State-run Air India gave 10 air hostesses the boot last week for being “exceptionally overweight.”
According to Reuters, a medical board in India had declared them “unfit for duty,” and they had been grounded for two to three years each. Air India finally decided to cut them off — and while several of the air hostesses apparently approached the New Delhi High Court about challenging the firings, the case was quickly scrapped.
This isn’t like back in the 60’s when American flight attendants had to meet almost ridiculous weight restrictions (read our Interview with a Retro Stewardess here), or is it? A five foot 18 year old air hostess for Air India had to weigh under 110 pounds, while hostesses ages 26-30 had a little more leeway at 123 pounds.
The air hostesses, who were between 24 and 70 pounds over their allotted weights, were declared medically incapable of doing their jobs. Now, they are jobless. USA Today spoke with one woman, Sheila Joshi, who had 27 years of service under her blazer.
From USA Today:
The Times notes the move comes as “a new breed” of Indian airlines “aims to entice travellers with promises of svelte cabin crew.” One such carrier is Kingfisher. On that note, flight attendant Joshi says: “Kingfisher was founded four years ago. Its cabin crew are all in their twenties. Let’s see how much they weigh in 20 years.”
Would a five foot tall, 134 pound 18 year old woman pushing a beverage cart really make anyone less likely to fly Air India?
Eesh. I bet Air India wouldn’t want these women on board their planes either (but for different reasons):
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?
Who Else is Causing Trouble in the Skies?
By now we all know that obesity is a problem in the United States and around the world. We frequently post articles in an ongoing discussion of weight per passenger and charges that the airline can/should levy against them. Australia made headlines last year by upgrading part of their ambulance fleet to accomodate overweight passengers — too many patients couldn’t fit into their operating fleet. And yet we continue to indulge in unhealthy lifestyles, expanding our waistlines and surging the diabetes and heart disease epidemic throughout the country.
Across the Pacific, Japan sees our plight and wants to take steps to prevent the same epidemic. Granted, obese isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when many think of the Asian body type, but facing an aging population and rising healthcare costs, Japan wants to keep it that way. So they’ve passed legislation to force companies and local governments to measure the waistline of their residents, requiring all overweight or in their words “metabo” people to either diet or take blood pressure medication. The cutoff for the metabo label? 33.5″ waist lines for men and 35.4″ for women.
Anything beyond that and they’ll be given dieting guidance in increasing tiers of severity until they shape up. For companies employing metabo workers, financial penalties will be levied until everyone is within tolerance. No speculation in this New York Times article was spent on how these levies will be passed down to employees.
Would something like this work in the United States? I wish it were possible, but I imagine it would be way too difficult to implement and enforce. Would you be willing to participate in a government backed weight loss program?
[thanks to Uncle Barish for the tip]
When passengers are too large to fit into airplane seats, maybe it’s time we had a little chat about the size of the average American. Mexico may be catching up, but — rest assured — we Americans are only getting larger. According to Calorie Lab, Mississippi is the fattest state in the Union, with West Virginia coming in at a close second. What are the skinniest states? Colorado and Massachusetts, but even there almost 20% of the population is obese. Looks like we need to start asking ourselves if we should really order a large burger and fries. Or maybe read a book on how other cultures stay svelte and attractive.
What impact does this have on travel? Just ask the woman who was given half a seat on Delta when her neighboring passenger was too large to fit into one seat.
Now you know the fattest states … but do you know the world’s 10 dirtiest cities? Here they are: