Air India, which has long been struggling to shape up its performance, has decided that 130 of its flight attendants who were identified as overweight and failed to get in shape despite repeated warning will have to be grounded.
Most of these 'overweight' cabin crew members are women.
According to a report in The Telegraph, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has turned down a proposal by the government-owned airline to retain "overweight" cabin crew.
The DGCA has said that weight norms cannot be rolled back because they have been prescribed on "technical and efficiency grounds".
Air India now wants to either ground the cabin crew members who do not meet the weight standards or ask them to opt for voluntary retirement.
In May 2014, the DGCA issued a circular directing all domestic airlines, giving them an 18-month deadline, to classify flight attendants as "normal", "overweight" or "obese" and ensure that only the "fitter" crew were assigned aircraft duties.
The circular said that women would need to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18 and 22 to be declared normal. Women with BMI between 22 and 27 would be labelled overweight and those with a BMI higher than 27 would be classified as obese. For men, BMI levels between 18 and 25 would be deemed normal, 25 and 29.9 overweight, and above 30 obese.
Among the 3,500 cabin crew members in Air India, 600 were found to be 'obese' and had been asked to reduce weight.
When 130 among them failed to reduce weight, Air India sent a letter to DGCA in October last year asking for a relaxation in norms as they were among the senior and more experienced staff.
However, the DGCA said that they will not go back on the BMI norms as they have been "set after long deliberations over safety concerns."
"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," an airline official told NDTV.
This time, though, the DGCA will probably have the last word.