Here we go again… yet another airline is demanding its flight attendants lose weight or face being grounded and maybe even dismissed. On this occasion, it’s the national carrier of Pakistan which is making headlines over its demand that long-haul international flight attendants stay trim or face being axed.
In an internal memo sent on 1st January, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said it had decided that flight attendants would have to lose up to 30 Lbs by July 2019. Staffers who refuse or struggle to lose the weight will face being grounded and referred to a medical centre to get to the airline’s desired weight.
“In order to operate all international layover flights, Management has decided to gradually reduce waiver of 30 Lbs excess weights to zero lbs in coming months,” the memo reads.
Flight attendants who currently weigh more than the “desired weight” will be expected to lose at least 5 lbs every month until they hit the target weight – and at the most by July.
The memo, which was sent by Aamir Bashir the airline’s general manager of flight services, even copied in PIA’s chief operating officer – suggesting the order has the tacit approval of the carrier’s senior executives. It’s not known why PIA has decided to tackle this issue now or how many flight attendants face being affected by the rule change.
PIA follows a number of other airlines who have made similar orders in the last couple of years…
In September 2017, a union which represents Malaysia Airlines flight attendants claimed the carrier had fired around 20 crew for being overweight. Some of the flight attendants had worked for the airline for more than two decades but were sent packing after they “continuously failed to achieve their ideal weight as per the company’s grooming manual.”
According to the union, Malaysia Airlines thinks the ideal weight of a flight attendant is just 67kg.
Aer0flot Russian Airlines
A group of flight attendants who accused their employer, Aeroflot Russian Airlines of discriminating against what they saw as “old, fat and ugly” crew lost a court case in April 2017. They had accused Aeroflot of removing overweight flight attendants from prestigious long-haul flights and instead reassigning them to lower-paid domestic routes.
“We have had our salary lowered due to our clothing size. We are allowed to fly, but our salary is lowered,” explained one of the flight attendants who brought the court case.
But after winning the lawsuit, a representative of Aeroflot seemed to justify the carrier’s discriminatory practices. “Aeroflot is a premium airline and part of the reason people pay for tickets is the appearance of its employees,” said Pavel Danilin, a member of the airline’s public council.
Referring to a customer survey, Danilin continued: “92% want to see stewardesses who fit into the clothes sizes we are talking about here.”
Last year, Air India suspended around 57 flight attendants for being overweight after India’s civil aviation authority updated guidelines about medical fitness to fly that said crew members should be judged on their body mass index.
In 2014, the airline warned over 600 flight attendants to lose weight and at least 130 staffers were eventually dismissed under the controversial policy.
We lifted the lid on a controversial ‘Appearance Management Programme’ at the Dubai-based airline. Emirates is alleged to have a “threshold of appropriate appearance” and overweight crew members can be grounded and even sacked unless they lose the weight set by grooming officers.
New flight attendants are weighed and assessed before being allowed in front of passengers and serving crew members can be called-in for a random weigh-in to make sure they aren’t overwight.
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.