PC Air hired four of “Ladyboy” flight attendants, some of whom were among the crew when the airline made its debut trip between Bangkok and the southern city of Surat Thani last month.
The start-up airline decided to set itself apart from its competitors by hiring “katoeys” – as transsexuals are know in Thailand – when it received more than 100 applicants from “ladyboys” for the jobs.
Thailand has one of the world’s largest populations of “ladyboys” and Thai doctors are pioneers in gender reassignment because of the high demand from men wishing to become women in the country.
“Ladyboys” are widely accepted in socially conservative though tolerant Thailand, often working in the cosmetics shops and health stores.
Some only chose to dress and make-up as women rather than having a sex change operation that can be fraught with complications.
But the four “ladyboy” hostesses hired by PC Air in February – along with 19 male and seven male cabin crew – have all had sex change operations.
PC Air’s chairman, Peter Chan, said he wanted to expand the opportunities open to “katoeys”, but also believed they would be a boon to his airline because of they are service-minded.
The “ladyboy” flight attendants were picked on the basis that they moved like women and spoke with feminine voices. They have undergone training in airline security and safety, make-up and flight service.
Chayathisa Nakmai, who made her inaugural flight from Bangkok to Vientiane in neighbouring Laos on Christmas Eve, said it had been her lifelong ambition to become an air hostess.
“It’s always been my dream since I was little to work as a flight attendant,” she said. “I feel glad and proud. My parents are proud of me too. It’s more difficult for transgender people to be flight attendants because it’s the first chance we’ve had to do this job.” The “ladyboy” stewardesses wear special gold-coloured “third sex” name tags to distinguish them, but few on the flight to Vientiane were able to tell them apart from the female crew.
“I still don’t know who is a ‘ladyboy’,” said Anut Pruksuwat. “I think they’re all very friendly. They provide great service to the passengers.”