'Sad and shocking': The massive problem of sexual harassment in the sky

A survey of Australian cabin crew members has revealed 65 percent of respondents have experienced sexual harassment, with a fifth of those employees saying they'd been harassed more than 10 times.

Eighty percent of those who took part in the survey commissioned by the Travel Workers Union (TWU) in Australia said they had experienced sexual harassment from a co-worker, while 60 percent said they'd been harassed by passengers.

The findings revealed how serious some of these incidents had been.

Here are some of the incidents that were reported:

  • Serious sexual assault
  • Being pinned down and assaulted
  • Passengers exposing themselves to crew members
  • Crew members having their groin and bottoms rubbed 
  • Highly sexualised comments
  • Verbal attacks at crew based on their sexual orientation 

One of the biggest findings to come out of TWU's research is that almost 70 percent of cabin crew questioned said they had never reported the incidents.

Amongst those, 56 percent said they didn't think a complaint would be handled properly and 39 percent said they feared a complaint would make the situation worse.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the report has been a tough read. 

"These results are sad and shocking. They show that airlines are not taking the problem seriously and are not supporting workers when they are faced with what are daily assaults on them. It is clear that a culture exists at airlines to at best ignore the problem and at worst protect the perpetrators. Today we are lifting the lid on this widespread problem and demanding a change to the way sexual harassment of cabin crew is dealt with," Mr Kaine said.

Mr Kaine's thoughts are reflected in the numbers too. Almost 80 percent of crew said they didn't think their company was doing enough to prevent and deal with sexual harassment.

All major airlines in Australia were represented in the survey, including Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tigerair.

The TWU has contacted all of the airlines involved in an effort to improve the situation.