Airline Grounds 130 Crew Members Over Their BMIs

An Air India plane. Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

At Air India, luggage isn't the only thing getting weighed before takeoff: The airline is relegating around 130 of its flight attendants to ground duty after they failed to meet body mass index (BMI) guidelines issued by the country's aviation regulator. Last year, the state-run airline warned about 600 of its 3,000 cabin crew members that their BMIs were too high and they had six months to slim down to the acceptable ranges of 18 to 25 for men and 18 to 22 for women. Air India spokesperson G.P. Rao told CNN, "It's a safety issue. The crew has to be fit to be able to carry out their in-flight duties, including emergencies." (This is the same airline that fired nine female attendants in 2009 after they failed to lose weight.)

The thing is, BMI doesn't really measure fitness, body fat, or overall health — some argue that it's a quick but meaningless stat. And even if it were objectively useful, Air India ought to have a single range, not one for men and a narrower one for women. (The formula is based on height and weight alone; sex doesn't factor in one bit.) The National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, says that a "normal weight" — for men and women — falls in the BMI range of 18.5 to 25. So Air India's requirements for women translate to "the skinny side of normal."