Air India Grounds Over 100 Flight Attendants For Being Overweight

Sexist and unfair.
Altaf Qadri/AP

Air India said last week it will ground some 130 flight attendants for being overweight, as first reported by the Indian newspaper The Telegraph.

Last year, the airline reportedly told 600 of its 3,500 employees to monitor their body mass indexes and lose weight over the following six months. After taking a recent BMI test, which takes into account height and weight to determine an adult's body fat, the 130 flight attendants who failed to meet the requirements will be given ground assignments.

Air India regulations state a female flight attendant should be between 18 and 22 BMI, while a male flight attendant should be between 18 and 25, the BBC reports. In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health considers individuals with a BMI under 18.5 to be underweight. People with BMIs of 18.5-24.9 re considered to be of normal weight. Those who have BMIs between 25 and 29.9 are overweight, while a BMI of 30 or greater puts people into the obese category.

“About 130 of them failed the reassessment,” one Air India official told The Telegraph. "We are now declaring them permanently unfit for their job as flight attendants. People who are fitter can respond quicker and more efficiently in case of any untoward situation."

While critics cried sexism, Air India has fired female flight attendants for not meeting BMI requirements. In 2009, the BBC reported that the airline let go of 10 female flight attendants the company considered overweight.

"This move to impose a certain BMI, ignoring experience and other performance parameters, is immature, misogynistic and shockingly sexist," said Mark Martin, an aviation industry consultant, in an interview with The Telegraph. "We seem to have lost the plot on what is needed from flight attendants."

And as personal trainer Joe Holder told HuffPost earlier this year, BMI isn't always the best way to determine a person's health.

"You have to look at BMI not as a diagnostic but as a screening tool," said Holder. "So there's a lot of flaws there where people think automatically, 'Alright, if I have a BMI that puts me in an overweight or obese category, that automatically means I'm unhealthy.' No. You look at that to delve deeper into other health markers that will then give a better insight into, 'Alright, do I have have some extra cardiovascular risks? Do I have other issues that I should be looking into?'"

Earlier this year, Uzbekistan Airways made headlines when the airline announced that it would weigh passengers before they boarded the plane. After intense pressure, the company took down its statement on its website and as of today, has not weighed any passengers before boarding flights.

The Huffington Post has reached out to Air India for comment and will update this post accordingly.

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