A long-serving flight attendant for Malaysia Airlines who was sacked for being 1kg overweight has lost her unfair dismissal case against the airline. Ina Meliesa Hassim had worked for Malaysia Airlines for 25-years when she became one of five crew members sacked in September 2017 for failing to “achieve their ideal weight as per the company’s grooming manual”.
All of the five crew members dismissed for being overweight were over 50-years old and all had worked for Malaysia Airlines for more than 20-years. The airline had implemented a weight management programme in October 2015 in order to “maintain its image as a premium airline”.
“As cabin crew, apart from maintaining the appearance as set by the company, you are also responsible to ensure the safety of our passengers while in flight. Being front liners in uniform, cabin crew cast an unforgettable image in the minds of our valued guests,” a leaked memo explaining the policy read.
“It is for this reason that the company considers the feedback received from our customers on the image of crew and inevitably even the appearance of cabin crew has been included as one of the attributes in the passenger flight experience survey and which is being tracked monthly.”
Cabin crew were required to achieve a Body Mass Index within the ‘healthy’ range. As Hassim was 160cm tall, her maximum permitted weight would be 61kg. At the time of her dismissal, she weighed just 61.7kg.
The airline said Hassim and the other crew members had been given ample opportunity to achieve the required weight and claimed Hassim had failed to attend several official weigh-in’s.
At the industrial tribunal, lawyers acting for Hassim argued that other international airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways and KLM are not known for using Body Mass Index for determining excess weight and no safety risks had been encountered. They also argued that 1kg excess weight was not enough to stop Hassim from performing her role effectively.
The court, however, sided with Malaysia Airlines concluding that the company could determine its own weight management policy without taking into account the rules followed by other airlines. It was also decided that the policy wasn’t discriminatory as it applies to all cabin crew members equally.
Researchers, however, claim BMI is both an inaccurate and misleading way of determining whether someone is overweight.
Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania found that BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences.
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.