Air India says flight attendants too fat to fly

A few months back, Air India grounded a group of flight attendants and told them they could return to the skies only if they lost weight.

Instead of going on a diet, the flight attendants went to court.  The scales of justice tipped in the airline’s favor, though, and now the airline has fired nine (some reports say ten) female flight attendants who failed to slim down.

According to this article the airlines says fitness and efficiency were the reasons for its weight standards, which were based on “scientific” combinations of height, age and gender. Lawyers for the fired flight attendants call the move “illegal and against the natural justice.”

There’s more information in an article (Air India fires air hostesses for being too fat to fly) from The Times, which points out that:

“[t]he airline’s stance is likely to surprise many in India, a country with a rich history of voluptuous Bollywood sirens and labour laws that make dismissing public sector staff all but impossible.”

What do you think?   Should an airline be allowed to impose weight restrictions on flight attendants? Or are weight standards OK for the sake of  fitness, efficiency and safety?


Canadian airlines cram to obey obesity ruling

(Illustration for my column by MSNBC’s Duane Hoffman)

“You’ve dawdled this whole year. Now stop all that bellyaching and get on with it.”

That’s pretty much the message Canada’s Supreme Court gave to the country’s major airlines at the end of November. Now, after spending a year trying to weasel out of it with repeated court appeals, Canadian airlines are scrambling to figure out how to meet the January 10th, 2009 deadline for complying with “One-Person-One-Fare” policy mandated by the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA.

Its groundbreaking legislation that some hope – and others fear – may spread to the United States and elsewhere. So pay attention.

Under the new rules, which will apply only to domestic flights, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet cannot charge more than one fare to persons with disabilities who cannot fly without the help of an attendant.

Few people will take issue with that.

What some folks are taking issue with, however, is the part of the ruling that also promises a complimentary second seat to passengers who are “determined to be functionally disabled by obesity.”

Find out what that means – and what several experts think it should mean – in my Well Mannered Traveler column posted today on MSNBC.com.

Pillows for purchase on WestJet

Joining JetBlue in the “pillows for purchase” movement, Canada’s WestJet just announced that starting Monday, Dec 1, it too would be begin selling pillow and blanket kits to passengers on all flights.

The kits will cost CN $7 (about US $5.65) and include a travel pillow, fleece blanket, carry bag, and a $5 coupon that can be used on-line towards the purchase of a CleanBrands product.

Not interested in buying a kit with “brand new, allergen-free, breathable and washable” items that “can be used over and over again?” The airline promises that, for now, its current stock of blankets, which are certainly used over and over – and over – again – will still be available on all WestJet flights for use at no charge.

WestJet, by the way, is one of the Canadian airlines that got news last week that it has until January to figure out how to comply with the Canadian Transportation Agency’s ruling that people who are “functionally disabled by obesity” deserve to have two seats for one fare.
WestJet, Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz argued that complying with the “One person -one fare” rule would cost too much.

Canada’s Supreme Court didn’t buy the argument.

Weighty issues for Canadian and US fliers

As you put on your loose-waisted pants and head off to airport to join your friends and family for that big Thanksgiving feast, keep this in mind:

On many US airlines, if you can’t fit in your seat with the armrests lowered, you may be asked to pay for a second seat.

In Canada, however, you will soon get more room to spread out. Legally – and for free.

According to an AP report posted on MSNBC.com today, beginning on January 9th, 2009: Canadian airlines flying domestically “cannot charge extra for an obese person who needs an additional seat or a disabled person who needs space for a wheelchair or stretcher or who must be accompanied by an attendant.”

US airlines aren’t likely to adopt that same plan anytime soon, but for folks who fit into individual airplane seats – and those who don’t – it’s probably a good time to read my Well-Mannered Traveler column that addresses the topic. It’s called, appropriately enough, Squeezed to Meet You and deals with the issue of “seatmates of size.”