Malaysia Airlines flight attendant Ina Meliesa Hassim filed a case against her employer after being fired for weighing in 1.5 pounds over the airline’s standard for her height. She lost the case.
The court chairman concluded “on the balance of probabilities” (the relevant standard) that there was just cause for the termination.
It was reported that Ina Meliesa was dismissed for repeatedly failing to meet the airline’s weight requirement under a weight management programme for 18 months, which Malaysia Airlines said was part of its effort “to maintain its image as a premium airline”.
As Ina Meliesa’s height was 160cm, the maximum permissible weight under the company’s guidelines was 61kg. Her weight was 61.7kg at the last official weigh-in on April 10, 2017.
While other airlines have different policies, and there’s no safety issue, Malaysia Airlines was within its rights under the laws of that country.
India’s SpiceJet has strip searched flight attendants to make sure they’re not stealing cash from buy on board sales and the women they strip search are all single and under 28 when hired. Pakistan International Airlines grounds flight attendants and refers them for medical treatment when they deem the cabin crew overweight.
This isn’t an entirely unknown practice worldwide. Two years ago Aeroflot flight attendants wrote to Vladimir Putin for help claiming they were being sidelined because they were ‘old, fat, and ugly.’
VietJet highlights women in bikinis, and Malindo Air has required prospective flight attendants to remove their tops in interviews. India’s SpiceJet strip searches flight attendants.
Singapore Airlines grooming standards are intense. There are 5 approved hairstyles, but each woman is told which ones she is allowed to use. There are specific colors for their makeup, and they may be given only one or — if they’re ‘more advanced’ or experienced in making themselves up — two they are allowed to use personally. Flight attendants buy their own makeup, but it must match the allowable colors.
After the first day of training some women will spend up to 4 hours getting ready for class, to ensure they look perfect. The standards are new to them and they’re obviously trying to impress during training. I’m told that on average a woman may take an hour doing her hair and makeup for a flight
US airlines used to use sex to sell tickets. Southwest Airlines launched at Dallas’ Love Field listing its stock under the ticker symbol LUV. Their original ticketing machines were called Quickies. Flight attendants wore hot pants. Southwest’s practice of hiring only attractive women as flight attendants was successfully challenged in court. This is no longer permitted in the U.S.
Malaysia’a Malindo Air required flight attendants to disrobe as part of their interview process. So while cultural standards are different in different parts of the world, the treatment of women in the workforce and in aviation in particular is… especially so.