New Delhi: National carrier Air India’s cabin crew may challenge a new regulator order in a court that seeks to impose stricter health standards for flight attendants.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has made it mandatory for all cabin attendants to undergo tests to check whether they meet height, weight, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, blood pressure and blood sugar standards. This would be the first time DGCA has imposed such criteria but avoided terming them as physical standards.
“There is a huge impact,” said Sanjay Lazar, general secretary of Air India’s All India Cabin Crew Association. “We are looking at legal options.”
Lazar said Air India has about 3,000 cabin crew and approximately a third of them are above 40 years of age and will be the most affected by these stringent rules.
The DGCA notice, reviewed by Mint, is mandatory for all airlines and charter operators based in India. Mint had reported on 6 August that DGCA was planning to bring in such clauses.
The regulator said the decision was taken to ensure that the crew were “physically active”.
“The need to undergo medical examination for cabin crew is in keeping with their perceived role in flight operations (including aircraft emergencies). The cabin crew needs to remain physically active, mentally alert and comfortable in all phases of aircraft operations and to handle emergencies,” the circular said. “They should be in good health and free from any physical or mental illness, which may lead to incapacitation or inability to perform their duties diligently,”.
DGCA has mandated that airlines conduct the tests for all cabin crew when they are inducted as also every two years and as when deemed fit. Stricter tests have been proposed for those over 40.
So far, to qualify as a flight attendant, a person was required to have at least passed high school, be 18 years of age, and be able to reach safety equipment, and open and close overhead bins in the aircraft while standing. The candidate also needed to pass mandatory medical tests, which were left for the airline to decide.
Flight attendants need to be at least 5 feet 3 inches to 6 feet 3 inches in height and weigh 58-70kg. Male flight attendants need to be 5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 3 inches in height and weigh 68-82kg.
“Suddenly, you can’t wake up and say let’s roll back the years. This is being unreasonable. It doesn’t make sense. Other countries have licensing regime. We have demanded licensing if they are getting into such stringent medical controls,” Lazar said, adding he has written a protest letter to DGCA. “Other private airlines have much younger cabin crew but in the long run they will be impacted too.”
Mohan Ranganathan, an air safety expert and member of the government appointed Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, said the move was clearly aimed at Air India, where senior staffers may fail to meet such tests. “They will fail the waist-hip ratio test and many of them will be overweight so they will have sugar levels which will be high and then they will also have blood pressure,” said Ranganathan.