Search form

Last updated: 52 sec ago

You are here

Business & Economy

Airlines’ turbulent relations with flight crew

Aeroflot said in April it is reasonable for female flight attendants to face financial penalties if they are deemed to be overweight. (Aeroflot)
Aeroflot came under fire for weight discrimination in April this year when airline representatives at a press conference said that it was reasonable for female flight attendants to face financial penalties if they were overweight. This was after two flight attendants took the airline to court, part of a group of women who jokingly named themselves STS — an abbreviation of “old, fat and ugly” in Russian. They said Aeroflot moved them from prestigious long-haul flights to lower-paid domestic routes because of their physical appearance, The Guardian reported. Evgenia Magurina, one of the complainants, claimed that Aeroflot flight attendants were photographed, measured and in some cases weighed. Women who did not meet the requirements were withdrawn from international routes.

Malaysia Airlines was accused in September this year of sacking cabin crew for being overweight. The Far Eastern carrier was accused of ageism and body-shape discrimination after it was revealed that five of its employees — all over the age of 50 — had their contracts terminated. The flight attendants — three men and two women — have worked for the airline for more than 20 years, but were told their services were no longer required, according to the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM). “This is a classic case of discrimination which needs to be stopped,” NUFAM president Ismail Nasaruddin told Kuala Lumpur newspaper The New Straits Times.

Air India was criticized in 2015 for firing 130 cabin crew for being overweight, claiming it was sacking them over “safety concerns.” In 2006, Air India also grounded nine female flight attendants deemed to be “exceptionally overweight.” The airline said that “being grossly overweight does have a bearing on reflexes and can impair agility required to perform the emergency functions.” The attendants sued, but a Delhi court backed up the carrier in 2008. The women appealed, only for the airline to fire them in 2009 as the country’s Supreme Court was still considering the case, The Washington Post ­reported.

In 2009, the union representing flight attendants working for Delta Air Lines in America cried foul over Delta’s failure to offer bigger sizes for its signature red dress uniform. The red dress was only available up to size 18, though a Delta spokeswoman said that the airline had a range of outfits in other colors and styles up to size 28 that flight attendants could wear, according to the Associated Press. A union representative said: “I think red is an eye-popping color and it’s not subtle, and to me by not offering it in a size over 18, Delta is saying, ‘We don’t want you wearing that if you are over size 18’ ... But the job isn’t about being sexy. It’s about safety.”

MORE FROM Business & Economy