In an highly debatable move that has been deemed as “ridiculous” and “shockingly sexist”, Air India has grounded around 125 cabin staff for being too fat to fly.
It seems that the commercial airline is not only concerned with overweight baggage, but is now enforcing its own weight limit – only this time it’s for the staff.
Air India recently implemented a compulsory weight loss program for over 600 of its cabin staff, giving them 18 months to shed the extra kilos and meet a body mass index (BMI) reading of 18-25 for an air steward and 18-22 for stewardesses. If stewardesses, in particular, have a BMI of 22–27, they are deemed as too overweight to fly.
It should come as no surprise that many airlines have an unspoken policy of its cabin crew maintaining a slim figure, and Air India have instituted weight limits ever since it began circulating height and weight charts for its flight attendants in the 80s. But it seems the airline has now taken its policy to the next level.
More than 20 per cent of its cabin crew, having not met the strict weight restrictions, have been permanently grounded or offered voluntary redundancy.
According to Air India sources: “Of … 600 cabin staff, around 125 have failed to maintain the required Body Mass Index (BMI) or weight standards in the prescribed period. Now we have no option but to take them off permanently from flying duty.
“These employees have already availed 18 months time to meet the required BMI but failed to do so, leaving with us with no choice but to replace them.”
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation has even issued guidelines which state that an overweight or obese person should not be able to continue as a flight attendant.
It is generally considered by ruling health bodies that a BMI of 18.5–24.99 is within a healthy weight range. Any reading over 25 is thought to be ‘overweight’, with readings of 30 and over considered obese.
Air India denies any notion that its guidelines are governed by aesthetics, claiming, “It’s a safety issue. The crew has to be fit to be able to carry out their in-flight duties, including emergencies.”
What do you think? Is this fair? Should the employment of airline cabin crew be regulated by their weight? Do you feel that the disparity between men and women with regards to Air India’s weight restrictions are sexist? Should their job be regulated based on the merits of doing the work required, or the weight of the person employed? Or would you be more concerned with their ability to handle an emergency situation over how they look?