VietJet’s CEO became Southeast Asia’s first self-made female billionaire last year.
The airline is a discount carrier flying narrowbody aircraft mostly domestically although with several routes now into Asia. Four years ago the airline was fined 20 million Dong over unapproved inflight entertainment. It wasn’t a problem with the installation of a seatback video system. Instead, 5 bikini-clad candidates in a local beauty contest performed a dance onboard the airline’s inaugural flight to Nha Trang.
Since the 3-minute show had not been approved in advance, it was deemed a violation of aviation and security regulations. And the airline was fine — the equivalent of $959.
Since then they’ve branded themselves the bikini airline. And the airline’s CEO sees the campaigns and onboard stunts as empowering, even feminist given conservative Vietnamese mores.
The bikinis won’t go everywhere, though — like Malaysia. VietJet learned “from its experience with the opening of a route to Malaysia” that you can’t staff planes with bikini-clad flight attendants to all destinations.
The airline’s ability to fly to Jakarta, Indonesia has been contingent on two things.
- “halal food for Muslim passengers”
- Flight attendants can’t wear bikinis
The insistence on fully-clothed flight attendants rose to the level of international diplomacy, with Indonesia’s Ambassador to Vietnam explaining away the airline’s past antics.
Indonesia’s ambassador to Vietnam, Ibnu Hadi, has confirmed that VietJet’s flight attendants will be appropriately attired to and from Indonesia while announcing the imminent opening of VietJet’s Ho Chi Minh City-Jakarta route.
“I’d like to explain that the bikini (stunt) was only for one event. It was for the airline’s launch of their new route to Nha Trang, which is a resort city so that’s why they wore bikinis. (The airline) has been reprimanded by their (the Vietnamese) government for their stunt,” Ibnu said yesterday, as quoted by Liputan 6 yesterday.
To be sure “Vietjet Air has assured Indonesia that flight attendants serving its upcoming route from Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City.. would not be wearing bikinis.” They didn’t assure Indonesia that their flight attendants wouldn’t be wearing lingerie. See, you’ve got to be careful of the fine print.
In any case, the desire of some countries – like VietJet’s earlier experience in Malaysia — is utterly hypocritical, Malaysian carrier Malindo Air required women to remove their tops while interviewing to be flight attendants.
According to Malindo Air’s director of public relations, “It is the right of the employer to request potential flight attendants to expose their chests to interviewers.”