Thai charter airline makes history by being the first to employee ladyboys as flight attendants serving passengers on flights.
The four ladyboy flight attendants for PC Air, which plans to launch its inaugural flight on Dec 24. (Photo: Boonsong Kositchotethana)
Click button to listen to Lady Boy Flight Attendants to download
Aviation: Ladyboys too hot to handle, From immigration questions to worries about social acceptance, many airline executives show they are not ready to hire the third gender by Boonsong Kositchotethana, Deputy Editor Business
While the start-up carrier PC Air has defied an industry norm by hiring four transsexuals as flight attendants, more established airlines in Thailand are reluctant to follow suit.
Senior executives of several leading carriers, who spoke to the Bangkok Post on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, were not quite ready to bring the third gender on board.
The executives acknowledged the airline industry has not openly adopted them for frontline service.
While Thailand has a relatively high level of social acceptance of male-to-female transgenders, executives said they see the adoption as more problematic than good, but admit it could be a positive marketing gimmick.
PC Air, the privately owned Thai charter airline due to start commercial operations this Saturday, garnered extensive international publicity by billing itself as the world's first carrier to employ "ladyboys" as cabin attendants.
The top constraint executives listed was these transgenders being listed as male on their ID cards. Many immigration officers have a liberal outlook, but they could be stopped or refused entry in more conservative countries.
Their passports will list them as male, and countries with strict rules like China and Arab nations may be puzzled or confused and less likely to offer a smooth passage. This could potentially affect airline flight operations.
Executives also admitted several airlines were too conservative to let ladyboys be associated with their brand image.
"Though social acceptance of transsexuals is increasing, there is still a cultural barrier for them in our society," said an airline veteran with over 30 years experience.
A lot of our passengers, especially conservative Thais with families, may shun flying with us.
Another senior executive of the same airline asked: "Do you see other established service-related enterprises like five-star hotels openly embracing katoeys as staff ? No.
"While they are more visible at cosmetics shops and health stores in Thailand, it does not mean they will be welcomed with open arms in other service sectors anytime soon," she added.
"What is the point of hiring transgenders as cabin attendants?" an airline founder asked.
"There are thousands of men and women who are eager to accept these jobs," he added.
Transgenders often don't make it past the first step in the application process because of their identity, an executive of a no-frills carrier pointed out.
Most airlines, even PC Air, state the gender they want when hiring - male, female or both - and anything in between is disqualified by screening officers.
PC Air made an exception by specifying ladyboy applicants have qualifications similar to female attendants. The ladyboys are to be like women in how they walk and talk, having a feminine voice and the right attitude.
But a few executives felt transgenders would work harder to prove their professionalism and skill on the job.
Piyo Chantraporn, the 48-year-old president of PC Air who prefers to be called Peter Chan, said management prides itself on its equal-opportunity policy for transsexuals, repeatedly denying the transgender recruitment was done for the sake of publicity.
Among its first batch of 30 cabin attendants are four transsexuals, 19 females and seven males, all of whom were officially certified.
One of the four transgenders is Thanyarat Chirapatpakorn, who was crowned Miss Tiffany Universe 2007 and is best known as a model and soap opera actress who uses the name "Nong Film".
Nong Film, who was featured prominently in PC Air's advertisements, said getting a cabin attendant job fulfilled a childhood dream.
"It's a dream come true and I will work hard to prove my professionalism," said the 23-year-old.
PC Air has one jet, an Airbus 310-222, and plans to acquire two more wide-body planes, likely A300-600s, in the second quarter of next year as it aims to become a scheduled flight operator.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Aviation, Ladyboys too hot to handle, From immigration questions to worries about social acceptance, many airline executives show they are not ready to hire the third gender, 21/12/2011, Boonsong Kositchotethana, Deputy Editor Business, link)
Transgender Issues and Airline Industry Vocabulary
flight attendant - the airline workers inside the airplane during flights who look after the safety and comfort of passengers (See Wikipedia)
stewards/stewardesses - same as "flight attendant"
air hosts/hostesses - same as "flight attendant"
cabin - the area where passengers sit in an aircraft ห้องคนโดยสารในเครื่องบิน
cabin crew - same as "flight attendants"
cabin attendant - same as "flight attendant"
gender - sex, the fact of being either male or female เพศ (See Wikipedia)
katoey - a male-to-female transgender person or an effeminate gay male in Thailand กะเทย; สาวประเภทสอง a second kind of woman, (See Wikipedia and also gender identities in Thailand)
ladyboy - a way of saying "katoey" in informal English language
ladyboy flight attendants
third gender - people who are considered to be neither man nor woman, "although biology determines genetically whether a human being is male or female (on the basis of the XX or XY or a variation thereof chromosomes), the state of being neither a man or a woman is sometimes considered in relation to the individual's gender role in society, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other characteristic. To different cultures or individuals, a third gender or sex may represent an intermediate state between men and women, a state of being both (such as 'the spirit of a man in the body of a woman'), the state of being neither (neuter), the ability to cross or swap genders, another category altogether independent of men and women" the hijras of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have gained legal identity, Fa'afafine of Polynesia, and the Sworn virgins of the Balkans are all examples เพศที่สาม (See Wikipedia)
transgender - people who are "beyond gender", when the gender that a person considers themselves (woman, man, neither or both) does not match their biological or genetic sex (male, female); does not always imply anything about sexuality, transgender people may identify themselves as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual (See Wikipedia)
transsexual - same as "transgender" (See Wikipedia)
inaugural - first
launch its inaugural flight - have its first flight (with a ceremony and media event)
too hot to handle - possible meanings: 1. the issue is very controversial and likely to cause disagreement and angry reactions; 2. the ladyboy air hostesses are very sexy
immigration - the process in which people enter a country in order to live there permanently การย้ายถิ่นฐาน
executives - a high level manager in a company (making plans and ensuring they executed successfully) ผู้บริหาร
a start-up - a new company
norm - a situation or type of behavior that is expected and considered to be typical มาตรฐาน
industry norm - expected behaviour in an industry (such as the airlines industry)
defy - to not act as people expect
defied an industry norm
hiring - when a company formally gives a person a job (a contract is signed) การว่าจ้าง
hiring four transsexuals as flight attendants
carriers - airline companies
senior executives of several leading carriers
established - be in a successful position over a long period of time มีตำแหน่งที่มั่นคง ก่อตั้่ง
reluctant - do not want to do something (so are slow, hesitate, or do without enthusiasm); not willing to do something ลังเลใจ not very willing to do something and therefore slow to do it ไม่เต็มใจ
follow suit - do the same thing as another person did
reluctant to follow suit
launch - to start selling a new product or service to the public เริ่มต้น เริ่มโครงการ เริ่มวางขาย
condition - something that must be done before another thing can happen เงื่อนไข
anonymity - when someone's name is not given or known การไม่ระบุชื่อ
spoke to the Bangkok Post on the condition of anonymity - provided information to reporters but said they could not use their name
sensitive - needed to be dealt with very carefully to not cause anger or offence ที่ละเอียดอ่อน
nature - the basic quality or feature of something ลักษณะที่แท้จริงของสิ่งต่างๆ, ธรรมชาติ
matter - a situation or subject which is being dealt with or considered เรื่อง, ภารกิจ, งาน something that you are discussing, considering or dealing with สิ่งที่พูดถึง ประเด็นที่พูดถึง
the sensitive nature of the matter - the subject could cause disagreement and argument
board - to get onto a ship, aircraft, train, or bus ขึ้น(เรือ รถเมล์ รถไฟ เครื่องบิน)
bring on board - bring onto the airplane
not quite ready - not ready to do now (maybe in the future)
not quite ready to bring the third gender on board
openly - doing in way that everyone can see, not hiding
openly adopted - started doing something (in a way that everyone can see that you are doing it; not hidden)
acknowledged - accepted that something is true
frontline service - working with customers directly (over the phone, at the ticket counter, in the airplane, etc)
the executives acknowledged the airline industry has not openly adopted them for frontline service.
female - of a woman สำหรับผู้หญิง
Thailand has a relatively high level of social acceptance of male-to-female transgenders
adoption - starting to use a new system
problematic - causing or involving problems ก่อปัญหา
admit - to agree that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it ยอมรับ
positive - something good ในแง่ดี สิ่งที่ดี ที่ดี hopeful and confident, or giving cause for hope and confidence ซึ่งมองในแง่ดี
gimmick - an action or product feature created to attract attention and publicity (not really useful in any way)
marketing gimmick - a gimmick used to sell a product or service
a positive marketing gimmick
charter - an airplane or boat hired for use by someone that is not part of a regular scheduled service
charter flight - when someone hires an airplane for a special flight
charter airline - an airline that does only "chartered flights" (no regular scheduled service)
Thai charter airline
commercial - for business purposes
commercial operations - when the business is running (providing service, generating revenue)
employ - to have someone work or do a job for you and pay them for it ว่าจ้าง, จ้าง
garner - get, receive
publicity - attention in magazines, newspapers, or television การเผยแพร่ when the media or public show great interest in something (See glossary)
garner publicity - get publicity, get attention by the media (newspapers, magazines, TV stations, etc)
extensive - includes a wide variety ที่มีมากมาย
garner extensive publicity - get a lot of publicity from media in many different places
international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
garner extensive international publicity
billing itself as - presenting itself in advertisements to customers as
garnered extensive international publicity by billing itself as the world's first carrier to employ "ladyboys" as cabin attendants.
constraint - something that limits or controls what you can do (See glossary)
officers - high ranking managers in a company (Photo on right of one of the first computers, the gigantic
immigration officers - immigration workers who check passports and enforce immigration laws at airports and borders of a country
liberal - willing to accept new and different things; open-minded
outlook - what people think will happen in the future อนาคตที่คาดไว้
refused entry - said that they cannot come into a place
conservative - cautious, doesn't want to experiment, not willing to try new ideas
strict - very careful and exact เข้มงวด
confused - สับสน
puzzled - same as "confused"
passage - travelling through a place
smooth passage - travelling through a place without problems
less likely to offer a smooth passage
potentially - may happen; possible in the future ที่อาจเกิดขึ้นได้
brand - a type of product made by a particular company ตรา, ยี่ห้อ
image - an opinion that people have about someone or something ภาพลักษณ์
several airlines were too conservative to let ladyboys be associated with their brand image.
social acceptance of transsexuals is increasing
barrier - anything that prevents people from being together or understanding each other อุปสรรค
cultural barrier - the culture of a society (traditions, customs, beliefs, practices) stops or prevents something from happening, will not accept something
there is still a cultural barrier for them in our society
veteran - a person who has a lot of experience in a particular area or activity ผู้อาวุโส
airline veteran - a person who has worked for an airline for a long time (so has much knowledge and experience)
an airline veteran with over 30 years experience.
shun - to deliberately avoid a person, place or activity
conservative Thais with families may shun flying with us.
enterprises - companies
staff - workers, employees พนักงาน
openly embracing as staff - accepting as staff openly (with everyone knowing about it)
Do you see other established service-related enterprises like five-star hotels openly embracing katoeys as staff?
cosmetics - substances that you put on your face or body which are intended to improve its appearance เครื่องสำอาง (See Wikipedia)
welcomed with open arms - accept
what is the point? - what is the reason?, why?
"What is the point of hiring transgenders as cabin attendants?"
founder - a person who establishes an institution, business, or organization ผู้ก่อตั้ง
an airline founder
eager - want to do very much; wanting to do or get something very much or enthusiastic about something that will happen กระตือรือร้น
eager to accept these jobs
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
identity - who someone is
frills - extra things, that are not really needed
a no-frills carrier - a cheap airline that does not have special services like meals on flights
pointed out - show something to someone that they might not know already (in order to convince or persuade)
state the gender they want when hiring - say whether they want men, women or kathoeys
disqualified - found to be not qualified (was qualified in the past, no longer qualified)
screening - checking before accepting, checking for problems, safety, or suitability
disqualified by screening officers
exception - something that does not follow the general rule ยกเว้น
made an exception - allowed the rule to be broken
qualifications - the abilities, qualities, degrees, etc. that you need for a particular job or activity
attitude - the way you think and feel about something, as shown in behaviour
specifying ladyboy applicants have qualifications similar to female attendants. The ladyboys are to be like women in how they walk and talk, having a feminine voice and the right attitude.
a few executives felt transgenders would work harder to prove their professionalism and skill on the job.
prides itself on - is proud of something they do
opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
policy - a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย a plan of action to guide decisions and achieve outcomes (See Wikipedia)
equal-opportunity policy - when everyone (male, female, kathoey) get "equal opportunity" (treated the same) in applying for a job
prides itself on its equal-opportunity policy
recruitment - the process of finding people to work for a company or become a new member of an organisation การสรรหาใหม่
done for the sake of publicity.
batch - a group of things or people dealt with at the same time or considered similar in type ชุด, กลุ่ม
its first batch of 30 cabin attendants
certified - inspected officially and verified that the company follows the rules ผ่านการรับรองคุณภาพ
featured - included someone or something as an important part มีบทบาทสำคัญใน
featured prominently in PC Air's advertisements
fulfilled a childhood dream
acquire - to get; to obtain ได้มาซึ่ง
second quarter - April, May, June
scheduled - planned to happen at a particular time or day ตามตารางเวลา
scheduled flight operator - an airline with regular scheduled flights ("charter airlines" do not have)
plans to acquire two more wide-body planes, likely A300-600s, in the second quarter of next year as it aims to become a scheduled flight operator.