(Reuters) — Actress and U.N. women's rights ambassador NicoleKidman is under fire for her role as the face of Etihad Airways,the second-largest airline of the United Arab Emirates.
In an open letter to Kidman, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) criticised the Australian star forassociating with a company with "abhorrent" policies for femaleemployees, and for the country's poor track record on women's rights.
"The United Arab Emirates and their airlines arewell-known in our industry for their discriminatory labour practices anddeplorable treatment of female employees," said APFA's national president LauraR. Glading in the letter.
Citing a Wall Street Journal report, APFA, whichrepresents some 25,000 professional flight attendants with AmericanAirlines, said Etihad can fire female employees who become pregnantand has forced flight attendants to live in "confinement" incompounds.
APFA urged Kidman to terminate her professional partnershipwith Etihad, which began last month, saying it was at odds with her roleas U.N. Women Goodwill ambassador, a position Kidman has held since2006.
"Our commitment to the welfare, safety, and well-beingof the diverse group of men and women who have worked so hard to make Etihad Airwaysgreat is one of our airline's top priorities," Etihad said in astatement in response to the allegations.
"Contrary to counter claims, Etihad fullysupports its cabin crew during and after their pregnancy," the airlinesaid in the statement. "When a cabin crew member informs Etihad ofa pregnancy, she is provided with appropriate ground duties for the duration oftheir pregnancy...She remains fully compensated and fully engaged on theground."
The Abu Dhabi-based airline invited APFA members tomeet its employees and visit its operations to "experience firsthandthe Etihad Airways workplace and culture."
The APFA letter to Kidman comes at a time when leading U.S.airline firms, including American Airlines, United ContinentalHoldings andDelta Air Lines, are pushing for the federal government to curtailthe expansion of Gulf airlines into the American market.
The U.S.-based carriers claim that Etihad andEmirates Airline, owned by the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar Airways, ownedby the Qatari government, pose unfair competition due to hefty statesubsidies, which the Gulf airlines deny.
Representatives for Kidman and U.N. Women didn'timmediately respond to requests for comment.