crew to leave their job if they had a child. Observers in the area believe that the decision is primarily related to a global rush to hire and keep aviation workers once pandemic restrictions are eased.
When female flight attendants announced they were pregnant in the past, Singapore Airlines promptly grounded them. Flight attendants were required to take unpaid time off throughout their pregnancies, and once they turned in a copy of the birth certificate to the airline, their employment was terminated.
The rule embodied the recognizable “Singapore Girl” image that has made the airline renowned; the marketing ploy, developed by Singapore Airways in the 1970s, has featured young, attractive female flight attendants at the forefront of its advertising ever since.
Prior to the epidemic, the airline maintained that its well-known Singapore Girl brand, made popular by the body-skimming Kebaya sarong created by Pierre Balmain, was still “current” and continued to distinguish it from competitors throughout the industry.
In a significant deviation from the airline’s policy controlling female flight attendants, a Singapore Airlines internal memo obtained by the Straits Times indicates that new moms would still be permitted to work for the company.
The policy was altered, according to a memo received on July 12, “to further support our cabin employees throughout and after their pregnancy.”
However, the airline will continue to have extremely rigorous grooming requirements for female flight attendants, which some observers worry may lead to new moms receiving criticism for being obese.
Singapore Airlines said it would now offer temporary ground employment where possible, although pregnant flight attendants will still be grounded as is customary for many international airlines, and no salary will be guaranteed.
Every flight attendant who has become pregnant since the policy was altered has so far been able to obtain a paid ground position with Singapore Airlines, a spokesperson told the Straits Times.
The rules are a little different in the US, where pregnant flight attendants are permitted to fly despite the risks of radiation exposure, shift work, and the physically demanding nature of the job.
In a court lawsuit initiated by a crew member at Frontier Airlines earlier this year, American flight attendants also gained the right to pump milk while they are working.