Air India, the national airline of India and one of the biggest operators in the world, has effectively suspended 125 flight attendants because they are considered overweight. This follows a warning 18 months ago to 600 staff that they were “too fat” and should lose weight or risk being grounded and declared permanently unfit to carry out their jobs.
Aviation regulator DGCA had asked airlines in the country to test the BMI measurements of all of their flight crew to ensure that they were within the recommended levels. This is because the regulator believes that any attendants who are outside of the normal range will not be fit enough to do their jobs properly or work quickly in an emergency.
However, the move has attracted criticism from health experts who say that measuring fitness based only on a person’s BMI is unscientific and ineffective. Anoop Micra, the chairman of the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation, said: “A person could be normal weight and unfit, or they could be fat and fit. These cabin crews, like pilots, should undergo yearly tests by physicians to consider if they are fit or not, not merely on BMI alone.“
None of the employees who have been barred from working on flights will be sacked, instead Air India is expected to offer them roles working on the ground or voluntary retirements.