Mayalasia Airlines has been accused of sacking five of its flight attendants for being overweight, with a leaked document saying the employees had “continuously failed to achieve their ideal weight as per the company’s grooming manual.”
The allegations have been made by the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) who have urged Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Human Resources to intervene. The union claims a further 30 flight attendants are set to have their contracts terminated for the same reason.
Talking to the New Strait Times, a spokesperson for the union, Ismail Nasaruddin, said: “This is a classic case of discrimination which needs to be stopped.” He continued: “It is unfair and cruel to the cabin crew.”
The five sacked flight attendants are all over 50 years old and had been working for Mayalasia Airlines for over 20 years. The union has released details of the so-called ‘grooming standards’ which state the ideal weight of a cabin crew member is just 67kg. One of the flight attendants who was fired weighed 89kg at the time of their dismissal.
Malaysia Airlines has a ‘Weight Management Programme’ for cabin crew
The controversial action being taken by Mayalasia Airlines is part of their ‘cabin crew weight management programme’. The letter sent to the terminated flight attendants reads:
“This is to note that you had been placed in the Cabin Crew Weight Management Program since March 2017 and had been in the said program for the last eighteen (18) months or so. This is to enable you to achieve your ideal weight as per the Company’s Grooming Manual.”
The cabin crew had to attend a number of ‘weigh-ins’ and the final weight check was carried out on 30th June. The three male and two female cabin crew were then dismissed at the start of September. The union has accused the airline’s new chief executive, Peter Bellew of introducing discriminatory practices.
Cabin crew unions accuse new chief executive of discrimination
“They claimed it is a policy for termination but there is no law that states weight as a reason for termination. We demand the Minister to intervene,” explained Nasaruddin. He continued: “They have 20 years’ experience. Where are they going to get a job at this age? The termination must be based on proper grounds. This is clearly discriminatory by MAS airlines under its new CEO.”
It’s not yet clear whether the union plans any further actions against the airline or whether the Malaysian authorities will intervene.
In January, Air India also made headlines when it was revealed the airline had threatened overweight cabin crew with dismissal. Air India said 57 flight attendants were at risk because they “had a higher-than-permitted body mass index (BMI, the ratio of weight and height of an individual).”
Air India has put at least 57 cabin crew on a weight loss plan
At the time, a spokesperson for Air India explained: “They were asked to lose weight and given deadlines. When they could not do so, they were assigned ground jobs last month.”
The 57 crew members were declared unfit to fly for six months and have been given 18 months to slim down. If they don’t achieve a satisfactory BMI in that time, they’ll be dismissed.
Air India has cited rules laid down by the country’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which allows them to manage their cabin crew in this way.
Aeroflot accused of discriminating against cabin crew who were too “old, fat and ugly”
Yet in Russia, Yevgeniya Magurina recently won a lawsuit against Russian flag-carrier, Aeroflot over a similar dispute. She claimed Aeroflot had stopped assigning her long-haul flights because of her weight. It all started when Magurina said she stopped receiving bonus pay and lucrative international flights after asking the airline for a larger uniform.
The Moscow City Court upheld her case and has ordered Aeroflot to pay her the missing bonus payments.
In leaked documents, shared by Magurina, its alleged that around 600 Aeroflot flight attendants have had bonus payments withdrawn and been reassigned to less well-paid routes because they were considered too “old, fat and ugly.”
Aeroflot strenuously denied the allegations saying it did not restrict bonus payments or flight duty allocations to cabin crew based on their appearance. At the time, a spokesperson for the airline commented:
“Aeroflot acts at all times in accordance with Russian labour legislation, and in line with best international practice. We are an equal opportunities employer, and do not discriminate on the basis of appearance, age, race, gender, political or religious beliefs or indeed any other grounds.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.