An El Al airliner..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
El Al is drawing harsh criticism for a new policy requiring its female flight attendants to wear high heels until all customers have boarded its aircraft and are seated.
“I am not convinced that high heels are an absolute condition for women’s presentability, and certainly not for a female flight attendant who is required, as part of her job, to be on her feet for extended periods,” Galia Wallach, CEO of the women’s group Na’amat, wrote Sunday in a sharply worded letter to El Al CEO David Maimon.
The requirement could constitute gender discrimination, Wallach said, adding that the organization would consider legal action if the policy is not rescinded.
“I welcome Mr. Maimon to try walking in high heels for just one hour before requiring [flight attendants] to damage their health for no apparent reason,” she added. Before the new rule was instituted, flight attendants could change into comfortable shoes once they boarded the plane.
Similarly, Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich jeered the company for its policy on Twitter, writing: “I suggest that all the men in El Al’s management wear high heels at work. Let’s see them.”
Israel’s national carrier, which disclosed the new policy to employees in an email last week, responded by saying flight attendants are required to wear heels only until customers are seated and are free to change into more comfortable shoes for the duration of the flight.
“This practice is accepted in the airline industry worldwide,” a spokeswoman said.
An El Al flight attendant disagreed.
“I think if we start comparing El Al to other airlines, it’s not only about the heels,” said “L,” a flight attendant with El Al who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They claim that all the big companies are making this transition to [mandating] heels, but there are so many other aspects of flight service they need to improve if they want to be like the other large, successful companies – and they’re not. The issue of the shoes is so minor, I don’t think it will make a difference.”
Avi Avigdor, a foot expert and owner of an orthopedic shoe chain, said most high heels offer less support, put pressure on the ankle, squeeze toes together and can lead to foot, knee and back pain.
“I agree that flight attendants should look presentable and respectable, but not at any price,” he said.