Consentia on Multidisciplinary Research


Aviation is the practical aspect or art of aeronautics and dealing with the design, development, production, operation and use of aircraft. The word “aviation” was coined by French writer and former naval officer Gabriel La Landelle in 1873, from the verb “avier” (synonymous flying), itself derived from the Latin word “avis” (“bird”) and the suffix “-ation”.

As witnessed from the reports the sector of Indian aviation has seen a remarkable growth with a dynamic growth in areas of passenger and cargo traffic. Along with the growth, an immense jump in the number of aircrafts operating in the country have been have been realised and a surge in investment in the airport infrastructure.

The total fleet size of commercial airlines in India was 371 as of 20th February 2013. In 1994, the Air Corporation Act of 1953 was repealed with a view to remove monopoly of air corporations on scheduled services, enable private airlines to operate scheduled service, convert Indian Airlines and Air India to limited companies and enable private participation in the national carriers. Since 1990 private airline companies were allowed to operate air taxi services, resulting in the establishment of Jet Airways and Air Sahara. These changes in the Indian aviation policies resulted in the increase of the share of private airline operators in domestic passenger carriage to 68.5% in 2005 from a meagre 0.4% in 1991.

One of the essential elements along with the design, production and use of the aircrafts in the aviation industry has always been the aircrew that consisted of flight attendants, stewards/ stewardess and cabin attendants that are employed for primarily ensuring safety and comfort of the passengers abroad commercial flights, or on select business jet aircraft or on some military aircraft. Cabin crew popularly known as Flight attendants has stewards, stewardesses, air host, air hostesses, cabin attendant that come within the purview of cabin crew. They are those members of the crew who had been given employment by airlines for the primary purpose of ensuring safe and comfortable journey to the passengers that have taken abroad commercial flights.

The history relating to role of flight attendant can be derived from that of similar positions on passenger ships or passenger trains. As compared to ships or trains, in aircraft the attendants possesses more direct involvement with passengers because of the confined quarters on aircraft. Additionally, the job of a flight attendant revolves around safety to a much greater extent than those of similar staff on other forms of transportation. Flight attendants on board a flight collectively form a cabin crew, as distinguished from pilots and engineers in the cockpit. Heinrich Kubis was the world’s first flight attendant, in 1912.

As far as stewards were concerned, their history relates back to year 1920 where Imperial Airways of the United Kingdom had “cabin boys” or “stewards”. In 1926, Stout Airways in US was the first airline to employ stewards that were made to work on Ford Trimotor planes between Detroit and Grand Rapids, MichiganWestern Airlines in 1928 and Pan American World Airways in 1929 were the first US carriers to employ stewards to serve food. Lead flight attendants would in many instances also perform the role of purser, steward, or chief steward in modern aviation terminology.

The first female flight attendant was a 25-year-old registered nurse named Ellen Church who was hired by United Airlines in 1930. She can be given the credit for envisioning the nurses on aircraft. Other airlines followed suit, hired nurses to serve as flight attendants, then called stewardesses or air hostesses, on most of their flights. Female flight attendants rapidly replaced male ones, and by 1936, they had all but taken over the role.They were selected not only for their knowledge but also for their characteristics.

A 1936 New York Times article described the requirements: “The girls who qualify for hostesses must be petite; weight 100 to 118 pounds; height 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches; age 20 to 26 years. The girls would have to undergo the rigid physical examination four times every year, and you are assured of the bloom that goes with perfect health.” Three decades later, a 1966 New York Times classified advertisement for stewardesses at Eastern Airlines listed these requirements: A high school graduate, single (widows and divorcees with no children considered), 20 years of age (girls 19 1/2 may apply for future consideration). 5’2″ but no more than 5’9″, weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height and have at least 20/40 vision without glasses. In the United States, they were required to be unmarried and were fired if they decided to wed.

Most airlines have height requirements for safety reasons, making sure that all flight attendants can reach overhead safety equipment. Typically, the acceptable height for this is 150 to 185 cm. Some airlines, such as EVA Air, have height requirements for purely aesthetic purposes. Regional carriers using small aircraft with low ceilings can have height restrictions. Flight attendants are also subject to weight requirements as well. Weight must usually be in proportion to height; persons outside the normal range may not be qualified to act as flight attendants.

Even though there isn’t a strict educational requirement, there are a number of air hostess requirements in place for you to get the job. These requirements are in place given your workplace and responsibilities. For example, a typical British Airways vacancy would have air hostess requirements like the aspirant should be aged 18 or over at the time of application; should have the required height, 5’2 – 6’1 with weight in proportion, and meet the minimum reach requirement; medically fit to meet regulatory and role requirements; have English and Maths to GCSE level or equivalent; have proven customer service experience; have a valid passport (with minimum of 12 months before expiry date) allowing unrestricted worldwide travel and having the unrestricted right to live and work in the UK; be prepared to undergo a Criminal Record Check for all countries of residence for six months or more in the previous five years;  be able to provide 5 years of continuous references in terms of education or employment;  wear the British Airways uniform to the required standard and be able to conceal any tattoos or body piercings in line with the British Airways uniform standards; be prepared to remove any headwear in the event of an emergency and should have strong experience of working within a customer service environment.

In country like India, the girls of such nation considers career of air hostess as a very promising career option, having a vision of smart and efficient lady in their minds. Many young girls in the age of 18-19 starts opting for this career option because of the reason that they have dreams of experiencing flying, visiting different places, having interaction with different kinds of people on board and for most obvious reason the very attractive pay package. In general the eligibility requirements for undergoing an airhostess training programme are less stringent and consists of- the aspirant should be plus two or should have a graduate degree with a diploma/ degree in Hotel Management or Tourism Management. The aspirant should hold an Indian Passport and should be below 25 years of age with a minimum height of 157.5 cm. the weight should be in proportion to height. Further, the aspirant should be unmarried, have a normal eyesight of 6/6 uncorrected vision in each eye and should have fluency and command over English. Having knowledge of an international language can be considered as an added advantage. [1]

The Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation has given Civil Aviation Requirements that has to be followed by the aspirants who intend to become a member of cabin crew in the airlines. It list down several requirements, qualifications and role of the cabin crew that can be illustrated as follows. The Cabin Crew has been defined as a member of the flight crew detailed to carry out such duties as may be assigned, in the interests of safety of the passengers, by the operator or the pilot in command of the aircraft. They are required on board aircraft to ensure passenger safety by preventing and managing adverse situations, which may develop in the aircraft cabin, and to provide guidance to all persons on board during an emergency. The effectiveness of cabin crew in fulfilling their safety-related duties can only be attained through proper and effective training that instil the basic knowledge, skills, attitudes and confidence that will allow cabin crew to handle emergencies. Cabin Crew are unique among airline personnel because they essentially have two distinct responsibilities on board an aircraft i.e. first, they have the responsibility which concerns the safety of the passengers and the aircraft cabin and secondly, they play the role of the airlines public relations officers, attending to passenger’s needs and in general creating a favourable impression of their airline by providing friendly and efficient service.

In the modern scenario a number of private players have entered into the field of air services which has set out demand for trained manpower. The aspiring applicant for the post of airhostess has to be physically fit having a pleasing personality, posture and clear complexion. The minimum height has been prescribed as 5’3 and the weight should be proportionate to the height. There are certain personal attributes that are looked into air hostess or flight attendant i.e. the lady should have common sense, presence of mind, sense of responsibility, friendly outgoing personality, unruffled by emergencies, a well-modulated and pleasant tone of voice and graceful carriage.

Despite these general conditions, several airlines have terminated or suspended the services of air hostesses due to non-compliance of the requirements. Most of the times, the termination is due to the weight issues. There are instances where an air hostesses are unable or are trying hard to manage and maintain their weight so that they are still in the race with the others and also facing the competition. Some cases has been brought into notice, the latest being Sangita Garg v. Indian Airlines Ltd. [2] where a Bench comprising of Rajiv Shekdhar, J. ruled that the state-run carrier had not applied its mind in terminating services of air hostesses that were fired for being overweight.[3]

In the present case, the airline in the year 2008 had terminated the services of three air hostesses, all employed as ground service staff at the time, stating they failed to maintain weight within a prescribed limit.

As the respondents had stated Sheela Joshi v. Indian Airlines Ltd., [4] , the High Court stated this case was not applicable in the present case as the court was dealing with a situation where petitioners had only been grounded and their services , however, had not been terminated. The Court observed that the Supreme Court in Sheela case had indicated that cases of termination and non-payment of dues during the period when air hostesses were grounded, should be dealt with, without being influenced by the judgments rendered by this Court. The Court was of the opinion that accumulated medical wisdom makes us believe that weight brings with it several health related problems but does not in every situation impede optimal performance. Therefore, the court had ordered that the three air- hostesses should be re-instated with that too full back wages and all consequential benefits, rejecting the argument of the airlines that contract for appointment itself made it clear that excess weight will lead to dismissal. [5]

In New Delhi, 2009, India’s flagship carrier Air India has handed 10 air hostesses the pink slip for being overweight. The hostesses, who were grounded some months earlier, were served the termination notices in the last week of December as said by a senior Air India official. All terminated hostesses were serving on domestic routes. One of the sacked airhostesses told that she was grounded two years back and had not been given salary since then. She got one month’s salary along with the termination letter.[6]

 In June 2008, five of the airhostesses had approached the Delhi High Court, challenging Air India’s decision to ground them for being overweight. However, the court dismissed their petition. The court said there was unreasonableness or arbitrariness in the airline’s decision. It noted that there was nothing wrong in the rules which prescribe different weight limits according to the height and age of an air hostess. The air hostesses also opposed a circular issued by the airline withdrawing the permissible overweight limit of three kg over and above the upper weight limit for them. Air India said the action taken against the employees was justified as it was mentioned in the contract.

For an 18-year-old air hostess with a height of 152 cm, the maximum weight permissible is 50 kg, while for air hostesses in the age group of 26 to 30 and a height of 152 cm, the weight limit is 56 kg. When Air India spokesperson J. Bhargava was contacted he said that he was not aware of the issue and worsening the situation the airline’s executive director (north) D.S. Kohli refused to comment.

In the end, it is to be noticed, that an air hostesses in order to face the competition and to earn a living has to abide by the rules so that it doesn’t affect the professional aspect of her life. As the requirements of being an air hostesses has to be fulfilled by the aspiring applicant, it has to been seen that these rules and regulations are not to be followed strictly that can lead to some heart- breaking moments for the aspiring applicants. As there can be a medical situation where the on job air hostesses had gained weight or due to some other reason she is unable to maintain her weight as per her height, it does not give the absolute authority to the airline official or the person dealing with the recruitment to terminate the services of that air- hostesses.

At least the air hostess should be given an opportunity to be heard out about the reasons as to why she had gained weight. After proper verification and scrutinization of what an air-hostess has stated, then the officials can take decision. Though they should not terminate their services but they should be given other opportunities to work if not the option of air hostess. There should be stringent laws, rules and regulations notified by the Government which has to be followed by the aviation industry in a true and honest manner as this industry can be given the credit of instilling huge dreams into the minds of young girls who dream big to join this industry and be an air hostess.


[2]Writ Petition No. 30 of 2010, decided on 31-03-2014


[4](2010) 1 SCC 376




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s