There was a time, in the long ago days, when the person who brought you your meal or beverage on an airplane was female, young, slim, and sexually appealing to the gentlemen on board.
A stewardess had to maintain her figure and watch her weight, or get fired. The restrictions had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with enticing business travelers. Marketing an airline was all about the prettiest girls, and ugly girls need not apply. If they wanted to work for an airline, they could answer the phones where no one would have to gaze upon their homely mugs.
Jeff Smisek, CEO of Continental Airlines, must be forgiven for adhering to an old image. He can't help himself.
In his mind, it's the pretty girl who makes the best match and it's the ugly girl who has to settle for whatever she can get. Obvious to him, then, that Continental was the pretty girl in the United Airlines courtship.
His airline got ahead on its looks, a swivel of the hips, a flutter of an eyelash. That left US Airways to play the role of ugly girl, sitting along the wall praying to get asked to dance.
Little wonder that the CEO of US Airways fired back, calling Mr. Smisek both chauvinistic and insulting to the employees of US Airways. You think US Airways is the ugly girl? Then Continental is the dumb blond, the airhead---the gold-digger who's only after a man's money and she has no intention of being faithful.
As for the female employees of all three firms involved in merger talks, they can shake their heads and sigh. A cabin attendant can't be fired for getting old or losing her pre-gravida figure, but the mentality at the top still hasn't changed.
A woman can be highly competent, efficient, well-organized and just plain smart, but if she isn't pretty, the CEOs think she's inferior. Not exactly what you want to hear when you're looking to move ahead in the airline industry.