The appearance of flight attendants is of great concern to their employers. As the human face of the company, the stewards and, perhaps more crucially, the stewardesses are required to project the right image. Enormous amounts of time and money are spent by airlines in designing uniforms, coaching trainees in grooming techniques, nailcare, make-up selection and haircare. Many airlines also have strict weight stipulations for the cabin crew, and staff members who stray over the limit can be reassigned to ground based duties if they fail to shed the excess pounds within a short period of time. While there are some physical constraints on board and aircraft and overly large staff might find it tricky to nip around the cabin, the point of the rules is clear. We haven't heard of any airline trying to claim that the limits are there to reduce overall aircraft weight and therefore consume less fuel and save the planet - perhaps they haven't quite got the nerve; we all know it's all about good looks and glamour.
While not quite on as slimline as the 'size zero' debate, Indian Airlines had to face a lawsuit last month from a group of stewardesses who had fallen foul of the 'personal weight allowance' and been grounded. Unfortunately for the flight attendants their claim that they were being "demeaned" by their employer was rejected. The judge concluded that was reasonable for Indian Airlines to expect their employees to "battle their bulge, control their girth and keep at desired level the affluence of their body." She wonderfully, and illuminatingly, added to her summation "If by perseverence the snails could reach the Ark, why can't these worthy ladies stand on the scale?"