"We are extremely proud of our cabin crew, who respectfully serve our customers every day and play a vital safety role."

This was Qantas' simple and dignified response to a passenger who slammed one of their employees for launching a "sexist" attack on her by calling her "miss" instead of "doctor".

Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer, an Australian academic currently working in the UK, sparked heated debate online when she posted this tweet, which has been shared more than 1200 times.


Doctor slams Qantas for calling her 'Miss'

"Hey Qantas, my name is Dr O'Dwyer. My ticket says Dr O'Dwyer. Do not look at my ticket, look at me, look back at my ticket, decide it's a typo and call me Miss O'Dwyer. I did not spend 8 years at university to be called Miss," she wrote.

When social media users started getting fired up she continued: "Copping so much flack for this tweet. This was not about my ego. It was about highlighting one of a thousand instances of sexism that women encounter every day.

"It's not about the title, it's about the fact that this wouldn't have happened if I was a man."

OK, hold up right there, doctor. Firstly, how could you possibly have ascertained that sexism was their intention just from observing the quick glance they gave your ticket and the fact they called you "miss"?

And what about the assumption that the crew member had thought the word "doctor" was a typo? Did we, um, "miss" something here?

Sorry, but it's very unlikely to have been a gender-based attack — that's a far stretch. Cabin crew simply have a lot more important things to worry about, you know, like dealing with thousands of frustrated passengers every day, keeping us alive and sane as we speed through the skies and doing their best to get us where we want to go in a timely manner.

I assure you, that's no easy task.

In those few seconds where they glance at your boarding pass, smile, greet you and nod you through to board the plane, there's a lot going through their minds that passengers don't realise.

For starters, they're checking your identity, ensuring you're on the right flight and determining which part of the plane to guide you down. They're also making sure you don't appear drunk, and are generally fit to fly. Oh, and that you're not trying to sneak everything but the kitchen sink on-board in you carry-on.

All this in a matter of moments.

Australian academic Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer took to social media to call out Qantas for calling her
Australian academic Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer took to social media to call out Qantas for calling her "Miss".

So, understandably, the reaction on social media has been largely fierce. Sure, some agreed with Dr O'Dwyer and bemoaned the sexism issues doctors face in Australia, but others found her argument "precious" and "narcisstic".

Sadly, Dr O'Dwyer has declared that her Twitter account has been swamped with "vitriol" and "trolls". (The Twitterverse can be very harsh. It's a good time for everyone to remember to be kind, there are real people behind those keyboards! So while the flight attendant in question deserves to be given a break, keep in mind that Dr O'Dwyer should too. Come on, who hasn't said something that others disagreed with? Or made a comment they wished they had never made?)

Back to the twitter reaction. One particular comment — which was not made by Dr O'Dwyer — also struck a nerve.

Fellow academic Dr Mel Thomson wrote in a since-deleted tweet: "I'm first gen to finish high school (let alone get several degrees) in my family … I'll be damned if some trolley dolly gets to decide what honorific I get called, FFS."

So perhaps people such as Dr O'Dwyer and Dr Thomson need a breakdown of just how important and demanding the role of a flight attendant is. Because you'll sure as hell be grateful for them if you're ever unlucky enough to be involved in a flight emergency.

As noted by Qantas: "Becoming a cabin crew member can be a challenging experience. There's so much new information to absorb and put to use in practical ways. It requires commitment, but that's what makes us strong."

The skills involved span across customer service, aviation first aid, aircraft and personal safety and emergency procedures.

So sure, they serve us food and often look glamorous. But they also have been trained to:

• Lift a 28 kilogram aircraft window exit;

• Deal with emergencies in a smoke-filled simulator;

• Swim and assist people in the water;

• Descend an escape slide, nine metres above the ground;

• Fight fires while wearing a full face mask;

• Control people in panic situations;

• And move people with a disability in evacuations.

So, yeah, they're pretty handy at times when you may actually want to survive a plane crash.

A perfect example of the demands placed on crew is yesterday's incident on an Emirates flight from Dubai where dozens reported feeling ill.

Nineties pop star Vanilla Ice, who was on the plane, tweeted: "This is crazy. Apparently there is over 100 people sick on the bottom floor, so happy I'm up top, it's a double-decker plane 380."

Can you imagine the logistic nightmare? But they were praised for staying cool calm and collected and got those who needed emergency help the attention they needed.

Ultimately, a little appreciation of the awesome jobs they do — and understanding of a simple "oversight" — if you can even call it that — would go a long way for our flight attendants.

And don't forget they also have to deal with passenger like these.