'Too fat to fly': Air India criticised for grounding cabin crew

Air India’s controversial decision to ground 130 cabin crew personnel because they were overweight has drawn considerable criticism against the airline.

Air India has taken the controversial decision of grounding 130 staff who they claim do not meet standard body fat tests

Air India has taken the controversial decision of grounding 130 staff who they claim do not meet standard body fat tests. Image by Aero Icarus / CC BY 2.0

The State-owned carrier says those members of staff – most of whom are women – are “permanently unfit to fly” because of test which showed their BMI (Body Mass Index) as being too high.

The Telegraph reports that last year Air India instructed 600 of its 3500 staff  to reach “normal” bodyweight or face demotion by being given ground assignments.

The carrier said a BMI of 18-22 is normal for women with 22-27 regarded as overweight with any number above that level described as obese.

In its defence, Air India stressed that it was an issue of fitness and safety rather than weight, stressing that fitter people could respond more efficiently when unforeseen circumstances arise.

The company has a history of such controversy which began 11 years ago, according to the BBC, when it claimed that people looking to be flight attendants should not have any acne or scars on their faces.

Now critics say this is another case of the airline not wanting to use people they feel don’t meet certain beauty standards.

An aviation consultant Mark Martin described the attempts to impose BMI as 'shockingly sexist' when interviewed by the Calcutta Telegraph.

Experts too have said there should be caution when BMI is linked to level of fitness by pointing out that a person with a level of 27 could be much fitter than someone with a BMI of 21.

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