Flight Attendants’ Kidman Criticism Unfair? Etihad Airways’ Pregnancy Policy Has Paid Maternity Leave

According to a union that represents flight attendants, Nicole Kidman should not represent Etihad Airways since they “fire women if they become pregnant.” The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) largely bases this allegation upon an article written by the Wall Street Journal, but what did the story actually say?

In a related report by the Inquisitr, the reason the flight attendants’ Kidman criticism started was due to a new TV commercial called “Flying Reimagined,” which features the actress. Etihad Airways responded to the controversy and denied that they fired pregnant women.

“Imagine a world free from violence against women and girls,” Nicole Kidman once said in a speech as the United Nations’ Women Goodwill Ambassador. “A world where equality and respect and justice are not just ideals, or possible for only a few women and girls, but the norm for all of us.”

According to the Laura Glading, the union president for the flight attendants, Kidman is presenting a conflicting message due to allegations of bad labor practices by Persian gulf airlines like Etihad Airways.

“Later that very same week, we saw that you had begun appearing in a new campaign for Etihad, a company that the Wall Street Journal has publicly reported ‘may fire women if they become pregnant’ and forces flight attendants to live in ‘confinement’ in secure compounds. These are the types of conditions that APFA fought to eradicate decades ago in the United States. Indeed, Etihad is a regressive company that seeks to return our industry to its darkest ages.”

Nicole Kidman has yet to respond to this criticism.

In the article by the Wall Street Journal, the author was writing about three separate Persian gulf airlines, not just Etihad Airways.

“The workers live under close supervision in company housing in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, work long hours and abide by contract terms that other parts of the world find objectionable. All three Gulf airlines—Etihad, Qatar and Emirates—may fire women if they become pregnant.”

The details of this allegation were then listed later in the article. When it comes to the issue of the employees being housed in “confinement,” this is how it was described.

“The housing is typically a two-bedroom apartment shared by two new hires in a secure compound—better than camps where construction workers typically live in Qatar and the U.A.E., but still criticized by U.S. and European airline labor unions as confinement. (The airlines say it isn’t confinement, but simply a way to keep employees safe.)”

All three companies follow rules specified by the UAE’s General Civilian Aviation Authority (GCAA), but the pregnancy policy of all three Persian Gulf airlines is slightly different. New female employees still in their first year working at Emirates do indeed have to resign based upon their contract, according to Terry Daly, Emirates’ senior vice president for service delivery.

Qatar and Etihad Airways both comply with the GCAA rules, but Qatar does not consider working in the air while pregnant to be safe at all. This claim is controversial, but some believe a fetus may suffer harm from oxygen deprivation or radiation from frequent flights. Due to this belief, pregnant crew members working for Qatar must either resign immediately or move to a ground-based job, if available.

According to Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad’s vice president of guest services, Etihad allows pregnant crew members to continue working on their flights for the first three months of the pregnancy, but after three months must also either voluntarily resign or move to a ground job. Etihad also provides paid maternity leave.

So it would seem that the flight attendants’ Kidman criticism does have some legitimate grounds based upon only the WSJ article, but what does the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) say about pregnant employees working on flights? According to some reports, FAA regulations advise female flight attendants from flying past their 27th week of pregnancy. The difference is that U.S.-based airlines typically place pregnant flight attendants on mandatory maternity leave, while Etihad Airways limits paid maternity leave to employees who have been with the company more than one year.

Do you think Nicole Kidman should represent Etihad Airways? What do you think about the company’s pregnancy policies?

[Image via Etihad.com]