Air India crew to get 6 months to get in shape

Already struggling with a staff crunch, the national carrier has asked the DGCA for six months time so its overweight staff can shed the extra kilos and avoid being sacked

Air India, which has long been struggling to shape up its performance, has now given its crewmembers six months to get in shape or be sacked. This is not an act of body shaming — according to sources, at least 100 crewmembers from the national carrier are just too heavy to fly, according to the guidelines issued by the aviation authorities two years ago.

The national airline continues to struggle with a severe staff crunch. File pic for representation
The national airline continues to struggle with a severe staff crunch. File pic for representation

Confirming that there was a meeting about an extension on the deadline, AI’s new chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani however refused to comment on the termination of the staff.

The airlines’ spokesperson denied that AI had taken any decision of termination, but a senior official confirmed it. He said, “Every airline follows this rule of terminating overweight crew as per DGCA rules, and Air India will also go by
it. There is nothing to question about it.”

On May 5, 2014, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued guidelines on the ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) for male and female staffers. Anyone found overweight was to be declared temporarily unfit and grounded from flight duty. They would, however, continue to be employed as ground staff. If they remained overweight even after 18 months, they were to be declared permanently unfit and terminated from service.

However, the national airline continues to struggle with a severe staff crunch and has asked the DGCA for more time to implement the weight regulation, said officials. Last year, Air India nearly grounded 125 overweight crewmembers but withdrew the decision because of the staff shortage.

“The airline wanted to ground all its overweight crew members last year itself, but realised that most of them would end up being grounded and this would have a direct and severe impact on the already hit operations. The crewmembers were called back for another three months, as the process of hiring more cabin staff was expected to be completed by then. However, the overweight staff still continue to fly,” said an airline official. Air India has a total of 3500 crewmembers. It needs to hire 1,800 more cabin staff but has so far only hired 300.

This time, said sources, Lohani has given crew members another six months to shed the extra kilos and reach the ideal BMI, or face termination with immediate effect.

This extension is yet to be approved by the DGCA, but the airline’s decision to wait will no doubt come as a relief to not only the overweight crewmembers, but also to officials in charge of operations. A senior official said, “The shortage of cabin staff still remains an issue with the national carrier and, hence, they wouldn’t take any step to make the situation worse.”

Check-ups
The DGCA guidelines stated that crew members would have to undergo a medical examination once every four years till the age of 40. This would increase to once every two years thereafter, till the age of 50, and once a year for staff older than 50. They will have to undergo a medical examination based on various parameters. However, the All India Cabin Crew Association declared these rules unlawful and claimed that the procedure was being conducted every year for all age groups.

60
Number of crewmembers who are obese

110
Number of crewmembers who are overweight

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