A 20-year legal battle between Philippine Airlines and flight steward Armanda Yrasuegi has finally ended with a Supreme Court ruling that grounds Yrasuegi for good. The airline dismissed Yrasuegi in 1989, because the 5’8 217-pound man had failed to lose weight, as required in his contract.
Yrasuegi cried discrimination, stating that his weight was a “sickness and physical abnormality” beyond his control, but this argument carried little weight when the flight attendant refused repeated offers of medical weight loss assistance. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the airline, stating that Yrasuegi’s weight “indicates absence of willpower rather than an illness.”
The ruling went on to say that Yrasuegi’s weight would likely keep him from performing his job efficiently, especially in the case of an emergency. According to Gadling’s own flight attendant, Heather Poole, flight attendants must be able to fit through the exit door and buckle up in the jump seat, which may be difficult for a man nearly 60 pounds overweight.
The airline industry is one of the few where weight requirements aren’t discrimination, but rather simply necessary. We don’t know what Yrasuegi’s contract with Philippine Airlines specifically required in terms of weight, but it doesn’t seem that any airlines are asking their employees to have unrealistic Hollywood bodies. It also sounds like Philippine Airlines was willing to pay for its employee’s weight loss program — how many other companies would do that?