What’s a better attribute in an airhostess — a perfect waistline or good manners?
The question was posed to national carrier Air India, which had fired over a dozen airhostesses for being overweight.
“All the passengers will be a happier lot if your airhostesses are good to them… rather than you insisting on these conditions,” a bench headed by Justice Tarun Chatterjee said while hearing a bunch of petitions filed by the airhostesses challenging their dismissal.
“I also tried to reduce my weight but failed,” Justice Chatterjee said, disapproving the dismissal of the airhostesses for their failure to knock off the extra pounds.
The court wondered if it was proper to sack airhostesses for being overweight. “In a democratic country, will it be a ground for dismissal? It (dismissal order) can be struck down. We can do that,” Justice Chatterjee said.
Thirteen airhostesses, some dismissed and others grounded for being overweight, are fighting a legal battle to get the decision of Air India management reversed. They have challenged the June 4, 2008 order of the Delhi HC upholding the policy decision of Air India, of divesting the overweight airhostesses of the flight duty or dismissing them.
Airhostesses’ counsel Arvind Sharma requested the court to protect them but the court refused to give them any relief at this stage despite giving a sympathetic hearing. He wanted the court to restrain the government from dismissing any more airhostesses for being overweight.
“We cannot help you at this stage. But we will try to help you at the final stage,” Justice Chatterjee said posting the matter for further hearing in August.
However, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium defended the decision saying it was in terms of the contractual agreement with them, which stipulated certain physical parameters for airhostess as per international conventions.
The government has contended that in the present competitive environment with private airlines the national carrier could not afford to have overweight airhostesses who were bound to be less attractive and active. The petitioners alleged that their services were terminated on December 12, 2008, despite the fact that the court was examining the validity of the Air India rules on the maximum weight of airhostesses.