Air India Tells 125 Crew Members They Are Too Fat To Fly. Here’s Why It’s Not Cool.

by Dawn Day

Air India is taking 125 flight attendants out of the sky and onto the ground because they failed to meet the Body Mass Index requirement of the airline, TIME reported yesterday. Air India Spokesman G.P. Rao told CNN that the height-to-weight requirements are for safety purposes, rather than for appearances. 

India’s Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation outlines requirements for flight crews in its Civil Aviation Requirements–an entire appendix dedicated to the disposal of high BMI cases. Air India considers men with a BMI between 18 and 25 normal, while women must maintain a BMI between 18 to 22.

The calculation is based on height to weight ratios, and if a cabin crew member is found to be overweight, they are required to undergo a clinical examination to test for endocrine diseases. If diseases are found, they are to be treated, according to the appendix. However, if no diseases are found, overweight crew members have three months to reduce their weight and obese crew members are given six months to lose weight.

And Air India is not the only airline with these kinds of requirements. United Airlines lists right on the job description for flight attendant that height and weight must be proportionate to maintain a professional appearance. Since when does your height and weight determine how professional you look? 

While physical attributes required of flight attendants have improved since the 1950s, it still seems like there is this stigma that it is a job for only the thin and the beautiful.

According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a flight attendant in the ’50s was to be a white, unmarried woman between the ages of 21 and 26. She was required to stand between 5 feet 2 inches and five feet six inches and weigh no more than 135 pounds. So times, they have a-changed, but perhaps it is time to be rid of the ridiculous weight requirements.

Hip, hip…diversity!!!

If I worked for Air India, my 5 feet 9 inches and 165 pounds would have three months to lose more than 15 pounds in order to get my BMI from a 24.4 to a 22. I am a healthy person who would be capable of pushing a beverage cart down the aisle, and still I would be grounded from flight if I worked with Air India.

In 2009, BBC reported that nine hostesses were fired without notice after being grounded for flight and working in ground jobs. The BBC report also stated that the airline had previously said in a recruitment video that applicants with acne or bad teeth would not be considered. Of course this would be so! Having a flight attendant with bath teeth or acne would make me feel, like, SO unsafe on a flight. The general requirements for applicants to Air India include providing “two postcard-sized, full length photos,” one front view and one side view. This is probably also to meet safety requirements. 

Wow, go Air India and your commitment to safety. Things really must be looking up without those 125 flight attendants weighing down your planes. 

Sarcasm aside, airlines should stop fixating on the numbers, because it is absolutely ridiculous for a person to be pushed out of their position based on the numbers on the scale–especially if they are still perfectly capable of their job. 

Next time I book a flight, I know which discriminatory airline I definitely won’t be flying with. Not cool Air India. Bye Air India! 


Photos via Air India and Flickr. 

GIF via Giphy.

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