Act Straight and Fly Right !

Now that international sanctions have been lifted in Iran, more and more travel will be destined to and from that country.  And then maybe not for the gay kind.   Iran is one amongst the 79 countries where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death.  All MENA countries are included in the anti-homosexual list.  One of this morning’s news stories on The Daily Beast is Dana Kennedy’s article, Gay Air France Flight Attendants Say No to Iran.  According to the article:

Air France recently announced that it will resume thrice-weekly flights to Iran from Paris next week after an eight-year hiatus due to international sanctions.

Problems first arose a week ago, when female flight attendants and female pilots were angered by a memo saying they’d have to wear head scarves when exiting the plane in Tehran. Air France, in a compromise negotiated with the unions, eventually agreed to let female flight attendants opt out of the Iran flights if they wanted—without retribution. [1]

So if the females can opt-out, so can they reasoned the gay flight attendants, on the bases of life endangerment.  The airline has not resolved the dispute with this request.  So far more than 15,000 people have signed the petition.  Air Frances policy states that if any crew member refuses to fly to any of their destinations, they are subject to salary decreases and being reprimanded.  Another source wrote:

So far, Air France has given no indication it plans to meet the petitioners’ demands.

In a written reply to FRANCE 24’s request for comment, the company noted that it already flies to a range of countries that “have restrictive legislation regarding homosexuality”, and that none of these routes have presented a problem in the past.

“The cabin crew profession inherently involves working in countries whose cultures and rules are very different from ours,” the airline’s press office said, adding that “Air France management always strives to ensure that staff members work in the safest environment possible”.

Trade unions have not openly rallied behind the petitioners’ demands, though a spokesperson for France’s Union of Civil Aviation Cabin Crews (UNAC) union told French weekly Le Point that the opt-out clause should apply to all workers, “regardless of gender or sexual orientation”.

Unions say Air France cabin crew who refuse to fly a given route are liable to be officially reprimanded and face a salary cut.

Last week, a spokesperson for the cabin crew branch of France’s National Organisation of Autonomous Unions (UNSA PNC) told FRANCE 24 that refusal to work on a route could “damage staff members’ careers and prevent their promotion”. [2]

As I am reading these articles, I cannot help but think about what ever happen to the notion of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  Is that archaic now days?  Or is that just the US Military’s policy?  A comment on one of the articles mentioned, that Sexual Orientation is not a written disclosure on passports.  So really what is the problem with flying to a destination with a turn around time of several hours to 24 hours? Who needs to know and who cares.  Those countries also have strict rules and customs about interacting with members of the opposite sex as well.  Hotels and apartment buildings can and will interfere with guests of the opposite sex from visiting one’s room and apartment.  Trust my confession as a heterosexual.   So instead of wearing their “I’m Gay and Proud of it” lapel button, the gay flight attendants can wear buttons that declare “Really, I am straight” just as a precaution to save their own lives. Otherwise, who would be the wiser for their sexual orientation?  I have never seen so many men holding hands together, as I had when I worked in the Middle East.  I was forewarned by my former boss that this was not a sign of their homosexuality but just customary for Indian men.  Okay, if you say so.

These countries are just as strict with their moral laws for heterosexuals as well.  What a precedent it will set if the gay flight crew members refuse to go into anti-homosexual territories.  Then the heterosexuals will demand their rights to boycott as well because their freedoms will also be curtailed to various degrees, to be able to rendezvous and mingle with members of the opposite sex. These countries did not just, last week, show up on the earth with their own codes of conduct.  Why is it now a matter of concern for airline personnel?   I would suggest to homosexuals and heterosexuals alike to just consider it a Fast when you are in these countries for 24 hours.  Or change careers if one truly cannot comply with other countries’ culture and customs.  Why go into the international travel business as a career in the first place, if one cannot tolerate or respect foreign diverse cultures?

The same boss, previously mentioned, was the project director for the airports in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.  Upon my arrival he offered me some more good advice, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”.  This will only make sense to you if you are familiar with the children’s story, The Wizard of Oz.  So consider OZ as any foreign country with culture and customs different than your own.

It seems to me that these fears are baseless.  I don’t know for a fact but my gut instincts tell me that the number of gay flight attendants that have had their heads chopped off after landing in one of these anti-homosexual countries is zero (0).  So don’t come out of the closet, I mean the plane, in a flaunty gay manner and you should survive.  I think.  Moving on, let’s read more about what Air France thinks:

Air France said it has no plans to change policy in this instance. The airline already flies to nearly 20 other countries that have “restrictive legislation relating to homosexuality,” including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India and Nigeria, it said in a statement emailed to CNNMoney.

“We have not had any issues in recent years in [these] countries,” it added. “Air France management carries out constant monitoring to ensure that all members of its flight crews can perform their duties in the safest possible conditions.”

Lufthansa (DLAKY) has been flying to Iran for years. A spokesperson for the German carrier told CNNMoney it has never heard about any staff concerns related to homosexual persecution in Iran. [3]

The late Nat King Cole and his daughter, Natalie Cole sang a little catchy song called, Fly Right.  Air France and all other airlines whose staff signed the petition may want to play it on their plane’s intercom and in-flight music choices.  I don’t know what it was supposed to mean, but it somehow seems appropriate for this breaking news.  It goes like this:

A buzzard took the monkey for a ride in the air
The monkey thought that ev’rything was on the square
The buzzard tried to throw the monkey off his back
But the monkey grabbed his neck and said, now, listen, Jack

Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down papa, don’t you blow your top

Ain’t no use in divin’, what’s the use of jivin’
Straighten up and fly right

Of course, I would change the title of the song to Act Straight and Fly Right.



The Daily Beast, Gay Air France Flight Attendants Say No to Iran by Dana Kennedy

France 24, Middle East section, Air France’s gay stewards join protest of Iran flights by Boris Horvat

CNN, Gay Protest Over Air France Flight to Iran by Alanna Petroff