A DUBIOUS ACHIEVEMENT indeed for the fairer sex is the current brouhaha over Southwest Airline’s first “unmanned” flight—that is, women flying a commercial airliner without a man in the crew, including the cockpit. I use the word ‘dubious’ in regards to this event only to bring attention to the fact that it took this long for an American airline to assemble an all-female crew on a commercial airline flight.
This should have been seen as rather astounding and remarked upon by the corporate media.
It was not.
As publicity, this has been a natural for decades! In fact, I can’t help but wonder how many people in how many airline publicity departments did suggest just such a ploy over the past few decades only to have it shot down by the powers-that-be.
While the term the powers-that-be is generally “is a phrase used to refer to those individuals or groups who collectively hold authority over a particular domain” (that is, the people in authority), in contemporary America it is also commonly a euphemism for older, white, wealthy, conservative males with only interested in maintaining the status quo that maintains their position as the powers-that-be.
Now known for their clever and colorful advertising, Southwest Airlines was once better known for its colorfully and cleverly—if scantily—attired stewardesses.
Yesterday’s big deal today
For whatever reason—it’s finally happened: on October 18, 2017, a maleless Boeing 737 Max 8 flew from St. Louis to San Francisco, kicking off a flourish of media attention. Was the flight was by design? Or was it a coincidence caused by the randomness of a computer assembling a crew out of those available and not giving a hoot as to the sex of the assigned human?
Either way, what we have been reading for the past few days is what a Big Deal it is, when we should be reading about why it wasn’t a Big Deal thirty years ago.
For those who want to read a little more—and a little more is all we’re being offered—click on over to “Southwest Celebrates First ‘Unmanned’ Max 8 Flight While Shutting Down Haters” by Carla Herreria (Huffington Post on October 18, 2017). The third sentence reads:
“The flight staff took a photo of themselves after realizing that the day’s shift was made up of all women,” can be read to mean that the staffing of an entirely female crew was not intentional.
This is a casual photo of the all-female crew used in thousands of pieces on the event. The minus? There wasn’t any information on who these people are attached to this photo. The plus? They didn’t tell us what the crew was wearing.
But do enough research—even on the much maligned World Wide Web—and you will often find that the truth is out there—or at least I do. Apparently, the whole brouhaha over this “unmanned flight” was a publicity stunt!
Southwest was not calling attention to the first time an all-female crew flew one of their flights, but were heralding the flight as the first-ever all-woman flight crew aboard the company’s new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft fleet!
That is, this wasn’t much of a first at all. The airline’s own website noted that “it’s not uncommon to see an entire Flight Crew of women. Oakland Captain Cindee Goes happened to notice on a recent flight to Las Vegas that her entire Crew, as well as the Operations Agent and Customer Service Agent at the gate, were all women!”
It seems that it would not be unfair to read into this that Southwest was belatedly realizing that it had not capitalized on the publicity of the original first all-female-flight whenever that event took place years ago—that they were simply playing a clever form of catch-up with this all-female event in 2017.
“Captain Sherri Maple made history at Southwest Airlines by being our first woman Check Airman, and she also became the first female pilot to become a Chief Pilot at Southwest at our Phoenix base and one of the first female Chief Pilots in the US airline industry in 1997.” (Southwest)
Women flying without brooms!
My initial intention with this article was to poke fun at the charade that this event is marking progress, when it can just as easily be read as evidence of how far behind we’re lagging in overturning generations of gender inequality.
I had also intended to mention the popular association of haggard witches flying on equally battered brooms, but thought better of it. (As Radha Mitchell delightedly exclaimed throughout Mozart And The Whale, “Hah!”)
But at least the attendant publicity for this flight has given us an answer to the ageless question:
Are women as capable as men of flying 200 passengers at 600 mph through the friendly skies of America on a daily basis without sleep while under the influence of drugs and alcohol?
FEATURED IMAGE: I found the great photo at the top of this page by typing “flying woman” into Google and then previewing the images that appeared. Oddly, while I was able to access the image, the link to the accompanying article led me to a blank, white 404 error page, so I can’t give anyone the credit they deserve for this photo.