Air India, the national airline, has permanently grounded about 130 flight attendants, most of them women, for exceeding body-mass index standards.
Critics condemned the move as “shockingly sexist.”
BMI is a measure of body fat versus height and weight. Earlier this year, Air India gave about 600 cabin crew members six months to get their weight under control or risk reassignment to jobs on the ground. All were placed on a program to alter diet and exercise and were monitored by airline staff.
“About 130 of them failed the reassessment,” the Telegraph of Calcutta quoted an airline official as saying. “We are now declaring them permanently unfit for their job as flight attendants.”
The Telegraph quoted another airline official as saying, “People who are fitter can respond quicker and more efficiently in case of any untoward situation.”
Critics from within and without the industry decried the move.
“This move to impose a certain BMI, ignoring experience and other performance parameters, is immature, misogynistic and shockingly sexist,” aviation industry consultant Mark Martin told the newspaper. “We seem to have lost the plot on what is needed from flight attendants.”
Cabin crews’ weight has long been an issue in civil aviation in India.
Sheila Joshi, 51, fought the weight standards to the Indian Supreme Court and lost, according to the Times of London.
“It is incredibly upsetting that working women are being targeted,” Joshi, a flight attendant for 27 years, told the Times. “This is not a modeling job; we are not working a catwalk.”
“Now, if you are just 10 grams over, it’s goodbye,” Joshi said. “It’s ridiculous: Weight is not an infectious disease.”