Her powerful speech on International Women's Day last month - calling for equal rights for all women and girls - received global praise.

But now Hollywood star and UN Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman is facing questions about her own commitment to women's rights, after endorsing an airline accused over the alleged mistreatment of its female staff.

In an open letter, the 25,000 member strong Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) addressed the actress directly, urging her to end her involvement with United Arab Emirates-based Etihad Airways.

Laura Glading, national president of the APFA said: "We urge you, on behalf of the women and girls that you spoke to so eloquently, not to play a part in promoting Eithad Airways, a company that imposes abusive labour practices on its female employees and whose sole owner is a government that stands against the very world that you imagine".

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The letter, which praises the star for her work promoting women's rights, goes on to say: "Sadly, Etihad's abhorrent labor policies are hardly surprising when one considers the fact that the airline is wholly owned by the UAE, a country where the only thing that is being 'stepped up' for women and girls is the level of abuse".

The Wall Street Journal newspaper has claimed that Etihad workers are kept in "close supervision in company housing... work long hours and abide by contract terms that other parts of the world find objectionable".

According to the WSJ report, female attendants employed by Gulf air carriers Etihad, Qatar and Emirates airlines are likely to be fired if they become pregnant.

Ms Kidman, who is estimated to be worth $120m, has previously appeared in commercials for products such as Chanel No.5. Her latest deal with Etihad shows her reclining on-board its luxury new A380 airliner.

A spokesman for Etihad said that reports of staff being kept in confinement were "nonsense and completely unfounded".

The airline said: "We have become a global, award-winning employer because we value our employees and we treat them with dignity and respect."

Nicole Kidman in an advertisement for Etihad Airways. Photo / etihad.com
Nicole Kidman in an advertisement for Etihad Airways. Photo / etihad.com

The airline added that it "fully supports its cabin crew during and after their pregnancy", adding: "When a cabin crew member informs Etihad of a pregnancy, she is provided with appropriate ground duties for the duration of her pregnancy. Cabin crew are also entitled to paid maternity leave if they have completed more than one year's service. Our cabin crew are then able to return to their flying role at the end of their maternity leave period."

Ms Kidman had yet to provide a response yesterday.

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Founded in 2003 and based at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad has a fleet size of around 180 aircraft, including its new Airbus A380, launched last year.

- Independent