I’m not all that familiar with discrimination laws in India. However, the recent cases against Air India have made me wonder. Is it legal to ground a flight attendant without pay for not meeting a weight standard? Should it be? Are the reasons such standards are in place (reaction times in dangerous situations and the physical fitness required for the job) accurately reflected in the standards themselves? Does a weight to height ratio truly sum up a person’s physical fitness or abilities? Considering that muscle weighs more than fat, I would say no. Not that I’m for muscle-bound air hostesses, but I do question the airline’s motives. At the same time, if these are the rules of the job known when starting employment, is it fair to complain about them only now?
Most of the women are planning on dieting while in court, hoping to return to work eventually regardless of the ruling. However dieting could still cause problems for them in the future. It will be a constant strain to keep off the weight. Added to that is the emotional pressure of being judged for your weight on a regular basis in order to keep your job, and you have significant mental stress. At that point, it would almost be easier to cut off an arm or a leg to permanently take off the extra poundage. If the airline comes after you for not being able to maintain your duties after that, it’s definite disability discrimination. Does it say anywhere in the job requirements that you need two legs to perform the job?
Perhaps an even better way to address the physical fitness issue of flight attendants should be some sort of obstacle regularly taken to measure ability and performance. It would be like a military one, but slightly easier and more appropriate. It would involve things like climbing a cargo net, sprinting the length of a 747, lifting a 50-lb suitcase over your head, balance beam while carrying a drink tray, pushing a food cart at speed around a length of cones, and ending with opening up an emergency exit on a plane and sliding down that inflatable slide thing, all in proper uniformed attire. How fun would that be? I’d want to take the test myself, just to measure my skills against stewardesses everywhere! And it would add an aspect of fun to the kind of skills some airlines feel they need to measure. You could probably even sell tickets, allowing airlines to recoup money on falling ticket sales.