While boarding an airline from Bristol, England to Cyprus, Greece, TUI Airways handed out stickers that read 'Future TUI Captain' to boys and 'Future TUI Cabin Crew' to girls, reports Metro.
Dame Gillian Morgan, a doctor-scientist who was on the flight, claims she was "absolutely sure" the staff deliberately handed out the stickers in a way that was "deeply sexist."
"The stickers were gender neutral but it's the way that they were handed out that makes it complicated," she told Metro. "In 30 years' time it might be likely that the majority of pilots will still be men but we should not be turning off the girls who are going to be the ones to walk on Mars."
Morgan, who is the Chair of NHS Providers, a trade association for the UK national health care service, was particularly disturbed by how the gender stereotyping impacts girls' futures in STEM.
"It happens implicitly all the time. The boys can have the Lego, the space rocket going to the moon, and the girls can have a little pony. 'We desperately need more women to do science, maths and engineering but little things like this take us backwards by providing restricting roles," she said.
Other passengers were disturbed by the stickers and took to Twitter to complain.
\u201c@TUIUK your cabin crew today chose "future tui cabin crew" stickers for the girls and "future pilot" for the boys, no female pilots then? \ud83d\udc7f\u201d
\u201cLovely touch by @TUIUK flying out to Corfu Friday by giving children TUI stickers and activity sheet.... not so lovely that all the boys were given \u201cfuture pilot\u201d stickers and the girls \u201cfuture cabin crew\u201d?! Sexist much? \ud83d\ude21\u201d
\u201c@baileyman72 @TUIUK @TUIUKcares I disagree..i think it \u201csubtly\u201d sends children messages that jobs are gendered. I tell my daughter she can have any job she wants, without boundaries, as long as she works hard enough. I feel that this undermines that.\u201d
"We're sorry to hear a small number of customers have been upset by this," a TUI airline spokesperson told Metro in a statement. "We think it has just been a simple mix-up since our future pilot and cabin crew stickers are designed for use for any child regardless of gender."
"The feedback we've had so far this summer has been overwhelmingly positive," the spokesperson continued. "Children fall in love with flying when they go on their holidays with us and we want to encourage their dreams of becoming future pilots and crew members."