Air India grounds 'heavy' cabin crew

Posted at 4:31 AM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 07:31:27-04

Air India, a debt-burdened, state-run carrier, is trying to shed some extra flab.

The airline has asked 125 of its flight attendants to lose a few pounds or get ready for an airport job.

"It is an opportunity for them to bring themselves back to the (required) fitness level. If they cannot because of any medical reasons, they will be offered ground duties," Air India spokesman G.P. Rao told CNN Tuesday.

The decision follows fitness guidelines laid out by India's civil aviation regulator.

Last year, the regulator mandated a body mass index (BMI) of 18-25 for male cabin crew members and 18-22 for female cabin crew members. Men with a BMI of 25-29.99, and women with a BMI of 22-27, were classified as overweight.

'Safety issue'

Some say the index, which is determined by a person's height-to-weight ratio, is not always an accurate indicator of someone's health and body fat percentage.

But the airline insists the move to manage its employees' physique is not about appearances.

"It's a safety issue," Rao said. "The crew has to be fit to be able to carry out their inflight duties, including emergencies."

Rao, however, didn't say how much time the shortlisted 125-odd crew would have to slim down.

He added this is not the first time Air India has advised its flight attendants to stay "fit."

"This is an ongoing process. We have been doing this exercise for quite some time," he said.

Air India currently employs more than 3,000 cabin crew members. According to a Times of India report, a "large number" of the employees refused to undergo medical examinations for their BMI as ordered by the company back in 2013. Instead, they asked the airline to first pay for gym memberships before conducting any lab tests, the report said.

Air India has been struggling to cut its losses. The Indian government handed the airline a $5.8 billion bailout in 2012.