Lifestyle & Belief

Indonesia's Garuda airline accused of subjecting would-be flight attendants to breast examinations


A Garuda Indonesia jet lands and another prepares to take off at Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta.


Romeo Gacad

Indonesia's national airline has been accused of demanding applicants for stewardess jobs strip almost naked and submit to breast examinations.

Dozens of South Korean women have come forward to say they were subjected to humiliating "medical" examinations during interviews for 18 flight attendant jobs with Garuda Indonesia last month, according to AFP.

One of the applicants said she was told to strip to her panties to prove she did not have tattoos or breast implants.

An airline official confirmed to South Korea's Yonhap news agency that a male Indonesian doctor physically inspected the applicants' breasts as part of the screening process.

"The hand examination on breast was held since those with implants can have health issues when air pressure falls during flights," the official said.

"We conduct full examination of skin on the basis of the religious guideline prohibiting tattoos," she added.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

Industry sources and women's rights groups dismissed the airline's explanation as nonsense.

"We've never heard of or done such checkup on flight attendants," a spokesman for South Korea's flag carrier Korean Air told AFP, calling Garuda's tests "bizarre".

"I wonder if that means passengers with breast implants should not fly also."

The Korea Herald newspaper quoted a "domestic airline company insider" as saying Garuda Indonesia's breast examinations had no justification.

"I cannot believe that an international carrier has actually conducted a test in such a way. Of course there is a medical test. But it never involves getting semi-naked and (being) touched on the breasts," the source said.

A flight attendant with another airline described the examination as "insulting and inhumane", while Korean women's rights activist LeeKoo Kyung-sook said it smacked of "sexual assault."

"The ban on breast implantation sounds almost absurd. Does that mean people who have received plastic surgeries shouldn’t be on board?" she asked.

A spokesman for Garuda Indonesia's Seoul office told AFP breast examinations were not routine procedure and promised an investigation, calling the allegations "very embarrassing."