Air India allowed to ground overweight crew

/ Source: The Associated Press

An Indian court has ruled that the national airline Air India can ground overweight cabin crew members, a spokesman for the carrier said Thursday.

Two years ago, Air India warned its nearly 1,600 cabin crew workers to shape up in two months or risk being assigned to ground duties. When the airline grounded staff it deemed overweight, some of them took it to court.

On Wednesday the Delhi High Court said in a judgment that there was "no unreasonableness or arbitrariness" in the airline's decision, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

A copy of the court's decision was not immediately made public.

"The court has vindicated our stand in totality," said an Air India spokesman, Jitender Bhargava. Lawyers for staff who filed the lawsuit could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

The airline said earlier that fitness and efficiency were the reasons for its weight standards, which it said were based on combinations of height, age and gender. It did not give further details about how such standards were determined.

Bhargava said that the airline used a "scientific" system to do so, and that both male and female staffers were affected.

India has laws aimed to protect against discrimination based on factors including caste, gender and religion, but no specific ones about weight.

Bhargava did not say how many staff members would be affected.

It was not immediately clear if anyone would appeal the latest court decision.

Air India has tried in the past few years to change a public perception of its cabin staff as tired, unfriendly and inefficient.

India's airline industry has grown dramatically in recent years as rising incomes and loosened regulations put air travel within the reach of millions of new customers.

The market has also become more competitive with the recent launches of several private and low-cost airlines.