The mile high club just got a whole lot weirder

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
The Punch /
February 21, 2011 /

Link to original unavailable /

An upstart Thai airline recently revealed that it had begun hiring “third sex” staff. By third sex, the airline means trannies. Pre-op, post-op, they don’t appear all that fussed; apparently they’re an inconclusive mob over there at PC Air. Which way to the aerobridge, fellas?

A win for the rights of transgender and transsexual people the world over? Hmm. I’m 30. Not so young, but certainly so, so cynical.

I’m guessing that the airline name comes from the initials of the founder, Peter Chan, although in the West, PC has connotations centred on computers. And politics. The later, no doubt, underpins the temptation to rejoice.

No surprises, I’m a bleeding heart. I want everyone treated better. Well, maybe not Lexus drivers, but pretty much everyone else. Better rights for women, for ethnic minorities, for the transgendered, for the transsexual. I want surgery choices respected, even those which make us queasy.

On the surface, inviting third sex applicants to cross the aerobridge seems like the kind of progress the Left has been waiting for. Equal access to employment, to the economy, of course, are fundamental to inclusion.

I’m just not so sure PC Air are really the equality champions they’re purporting.

Richard Branson is high up on my list of most loathed creeps. His entire empire appears largely built on scarcely-clever innuendo and scantily clad women draping themselves over his “assets”. Nowhere is this more evident than in the branding of his airlines.

Mind you, Branson didn’t concoct the idea of sexualising women in subordinate roles. He didn’t dream up form-fitting uniforms, didn’t coin the term “trolley dolly”. His airline just happily promoted the unofficial G-string policy.

From Southwest Airlines in the 70s, Singapore Airlines’ Singapore Girl in the 80s and more recently the sleazy efforts of Virgin Atlantic, V Australia and Russia’s Avianova, airlines have long seduced us into parting with our cash through the lure of lipstick and heels. Even Lynx, the favoured deodorant of zit-ridden fourteen-year-old boys everywhere, made notoriously good use of such staples.

Whether we like it or loathe it, sexual innuendo has long been an undercurrent of the airline industry. So, when a Thai airline boasts third sex staff, I’m inclined to wonder whether the dreams Chan is promising to make “come true” are those of his new third sex staff, or – as I suspect – of his passengers.

People travel to Thailand for all kinds of reasons including elephants, tinnies of Singha, hair braiding and counterfeit consumer foods. More controversially, some people go purely for the kinky sex.

A handful of countries have become destinations for people – most often, but not exclusively men – to procure the kind of sex they can’t get at home. Or the kind that’s illegal at home. Or frowned upon at home. Or damn well expensive at home.

Sex with “ladyboys” is a popular menu item in Thailand.

PC Air hasn’t quietly offered work to third sex employees in a gentle, unassuming, championing-of-human-rights kind of way. Nope, they’ve issued a press release. Chan’s calling himself a “pioneer”. The airline is positioning itself as some sort a doyenne of decency. And is simultaneously making the new staff wear special gold-coloured “third sex” badges. (Whether these will take the form of patches, sewn to uniform sleeves, is yet to be determined).

In a competitive market, airlines need to achieve cut-through. Just as Virgin Blue plays up the fun, sexy, youth elements and Qantas tries desperately to clutch on to patriotism and safety, PC Air is playing up the kink.

I like equal opportunity. I might even love it. Less appealing is what smells a little like exploitation, a lot like dirty marketing and in time, a whole lot like impending sexual harassment litigation.

© Lauren Rosewarne