The infamous Pakistan International Airlines has a penchant for making it into the headlines and while there is no such thing as bad press, the verdict is still out on their latest public debacle.
On the 1st of January, PIA sent a memo to approximately 1800 cabin crew regarding its weight check policy. The memo stated that any crew member who is more than 30 lbs overweight will be grounded after the 31st of January. The airline will further refer its overweight cabin crew to the Air Crew Medical Centre till their weight is reduced to the desired standard.
The memo resulted in much hue and cry on social media with people calling out PIA for imposing such an impossible demand and body-shaming its employees.
However, PIA is not the first airline to ask its cabin crew to lose weight. In 2014, Air India warned 600 of its 3500 cabin crew to lose weight within six months or risk being grounded. As a general rule, most airlines require the cabin crew to be a “healthy weight” and have a BMI within the normal range.
Many airlines have unusual regulations for their cabin crew, especially when it comes to physical characteristics. United Airlines has a strong stance on trendy facial hair on men stating “trendy facial hair styles are not permitted (e.g. small patch of hair below the lower lip). Jet Airways is said to require a “clear complexion (scares, pimples and blemishes are unacceptable); the airlines is also reported to require an unmarried status as a standard for “inexperienced” crew. In 2015, Qatar Airways relaxed it’s controversial policies which saw cabin crew sacked incase they became pregnant or got married within the first five years of employment; the change in policy came about after the restrictions were condemned by the UN and International Labour Organisation.
Mashhood Tajwar, a PIA spokesman, while speaking to a private news agency stated that the crackdown was a ‘regular, routine matter’ and the memo was issued to ensure that flight attendants were ‘slim, smart and fit.’ While the memo’s specification that flight attendants have ‘0 excess weight’ by the 1st of July 2019 seems extreme there is also the fact that the payload of an aircraft is directly proportional to the amount of fuel utilised, so one is left to question if the national airline is being practical or bordering on body shaming?
On the other hand, perhaps a more pertinent concern for PIA should be attending to employees who have fake degrees, including cabin crew and pilots. The national flag carrier has had to fire 194 ‘ghost employees’ in the past two months alone and has sustained a loss of Rs 414.3 billion. In light of all this – maybe PIA would be better off directing it’s attention less on the cabin crew but more on the people in top management.