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Air India Orders Pre-Flight BMI Measurement of Crew Members; Unions Oppose, Say ‘Will Affect Mental Health’

The Air India cabin crew union has objected to a new rule that mandates Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight checks for cre members prior to boarding a flight.

Published: January 25, 2022 7:13 AM IST

By News Desk | Edited by Analiza Pathak

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New Delhi: Flight attendants at Air India have objected to a new company circular mandating Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight checks for cabin crew members that they will be subjected to by uniform police known as ‘grooming associates‘ before reporting for flights. The cabin crew union fears the checks could negatively impact a crew member’s mental health just as they’re about to take on important safety tasks.

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The new weight checks were announced by Air India’s Inflight Services Department in a letter aimed at making flight attendants comply with tough new uniform and grooming standards. “Cabin crew who are well-dressed and well-groomed according to uniform standards and regulations, present a positive and professional image of the airline,” the internal memo noted.

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It is dehumanising, unioins oppose

The carrier’s two unions — Air India Employees’ Union (AIEU) and All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) — on Monday wrote a letter to Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Vikram Dev Dutt opposing the order on the grounds that it is dehumanising and in violation of rules prescribed by aviation regulator DGCA.

“BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres. A high BMI can indicate high body fatness,” stated the website of US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AICCA letter further states the new requirement could disturb cabin crew members mentally ahead of their flights. It notes, “This stressful BMI check during a reporting at CCMCO is bound to disturb crew’s mental preparation through giving rise to flight safety issues and pre-departure when cabin crew is required to conduct rapid review & briefings.”

The order dated January 20, 2022, has come days before Air India’s hand over to the Tata group, which acquired the carrier in a competitive bidding process last year.

The order

The January 20 order was sent by Vasudha Chandana, Executive Director — In-flight Services, Air India, to all cabin crew members in the carrier. “Grooming associates have been assigned the task of recording observations on the BMI management/grooming/uniform turnout of cabin crew when they report for a flight or standby duty at CCMCO (Cabin Crew Movement Control Office),” she noted.

These observations must be compiled and sent to her office, she stated. Each cabin crew shall be observed or assessed once on quarterly basis, she noted.

However, it will be the responsibility of the cabin supervisor of the flight to ensure that her or his set of crew are well turned out and follow complete uniform regulations, she mentioned.

All cabin supervisors must lead by example and ensure compliance by cabin crew at all times, she stated.

Any non-compliance by a crew member must be noted in the report of the cabin supervisor, she noted.

BMI checks can be done only by medical practitioners

In a letter to the CMD, the aforementioned two unions said that as per DGCA’s rules, the BMI checks can be done only by medical practitioners.

The unions said that such BMI checks at airports by non-medical grooming associates violates not only DGCA rules but also “settled service conditions and court orders”.

“We must stipulate that we are not objecting to BMI checks, which crew have undergone for more than 15 years now, however, the same must be conducted by medical doctors, in the privacy of the Air India clinic, as has been the case until now,” the unions noted.

This process of weighing scale checks at airports “dehumanizes and denigrates” Air India’s cabin crew, apart from violating working conditions, they stated.

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Published Date: January 25, 2022 7:13 AM IST