Air India puts cabin crew on diet

Helen Coffey
Air India planes prepare for take-off at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on September 8, 2012. Boeing hiked its forecast for India's aircraft market by more than 11 percent, saying the country will require 1,450 new planes worth a total of USD 175 billion over the next two decades: AFP/Getty

Air India is putting all its cabin crew and pilots on a low-fat diet.

India’s national carrier announced the move in a memo to staff, in which it said the new menus would launch on 15 September on all flights from Delhi and Mumbai.

It read: “Taking into consideration the health factor of crew, an initiative has been taken by director operations to revise the in-flight food menu for the crew.

“In view of the above, special low-fat diet meal for crew has been worked out on day wise basis in order to provide light and healthy meal with a home (Indian) touch.”

Sample meals include nutri peas bhurji, besan chilla (a kind of vegetarian breakfast pancake) and mushroom egg white omelette.

“All the dishes in the food menu are low on cholesterol and fat. This initiative will help our crew to remain healthy and fit,” an Air India spokesperson told The Times of India.

While there’s nothing wrong with encouraging healthy eating, the airline has courted controversy in the past for trying to impose weight limits on cabin crew.

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In 2015, Air India grounded 130 of its flight attendants, most of whom were women, because they were overweight.

The airline said the decision was based on safety concerns and recent government regulations, but critics called the move “shockingly sexist".

Air India tested 3,500 employees and declared 600 overweight or obese. These staff members were put on a diet and given an exercise regime to follow before being reassessed.

“About 130 of them failed the reassessment,” said an Air India official. “We are now declaring them permanently unfit for their job as flight attendants.”

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Aviation industry consultant Mark Martin told The Telegraph at the time: “This move to impose a certain BMI, ignoring experience and other performance parameters, is immature, misogynistic and shockingly sexist.

“We seem to have lost the plot on what is needed from flight attendants.”

Weight limits for Indian flight attendants date back to the 1980s, when Air India began circulating height and weight charts.

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