New Delhi, Mar 31: A bunch of air hostesses of SpiceJet has accused the low-cost airline of strip-searching them at Chennai airport. A video featuring angry air hostesses has gone viral on social media. The crew members alleged that they were searched after de-boarding on the suspicion that they were swindling cash collected from the sale of food and other items onboard.

The crew members said that they had worked with the airline for five years and possess an excellent track record. “We were treated as criminals the moment we stepped down from the aircraft. Two male ground staff escorted us one at the front and the other at the rear from the aircraft to the crew vehicle till the crew dispatch,” the air hostesses reportedly wrote in a letter to the airline’s chairman Ajay Singh.

The letter which was accessed by leading daily The Hindu reads,”They took both of us (she and her colleague) to a room where already 4 to 5 female ground staff were waiting along with the In-flight co-ordinator of Hyderabad Base. They said they needed to check our bags and everything as it was an order from the higher management and we should cooperate.”

“They opened our bags and checked everything and all the personal and private belongings even though they were sealed. They made us open our shoes and checked the heels of the shoes. After the bag check was over, we (me and my crew) were treated in an inhuman way,” the letter said.

“The staff forced us to take off our undergarments and we were frisked maliciously and in an inappropriate manner which I am ashamed to mention here,” one of the air-hostesses said in the letter.

“They unzipped our uniforms, put their hands inside and frisked our private body parts, violating our fundamental right to privacy to the core. After the checks and frisking were over, we were told we can leave the room with our scattered bag belongings. I was completing my post-flight work they called me and said they need to frisk my body again and took me to that room. The second time frisking was worse and beyond imagination. I feel humiliated, embarrassed, mistreated and insulted,” she claimed.

“All these happened in front of all those female staffs from the ground service present in the room and some male staffs waiting outside. The room did not have CCTVs — what if people there could have crossed their limits,” the letter added.

“In all my life, I have never been treated like this. My dignity, my privacy has been hurt and violated to the core and my femininity has been targeted and degraded. This kind of environment doesn’t seem to be safe. I speak on the behalf of other honest and dedicated cabin crew that none of us deserve to be treated like this as though we are thieves,” the airhostess added.

Reacting over the claims, the airline said the allegations regarding deviation from SOPs were being investigated and strict action would be taken if anybody was found guilty.

“One of the objectives of this search is to ensure that there is no pilferage of company money/goods, smuggling or any illegal activity that an employee may be lured into. This also ensures security and safety of our passengers, employees and assets. This search is essentially the same as what any passenger goes through at any of the Indian airports,” said a SpiceJet spokesperson.

During the searches on March 28 and March 29, a few cases of pilferages were detected and appropriate disciplinary action was initiated, the spokesperson added.

Here is SpiceJet’s full statement:

SpiceJet is a responsible airline that takes pride in its employees.

As per security and safety SOP, random “pat down” search is conducted on various employees, including cabin crew, from time to time – a global industry practice. One of the objectives of this search is to ensure that there is no pilferage of company moneys/goods, smuggling or any illegal activity that an employee may be lured into. This also ensures security and safety of our passengers, our employees and our assets.

This search essentially is the same as what any passenger goes through at any of the Indian airports while going through security check. These searches are conducted as per strict norms laid down by the security agencies in CLOSED ROOMS, and by well trained employees of SAME GENDER (ONLY WOMEN SECURITY STAFF SEARCH WOMEN EMPLOYEES).

Based on a specific security tip off following certain recent instances in other airlines, SpiceJet’s Security team undertook searches at few of our stations on the night of 28/29 March. A few cases of pilferage were detected and appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated.

These searches are not only a normal aviation industry practice, but also in multiple industries across the world. SpiceJet has a well laid down Standard Operating Procedure for such activity, which has been stringently followed.

Allegations regarding deviation from these SOPs are being investigated and strict action will be taken if anybody is found guilty. If the allegations are found to be untrue/false, then the media reports are defamatory in nature.