Air India Says “Fat” Crew Members Are Not Allowed To Fly

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An Airbus aircraft operated by Air India taxies at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, India, on June 27.
After certain employees did not "shape up," according to Air India's wishes, the international airline — the third largest in India — decided they would no longer be allowed to fly. The BBC reports that 125 Air India employees will be grounded for failing to maintain the company's weight standards. Apparently, Air India warned 600 staffers about this issue last year, but only 475 of them complied. Air India has not returned Refinery29's request for comment. "A cabin crew who is found to be overweight shall be given three months' time to reduce weight to acceptable levels, failing which the crew would be declared ‘temporary unfit’ for duties for a period of six months," India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a notification, according to The Indian Express. The DGCA's Civil Aviation Requirements include "Record of height, weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI)" in the routine examination cabin crew is expected to undergo. "Overweight," as defined by the DGCA and reported by BBC, means a BMI above 22 for a female cabin crew member and above 25 for a male cabin crew member. Air India spokesperson G.P. Rao told CNN that its cabin crew members' weight is "a safety issue." "The crew has to be fit to be able to carry out their inflight duties, including emergencies," Rao said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines an individual's BMI as weight divided by height squared. "BMI can be used as a screening tool for body fatness, but is not diagnostic," the CDC explains. Though the CDC says that an individual's BMI and propensity for being overweight or obese are strongly correlated, the organization notes that "even if two people have the same BMI, their level of body fatness may differ." Air India has taken issue with the body types of its employees before, the BBC notes. In 2009, the airline grounded nine female cabin members, calling them "exceptionally overweight" and therefore "medically unfit" to fly, says the same BBC report. Several years earlier, Air India told 400 prospective employees that their personal appearances would be scrutinized alongside their professional qualifications. "When we review a candidate, we look at the skin, teeth, and height," a personnel manager named Meenakshi Dua said, according to the BBC. "There should be no scars, acne, or any major marks on the face." In the United States, pilots and air-traffic-control specialists with BMIs over 40 and neck circumferences of 17 inches or more cannot fly, the Federal Air Surgeon mandates. The restriction is due to the high risk of sleep apnea — a condition that causes an individual to pause breathing during sleep — associated with being overweight or obese. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration does not include cabin crew in its mandate about BMI.

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