Ryanair flying back to the ’50s

More than 5,000 people have joined a popular campaign on Change.org calling for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban a Ryanair advert, claiming it objectifies female staff.

Under the coalition name ‘Cabin crew against Sexism,’ flight attendant Ghada created the petition after seeing the offensive ‘Red hot fares & crew’ advert in The Guardian.

The advert promotes ‘Ryanair’s ‘red hot fares & crew’ and features a picture of a woman in her underwear and a finger in her knickers.

“I’m a member of cabin crew – I love my job and take it seriously,” said petition creator Ghada. “So I was disgusted to see this Ryanair ad in The Guardian which basically portrays cabin crew as glamour models.”

“My work colleagues, many of whom are male, work hard with me to ensure the safety of our passengers. Safety is our number one priority, not the brand of our underwear.”

The ASA is currently investigating the advert but has not given a time-frame for a decision.

“If any staff do suffer sexual harassment, Ryanair may well have made themselves vulnerable to a valid legal challenge with such an advert,” says Samantha Mangwana, a partner in the award-winning employment law team at Russell Jones & Walker, who specialise in discrimination cases.

“By law, employers are expected to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment of their staff (by other employees and by third parties). But this advert encourages the polar opposite.  Rather than protect female staff from unlawful harassment, it is as if they are actively setting out to encourage and invite sexist conduct.”

Ryanair’s Code of Ethics 2010 says, “The working environment created by Ryanair promotes equal employment opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices, including harassment (sexual, physical or verbal).”

Within hours of the campaign’s launch, the Ryanair flight attendant’s petition had recruited hundreds of supporters on Change.org, the world’s fastest growing platform for social change.

“This campaign shows that Ryanair cannot get away with objectifying female staff in their adverts,” said Brie Rogers Lowery, UK Campaigns Director Change.org. “With no budget and only a computer at her disposal, Ghada has managed to recruit thousands of supporters. Change.org is about empowering anyone, anywhere to demand action on the issues that matter to them, and it has been incredible to watch this campaign take off.”

Ryanair has attracted criticism over a number of years for sexist advertising.

In 2008, Ryanair’s advert of a young woman posing as a schoolgirl was banned by the ASA, which described it as “irresponsible” and appearing to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour.

In 2010, Mary Honeyball MEP described Ryanair as “still plane stupid” for publishing their fourth charity calendar featuring female staff posing in bikinis.