Service, not servitude, says SIA

SINGAPORE - Believing that the Singapore Girl is a great way to fly is not sexist, the airline says.

In fact, the woman clad in her trademark sarong kebaya is the "most appropriate icon" to represent Singapore Airline's promise of top-notch service.

Mr Sheldon Hee, SIA's vice-president of marketing, communications and development, said SIA's critics should not "associate service with servitude".

"If the cabin crew best represents our philosophy of good service and hospitality, then to say that you cannot use a model of service to represent the brand is looking at things with a narrow view," he said.

While the Singapore Girl has undergone a few changes in recent years, she remains a lightning rod for controversy, with some people calling her portrayal in advertisements sexist and demeaning.

Mr Hee responded: "We are a hospitality brand and hospitality by nature is service. A great hostess or host should then be someone to be appreciated and celebrated."

SIA has about 7,800 cabin crew members and almost four in 10 are men. Mr Hee said male cabin crew have been featured for their expertise, such as sommelier skills.

"(But) it is still harder to distinguish ground crew or male cabin crew from other airlines... whereas the kebaya and the way we branded the SIA Girl is unique and is what people instantly recognise."

This article was first published on September 7, 2014.
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