You read the title correctly and, no, I am not quoting a news story from the 1960s.
Of course Turkish Airlines isn’t the only airline to set maximum weight and size thresholds for their flight attendants, but it always surprises me to read stories like this:
Turkish Airlines has banished 28 flight attendants to the no-fly zone for weighing too much.
The employees have been given six months to lose weight, Reuters reports, and are forbidden from flying the friendly skies until they can slim down.
Now the story is not quite as bad as it sounds. First, it’s not only women who are being picked on: in fact more men than women (15 vs. 13) have received the ultimatum. Second, if the employees are unable to lose the required amount of weight, they will not lose their jobs, but be assigned another job within Turkish Airlines.
I have to admit: I don’t mind weight (and age) requirements for FAs. I lament the fact that the last acceptable bastion of discrimination in our society is against the overweight, but I also lament observing gargantuan or decrepit FAs who struggle to complete their job and may pose a serious safety hazard if a sudden evacuation was required. While "performance tests" (which have replaced weight and age requirements in America) seek to remedy these concerns, anyone who has flown enough on U.S. legacy carriers knows that many slip through the cracks.
I hope that last paragraph did not come across as to harsh. As sappy as it may sound, I really feel for those who struggle with their weight and acknowledge that obesity is increasingly classified as a disease. But I don’t view the job of a FA as simply a safety measure. Rather, I also view a FA like an actress or a model–as the face of the airline. And let’s admit it, we like pretty faces. Just as it would be silly to require modeling agencies to hire (how shall I put it delicately…) people who were not blessed with beauty, I have no qualms with an age and weight requirement for FAs in order to promote the airlines’ image.
Without diving into further discrimination and union debates, I’ll just conclude this post by saying that some of my best FA’s on UA have been overweight, old, and homely. But that doesn’t mean that UA or any other airline should be barred from deciding that it is in their interest to hire (and fire FAs) according to their own standards.