Air India has deemed 130 of its cabin crew “permanently unfit” to fly after the staff failed to lose weight for their job. Airline officials confirmed to the BBC that the directive had been issued, but said it was part of an internal document which they could not comment on publicly.
The airline considers a BMI of between 18 and 22 to be “normal” for women, between 22 and 27 is “overweight” and “obese” for anything over 27.
In 2013, Air India said that deploying female flight attendants rather than male could save them about £329,000 per year in full costs because they weight on average 33 to 44 pounds lighter.
Sources said the airline had no option but to take them off permanently from flying duty. In 2009 nine female flight attendants were dismissed for being “overweight”. For men, a BMI of 18 to 25 will do just fine. These people were termed as temporarily unfit and asked to change their lifestyle and exercise more.
However, aviation expert Kapil Kaul told the BBC than an overweight crew is a signal the airline is not fit.
“We seem to have lost the plot on what is needed from flight attendants”.
“About 130 of them failed the reassessment”.
This isn’t the first time the airline has come under controversy regarding appearances. “You need a smart friendly agile crew that can complement the image of the airline”, he said.
But national union leader Tapan Sen says there’s no strict weight requirement in the service rules for cabin workers, and a member of the All India Cabin Crew Association says it’s “ridiculous” to cut employees this way.
“Any industry insider would vouch that Air India flight attendants are the best, mainly due to their long experience”.
“Some wrestlers and athletes are extremely fit; their high BMI comes from muscle, not fat”.
“A person with a BMI of 27 could be fitter than a person with a BMI of 21”, said Anoop Misra, former professor of internal medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and now director of the Fortis Centre for Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol.