CA upholds PAL's early retirement of female flight attendants

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) on Monday, July 16, cited the biological differences between men and women when it arrived at a ruling that the early retirement of female Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight attendants was necessary to ensure the safety of the airline's passengers.

A 20-page decision from Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez said the biological differences would affect a cabin crew member's duty to guarantee the safety of passengers in times of emergencies, when evacuations of the aircraft are needed. (TIMELINE: PAL-FASAP retrenchment case, and what happened in 20 years)

The CA said: “Passenger safety goes to the core of the job of a cabin attendant. Truly, airlines need cabin attendants who have the necessary strength to open emergency doors, the agility to attend to passengers in cramped working conditions, and the stamina to withstand grueling flight schedules."

For a 'longer and happier life'

The CA, in its ruling, also said providing female flight attendants with early retirement would allow the women "a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes and restore a well-balanced life."

The CA's ruling also said, "petitioners-appellees will have more time to spend with their families and friends as well as the opportunity to pursue activities and hobbies that they may not have had the time to do in the past."

"Early retirement can also potentially improve their physical and mental health, which in turn can help them live a longer and happier life," the ruling added.

Discriminatory?

PAL sought to reverse a decision made on May 22, 2015, by the Regional Trial Court of Makati (RTC-Makati).  

RTC-Makati declared null and void section 144 of the 2000-2005 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between PAL and the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap) as it was discriminatory. This provision set a compulsory retirement age for female and male flight attendants – 55 for women, and 60 for men.

The appellate court, which granted PAL's petition, said the provision was valid and binding, adding the provision was in accordance with Labor Code provisions letting employers and employees adjust applicable retirement ages at 60 years or below, given that any employee's retirement benefits "under any CBA and other agreements shall not be less than those provided therein.”

The CA, in its decision, noted compulsory retirement ages had been raised in earlier CBAs, with the questioned provision for compulsory retirement held as not void or discriminatory since Fasap could have accepted or refused it.

"But since Fasap voluntarily assented to the questioned provision, there is a reasonable presumption that it is beneficial and acceptable to its members,” the CA said.

The CA added early retirement ages for female flight attendants was part of PAL's obligation toward ensuring due diligence in keeping their flights safe for passengers.

"Well-enshrined is the rule that employers have the prerogative to impose productivity and quality standards at work. Even more so for PAL, from which exacting standards are demanded, by virtue of its being a common carrier,” the CA said.

Associate justices Japar Dimaampao and Manuel Barrios concurred with the ruling. – Rappler.com