Passenger claims she was 'slut-shamed' by airline staff for 'straddling' her boyfriend
A woman has hit out at the budget airline Jetstar, claiming that she was "slut-shamed" by staff while waiting to board a flight at Sydney Airport, News.com.au has reported.
Serah Nathan from Melbourne was waiting to board a flight with rival airline Tigerair at 3:20pm on Sunday, when the "strange" altercation occurred. The 33-year-old alleges that Jetstar ground staff approached her at one of their designated gates, after seeing her sat on her boyfriend's lap.
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Ms Nathan had been visiting her boyfriend, with whom she is in a long-distance relationship, and added that the couple wouldn't be seeing each other again until Christmas. She said:
"I sat on his knees and we just talked about mundane nothingness for a couple of minutes. A uniformed Jetstar representative […] sidled up and instructed me to ‘sit on a separate seat because there are children watching’.
"My partner and I saw no children in the immediate vicinity and were bewildered at both this request and it’s relevance to how I was seated."
Ms Nathan then recalls how the airline's ground staff returned with a "team leader", who once again instructed her to sit next to her partner and not on his lap. Ms Nathan said:
"I calmly asked her to clarify why I couldn’t converse with my partner while sitting on his knees. She reiterated there were children around and added, ‘You’re disrespecting the parents here by straddling your boyfriend'.
"I wasn’t treating a domestic airport terminal like a strip club."
Ms Nathan, a writer, claims she felt "slut-shamed" and believes she was targeted because of her Sri Lankan nationality. She then claims she was informed that the clothes she was wearing could have prevented her from boarding her flight:
"[The Jetstar employee] alleged my full-length trackies, runners, and crop top combo might get me refused on a flight. I noted the caucasian woman sitting opposite me wore a very short strapless dress but was left to her own devices.
"It seemed to me that Team Leader was in the mood to bully a woman of color who looks a lot younger than my 33 years of age, and is, therefore, an easy target."
A spokesperson for Jetstar has denied any discriminatory behavior on behalf of their airline staff. They said: "We don’t tolerate discrimination in any form and our teams dispute allegations they were acting in this way."
After feeling "shocked, humiliated, and enraged" by the incident, Ms Nathan has said that the airline's behavior continued after landing back in Melbourne. After contacting the Jetstar Customer Service team via their live-chat service, she informed them of what had occurred in Sydney and an image what she was wearing at the airport. She said:
"There were some very odd responses from their online complaints handling team, which only added salt to the wound."
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After asking the online chat team if her outfit was deemed appropriate to fly in, Ms Nathan received the following baffling response:
"I have checked the photo and I think you are very beautiful, your boyfriend must be very lucky to have you."
The online chat team added that they agreed that Ms Nathan should not have been sat on her boyfriend's knee, adding: "I can understand that you were not engaging in a sexual activity, but then again I believe that this kind of body language must be done in a private place."
A spokesperson from Jetstar has confirmed that an investigation into the incident is continuing, telling news.com.au:
"We are speaking to our airport team to better understand what happened. We apologize to Serah for the manner in which her query was handled by our online customer service representative which fell well short of the standards we expect."