A seasoned flight attendant who was reportedly fired from Malaysia Airlines for being one pound “overweight,” according to Body Mass Index (BMI) standards for the company’s cabin crew, has lost her case against the carrier in court.
Stewardess Ina Meliesa Hassim had worked for the airline for 25 years before she was fired in September 2017 for being “overweight,” The Independent reports.
Hassim, who is 5-feet, 2-inches tall, allegedly weighed 133 pounds at the time of her dismissal, one pound heavier than the Malaysia Airlines’ cutoff point at 132 pounds for the “healthy” range for her height on the BMI chart.
Suing for unfair dismissal under Malaysian unemployment law, an Industrial Court of Malaysia ruled in favor of the airline on Feb. 14.
Since October 2015, Malaysia Airlines has mandated a weight management rules for cabin crew employees in a bid to "maintain its image as a premium airline,” The Edge Markets reports.
“As cabin crew, apart from maintaining the appearance as set by the company, you are also responsible to ensure the safety of our passengers while in flights. Being front liners in uniform, cabin crew cast an unforgettable image in the minds of our valued guests,” the carrier said in announcing the decision.
“With this policy in place, the airline will see healthier cabin crew who will project an image befitting that of the world’s best cabin staff as well as for ensuring the passengers’ safety when the necessity arises,” Malaysia Airlines explained.
Cabin crew staffers, however, who did not meet the standards for healthy BMI numbers would be enrolled in a weight management program.
In Hassim’s case, the woman was reportedly given 18 months to lose the weight and received assistance from an in-house doctor. The carrier also claimed that Hassim did not attend several scheduled weigh-ins during the period.
Meanwhile, Hassim’s lawyers argued in court that BMI stipulations and weight requirements were unjust in that competitor international airlines like British Airways, Qantas and Lufthansa do not regulate employee’s weight and no safety issues have come up as a result, the Independent reports.
Lawyers for the plaintiff also disputed the notion that being one pound “overweight” would prevent their client from doing her job to the best of her abilities.
Nevertheless, the court determined that the weight management program was not discriminatory and that the company had the right to make policies regarding employee’s weight as they saw fit.
“The court is convinced that the company had provided the claimant with ample opportunities and chances to comply with the company’s policy and that despite the many opportunities however, the claimant had consistently failed to achieve her optimal weight,” court chairman Syed Noh Said Nazir said in the ruling, according to the Independent.
“The weight management program was in no way discriminatory as it applies among all crew and the company had at all times ensured that the claimant and all its crew were accorded every opportunity possible to achieve their optimum weight,” the judgement elaborated.
The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia has since described the court's ruling as “erroneously inhumane," Free Malaysia Today reports.
A spokesperson for the carrier was not immediately available to offer further comment.
Unfortunately, the news hardly marks the first time that the topic has made headlines. Last year, Pakistan International Airlines allegedly told "obese" members of its cabin crew to lose weight or be grounded.
In August, a director for LOT Polish Airlines was fired for "fat shaming" the cabin crew staff of a British Airways flight on social media with a series of illicitly taken photos