Female travellers blast Sydney Airport over ‘humiliating’ treatment05/06/2023
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Yumi Lee of Blacktown, Sydney, passed through security at Sydney Airport’s international terminal ahead of a holiday to Malaysia in January, when a security officer ordered her to remove her jacket.
The only problem? She wasn’t wearing one.
“I was stunned because I was wearing a blouse. I told him so, and he shouted ‘take off your jacket’ multiple times,” Lee said. “He then shouted at me, ‘I can stop you from getting to your plane’… I was shaking. To be asked to remove my blouse was completely unthinkable.”
Some women have complained about their treatment by security staff at Sydney Airport.Credit: Flavio Brancaleone
The shirt was a collared pullover blouse with no zip and no buttons. Lee said the staff member didn’t relent until she showed him part of her camisole.
“Everyone who saw the blouse said there was no way that it could be mistaken for a jacket,” she said.
Lee later lodged a complaint with Sydney Airport, who passed on the feedback to Certis Security Australia. She is yet to receive a response.
Lee is one of several female travellers who have complained about their treatment by male security staff at Sydney Airport’s domestic and international terminals over the past 12 months.
A female airline executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her identity from their employer, told this masthead she had experienced a pattern of similar behaviour towards women by Sydney Airport security staff; in particular orders to remove clothing for body scanners while men walk through in suits, jackets and jumpers.
“The incidents have been slowly increasing. But mostly the issue is the way the Sydney staff behave; how they shout orders at you, don’t say please, and don’t give instruction, leaving passengers confused,” she said.
The airline employee noted that when she didn’t display her aviation security ID card she would “have to strip right down to a singlet or a camisole and take off my shoes and Apple Watch.”
The Department of Home Affairs advises that travellers who have a negative experience at security screening can ask to speak to the on-duty screening supervisor at the time, or lodge a complaint directly with the screening authority, in this case Sydney Airport. However, the airline executive’s past attempts to lodge complaints were denied on the spot, she claims.
“I asked for a team leader, twice, and they weren’t able to provide one. That’s a requirement if a customer wants to make a complaint,” she said.
“If I contrast it to how [security behave] in other ports – Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth – that job can be done with a better level of customer service.”
Sydney Airport declined to comment on Lee’s case, but did acknowledge a rise in customer complaints in 2022 as they rebuilt their security workforce and new staff got up to speed.
The airport reported complaints about security, which is run by Singaporean-owned contractor Certis Group, have nearly halved since 2022 following a major recruitment drive – down to one in 100,000 passengers.
Sidone Thomas, chief operating officer, said: “We took the feedback seriously and it’s pleasing to see the number of complaints returning to pre-pandemic levels, reflecting the ongoing focus on staff training and education.”
“We want all passengers to feel respected and valued and will continue to work with our security contractor on staff education and training.”
Certis Security Australia issued a response saying all complaints were taken seriously, and that its security officers were all subject to compliance and customer service audits, as well as receiving annual refresher training.
“This training includes communicating effectively with diverse groups, providing exceptional customer service, working with respect, security with professionalism, respecting cultures and religions, screening of special needs, interacting with diverse customers and understanding gender recognition and respect,” the statement read. “Certis Security Australia’s discrimination and victimisation policy is also regularly communicated to all staff.”
Both cases come nearly a year after improvements were promised following a high-profile incident involving ABC journalist Louise Milligan, in which she was asked to remove a fitted suit jacket despite telling staff she only had a camisole underneath. After her ordeal gained traction on Twitter, the airport apologised to Milligan and stated it would work with its contractor on improving customer service.
United Workers Union spokesperson Damien Davie, who represents some of Certis Group’s security staff, has previously stated that the workers don’t receive the same level of training and pay as their counterparts at other airports, with wages ranging between $23.27 and $26.57 an hour.
“Our members have told us that the subcontracted staff are poorly trained and slow down the screening process at Sydney Airport. Whereas security staff at other Australian airports such as Brisbane and Melbourne are directly employed,” Davie said in a statement last December.
The federal government expects employers to provide training to ensure travellers are treated with respect and dignity during the screening process, and to an extent to ensure compliance with federal discrimination laws.
If someone is made to feel uncomfortable as part of the screening process, complaints can be lodged directly with the screening authority or with TravelSECURE (homeaffairs.gov.au).
The airport incidents come after a report found 46 per cent of Australian female business travellers are concerned about being harassed or disrespected because of their gender or sexuality.
The report by risk management firm World Travel Protection, which surveyed 2000 business travellers globally, also found more than 36 per cent of Australian women don’t travel or venture out on their own at night due to safety concerns.
The latest travel news, tips and inspiration delivered to your inbox. Sign up now.
Most viewed on Traveller
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article