Turkish Air: Lose weight, or lose your job

Flight attendants given 6 months to slim down.

August 8, 2010 16:34
2 minute read.
Turkish Airplane

Turkish Plane 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Turkish Airlines told 13 female and 15 male flight attendants that they have six months to lose weight or face reassignments, according to Turkish media.

“Weight and height are important factors at all airlines,” a statement from the airline said. “These criteria are important both in terms of appearance and the ability to move about.”

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“It’s not uncommon,” Oussama Salah, an aviation expert based in Abu Dhabi told The Media Line. “But it would never happen in America, where you are forbidden to discriminate against someone because of their weight.”

Turkish Airlines follows Air Arabia, a low cost airline based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates which has taken a similar approach.

“Air Arabia has a list of what your weighs has to be in relation to your height,” Salah said. “Flight attendants were given three months to get in shape, after that they will be grounded.”

“The cabin crew knew about it as it’s part of your employment contract and you need to follow it,” he added. “But it’s individual and not the same across the board.”

But British aviation expert Philip Butterworth-Hayes said that this was the first time he had ever heard of such as case.

“I have never heard of this before,” he told The Media Line. “This would never work in the United States, where the body mass index of the passengers and attendants is higher then anywhere else in the world.”

Butterworth-Hayes said fitness was important for certain flight attendant tasks.

“The only issue would be if [the attendants] can get all the people off the aircraft fast and if they are fit enough to handle the emergency exits, which is the most important part of their job,” he said.

Turkish Airlines was founded in 1933 as part of the Turkish Ministry of Defense, with the first international route to the Greek capital Athens inaugurated in 1947.

In 1955, it was restructured and renamed Turkish Airlines. While the state still controls 50.9 percent of the company’s shares, the rest are held by privates investors.

In 2008 Turkish Airlines joined the Star Alliance network, which includes airlines such as Continental, United, Air Canada and Germany’s Lufthansa.

Today the company has 142 modern aircrafts ranging from the Airbus 340 to Boeing 737.

It carries 25 million passengers per year to 158 destinations world wide.

While its now illegal to discriminate against flight attendants in the US, up until the 1990s cabin crew could be fired for a number of reasons such as getting married, wearing glasses and if they where overweight. Following a number of lawsuits and negotiations between airlines and unions the early 1990s, such tactics ended.

A number of overweight people have sued airlines over discrimination after they were forced to pay for an extra seat.

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