In 2014, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) provided body mass index (BMI) guidelines for flight crew members, and now Air India is taking action against those who haven't complied. The DGCA also imposed rules for medical check-ups:
"The Initial Medical Examination shall be conducted upon induction. Subsequently, cabin crew shall undergo medical examination once every four years till the age of 40, once every two years till the age of 50 and yearly thereafter."
Before the guidelines were published, some Air India flight attendants ("air hostesses") refused the fitness test and instead asked the airline to pay for gym memberships.
Now, Air India, with the highest percentage of attendants over 40, has grounded 130 of its 3,5000 crew members. Most are women. A 51-year-old attendant told The Washington Post, "It is incredibly upsetting that working women are being targeted. This is not a modelling job; we are not working a catwalk."
The airline is stressing job requirements, not appearance. One official said, "People who are fitter can respond quicker and more efficiently in case of any untoward situation."
But Air India has a history of focusing on looks. In 2004, the personnel manager told BBC:
"Looks matter in this line of work, and therefore we are giving it a lot of importance. When we review a candidate, we look at the skin, teeth and height. There should be no scars, acne, or any major marks on the face. The candidate should have a pleasing personality, should be able to carry him or herself with confidence and be ready to serve others. After all, that is the job of an air hostess and a male steward."
Although crew members will stay employed, they miss out on benefits of flight travel.
- What's your view of this situation? Should the airline stress BMI and/or looks in its decisions to hire and retain cabin crew?
- What is the best way for Air India to quell the controversy at this point?