An article in the Swedish newspaper Expressen documents the human rights abuses suffered by the woman flight attendants on Qatar Airways. These abuses are part of a larger pattern of deplorable labor conditions in Qatar, but Qatar Airlines has the distinction of being a business through which westerners interact with women living under deplorable circumstances. The senior management of QA, including CEO Akbar Al Baker, are accused of sexual harassment, and exercise near-total control over the flight attendants' personal lives, literally locking them in overnight and setting guards on their doors. It's reminiscent of stories of the stories told by women who've escaped abusive husbands, except that the "husband" is a millionaire airline executive and the wives are the vulnerable young women who are made to simper and fetch for passengers travelling to the Qatar.
The contract mentioned in the article is reproduced in part here.
Gina boils some eggs. She has only just arrived home from a flight. She is tired and removes her makeup slowly. The saucepan overheats when the water evaporates and suddenly the fire alarm goes off. Gina switches it off quickly and tells the security guards that it was a false alarm. Too late.
Three different managers from Qatar Airways arrive at the guarded staff building. Question her in detail about what happened and ask her to prove her story.
"You were boiling an egg? Show us the egg."
Gina rummages through the garbage and finds the egg. The managers arenít satisfied. They decide that she should be removed from flights for the next few days and she is summoned to the office the following morning. As there is a twelve hour resting rule before any work event, whether it is a meeting or a long haul flight, Gina is grounded until the time of the meeting.
At the office at Qatar Airways Tower, she is once more asked to give an account of the event. The fact that she was boiling an egg, how could she be so careless, how can they be certain that she will never do anything like that again? Gina is given a severe warning.
Then she is given a pen and paper. Qatar Airways now wants Gina to explain the egg incident in writing and to conclude by saying how sorry she is and that it will not happen again. They dictate and she writes. "I am very sorry, it will never happen again."
The truth about the luxury of Qatar Airways [Johanna Karlsson/Espressen]
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.