Hannah Rowlands was doing her job as a Qantas flight attendant where she’d worked for over six years when she says she felt the warmth of his breath on the back of her neck. Her manager’s breath. She shut him down immediately, slapping his hand away.
“Can you not touch me?” she asked firmly. “Not now, not ever, don’t touch me’.”
The following week, she says it was his hand on her bum.
“Oh, for a little girl you’ve got a tight arse,” Hannah alleges the man said as he continued to slap her, over and over. Hard.
“It was a lot of times. You know when you’re young and your brother slaps you and it stings you, that’s what it was like, that’s how hard it was,” Hannah told The Project’s Hamish Macdonald of the moment her superior sexually harassed her mid-flight.
“I always thought if something ever like that happened to me it would be an instant reaction… and I couldn’t move, I was like frozen or something, I don’t know what had happened. And then he walked off and I just burst into tears.”
She was the poster girl for Qantas – a star employee and the face of the airline. But Hannah Rowlands’ dream job quickly turned into a nightmare after she says she was sexually harassed mid-flight. #TheProjectTV pic.twitter.com/kZQb34gjTwAdvertisement
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Following the incident in May 2015, Hannah approached her employer and filed a formal complaint against her on-board manager.
She’d always wanted to be a flight attendant and was proud to walk through the terminal and see her face on the banners, and on the safety demonstrations as the face of Qantas.
Hannah didn’t want her harasser to be fired or demoted. She only requested to not be rostered on shifts with that manager again. Within the six months that followed, she says they were rostered on together seven or eight times.
Hannah was told that while it was impossible to guarantee she wouldn’t be rostered on with the man, she wasn’t compelled to work with him. She was however offered telephone counselling and face-to-face mediation with the man who’d harassed her.
Eventually Hannah saw no other option but to quit the job she loved so much.
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Qantas declined the opportunity to be interviewed by The Project, instead providing the program with a statement.
“We take harassment in the workplace very seriously. Once we became aware of the incident, it was thoroughly investigated. The employee immediately apologised and showed remorse. It was clearly inappropriate and a number of steps were taken to directly address the conduct with the individual,” a spokeswoman told The Project.
“Qantas was very empathetic to her situation and provided her with a lot of support, including rostering flexibility. We assured her that she would never be compelled to work with the person with whom she made the claims.”
Hannah has since decided to leave the airline industry, the industry she’d dreamt of working in since she was young. Her harasser still has his job. But in Hannah’s mind, he has not won.
“He hasn’t won because he has to live with himself every single day.
“Maybe now [others] will come forward and won’t feel scared. And then by the time my kids go to work, my little girl or boy will be safe from this behaviour. And if not, they’ll have the tools to report it properly and get justice.”
If you or anyone you know is in need of help, please contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.
To read Qantas’ full statement, visit The Project website.