EgyptAir stewards battle for right to grow beards

Bassem Abo Alabass, Tuesday 3 Jul 2012

In the post-Mubarak era, will the national carrier's cabin crew finally be allowed to sport facial hair? Legally, the matter is still up in the air

EgyptAir crew
Ready for take-off, or trimming? EgyptAir staff will hear a legal ruling soon (Photo: Ahram file)

EgyptAir is facing a legal case brought by several of its cabin crew that would allow them to sport beards at work.

The national carrier, along with many other airlines, prohibits stewards from wearing facial hair, saying it prefers to have 'clean cut' staff in direct contact with passengers.
On Monday, a number of EgyptAir staff presented a legal case to Cairo's Administrative Court to press for their right to -- as a report in Al-Ahram newspaper put it -- "unleash their beards".
The Committee for Settling Disputes, one of Egypt's judicial arms, has already recommended that the cabin staff be free to choose a hirsute appearance.
The plaintiffs have pledged that their prospective beards will be well-groomed and otherwise adhere to EgyptAir's criteria for smart and presentable cabin crew.
"We will respect the judge's verdict," said Dina El-Fooli, media spokeswoman for the Aviation Holding Company, which controls EgyptAir.
"If they rule in favour [of the staff] then we will not prevent them from having beards. 
"I think this kind of demand will become regular these days," she added.
The 'right' to wear facial hair is becoming a hot topic in Egypt following the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak and his regime, which enforced strict, yet unwritten, limits on signs of Islamic piety among its employees.
In February, a group of Egyptian police officers demanded that their employer, the Ministry of Interior, allow them to grow beards. They are still awaiting an official response from the ministry. The campaign received support from several ultra-conservative Salafist groups. 
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