Thai airline hires transsexuals as flight attendants

A newly formed Thai airline is employing transsexuals as flight attendants, in a bid to provide them equal opportunity.

'Ketoeys' or ladyboys, who are highly visible in mainstream jobs in Thailand, will work as flight attendants on the Asian routes of a charter airline 'PC Air', starting April this year.

PC Air earlier decided to hire males and females for the job but later changed its plan after it received more than 100 applications of transgenders, media reports said.

Airline boss Peter Chan said recruitment, driven by a belief in equal rights, would continue. "I think these people can have many careers, not just in the entertainment business, and many of them have a dream to be an air hostess. I just made their dream come true," he said.

Four ladyboys are initially chosen along with 19 female and 7 male flight attendants, but they will behave like woman in their walk and talk. "Our initial quota was set at three transsexuals, but we will consider taking more in the future depending on their qualifications," a PC Air spokeswoman said.

The transgender attendants will wear a special gold-coloured 'third-sex' name tag to help passengers and immigration authorities know what gender they are dealing with. Thanyarat Jiraphatpakorn, winner of the 2007 Miss Tiffany transsexual beauty pageant, is among the successful candidates.

"At first I thought they would just take applications but not actually recruit us, as has happened at other places before," Thanyarat, 23, was reported as saying by The Nation newspaper.

Transsexuals have higher visibility in Thailand than in many other nations, holding mainstream jobs in a variety of fields. They are especially common in cosmetics shops or health stores, which almost always have a ladyboy shop assistant.