'Alcoholic Tongans will drink bar dry', Air New Zealand warns cabin crew

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The Independent Online

Air New Zealand has been forced to apologise for a training manual which advises crew members to keep a close eye on Tongan passengers in case they "drink the bar dry".

The manual, published in New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times, was roundly criticised for its generalisations about a range of nationalities. Koreans, it warns cabin staff, demand good manners, while Thais expect a souvenir.

Hong Kong Chinese are said to be demanding, while mainland Chinese are not fussy. As for Samoans, they are said to "appreciate a rug" because of coming from a hot country. But it was the stereotyping of Tongans as "uncontrollable alcoholics" in the handbook – which also features grooming standards for the crew, banning blue eyeshadow, monobrows and nasal hair – that caused particular offence.

Melino Maka, chairman of the New Zealand-based Tongan Advisory Council, told the New Zealand Herald: "I don't think Tongans are any different from others when there's free access to alcohol."

An airline spokesman Alan Gaskin said the advice was not intended to upset anyone. "This section of the document was designed as a reference guide to ensure international cabin crew were familiar with the expectations of the diverse range of nationalities Air New Zealand carries on its international services," he said. Mr Gaskin said the manual had been updated and no longer contained cultural assumptions.

It does, however, still feature strict deportment and grooming codes for crew. Women, it says, must "always pluck the hair between the brows", and avoid fringes that conceal eyebrows and obvious hair extensions. Bright red, pink, purple and orange lipstick are banned, as are unnatural looking tans and smelly breath.

Men are instructed to clean-shave their necks, trim ear and nostril hair and ensure goatees do not obscure their lips. They are permitted to wear one solid bangle, but no earrings.

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