So the Delhi High Court has supported Air-India’s decision to take off some of Indian’s (the new Indian Airlines’) overweight airhostesses from flight duties. We, on our part, have miserably failed to figure out — pun totally intended — what the hullabaloo is all about. Five AI airhostesses had opposed the airlines’ decision to withdraw the permissible limit of three kg over and above the upper weight limit as laid down as the cabin crew rules. They argued that there was no connection between weight and performance when one is “medically fit”. The judges, correctly, had thought differently about this weighty matter. Stating that “there is no unreasonableness or arbitrariness” and “illegality” in AI’s decision, they ruled that it was a matter of company policy. What probably made them support AI’s decision was the fact that the airline had given its ‘overweight’ personnel 45 days to shape up and rejoin duty. But instead of taking this lifeline and using it to get back in shape — and fly to their hearts’ content — the stewardesses decided to contest the company’s decision.
In a competitive world — and boy, is the civil aviation industry a competitive world these days — there’s absolutely no room for less-than-brilliant service. And ‘service’ in an industry where customer interface is a constant given, the term includes certain ‘add-ons’, value-adds that go beyond the quality of cutlery and the leg space provided on board. It includes certain very visible ‘invisibles’, like well-turned out and aesthetically turned out crew members. And, of course, good behaviour. Customers, fickle as they are and should be, expect all this ‘package’ worth the money they pay for their ticket. So, AI or any other airline has no other way but to play the game according to the rules of the game where svelte stewards and stewardesses are mandatory ‘freebies’.
In a lighter vein, the lawyer representing the ‘enlarged’ airhostesses also got his part wrong by trying to delink weight and fitness. If fitness was not inversely proportional to weight, many of us would not spend hours slogging on the treadmill and letting go of that double-cheese pizza (extra jalapeños please!). In any case, who wants to get trapped in an emergency situation with some short-of-breath personnel conducting a rescue operation? And did we already talk about aesthetics? Oh yes, we did.