China's Hainan Airlines, a five-star airline rated by Skytrax, has been accused of introducing a strict weight control policy for its female flight attendants. The policy mandates immediate grounding if their weight exceeds the "standard limit" by 10 percent.
The weight control requirement is included in a guideline on professional image screening and control issued by Hainan Airlines to its cabin crew in early June. The guideline outlines specific body size and weight control standards for female flight attendants at different levels.
According to a civil aviation employee, Hainan Airlines' weight requirement for female flight attendants is unprecedented in the domestic aviation industry. A legal expert interviewed by the media expressed concerns over the airline's regulation, saying that it imposes additional labor obligations on employees without following proper legal procedures, raising suspicions of its legality.
In addition to their regular job responsibilities, Hainan Airlines' announcement explicitly states that the introduction of body and weight requirements for female flight attendants is based on the significance of maintaining a professional image. The airline emphasizes that as a prominent representative, Hainan Airlines should serve as a captivating business card to the outside world.
The requirement proposes that the standard weight calculation formula of female flight attendants is "height (cm) -110= standard weight (kg)," and attendants whose weight exceeds the "standard" will be classified and managed by the company.
For female flight attendants who are less than 5 percent overweight, the company has proposed to monitor their weight on a monthly basis to prevent crew members from gaining weight, read the statement, adding that these flight attendants will be required to conduct a face-to-face review after the one-month monitoring, complete on-site weighing and group review.
For female flight attendants who are 10 percent overweight, the company requires immediate suspension and weight reduction, and the team of flight attendants will assist the crew members to formulate weight reduction plans and supervise the weight reduction effect.
An employee surnamed Huang, who has worked in flight attendant management for many years, told the media that regulatory agencies primarily focus on ensuring aviation safety and do not impose restrictive requirements on factors such as the weight of flight attendants.
"If airlines deprive overweight flight attendants of the right to work normally purely because of visual aesthetic considerations, this is definitely employment discrimination. The introduction and implementation of such regulations have no respect for flight attendants," she said.
In fact, Chinese airlines are undertaking the biggest hiring drives in more than three years as travel rebounds are facing a deluge of applicants for cabin crew roles as fresh university graduates turn to the relatively high-paying career in a bleak job market, according to Reuters.
Hainan Airlines told Reuters it plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants this year and had received more than 20,000 applications.
In contrast to Western countries, where cabin crew roles are relatively low-paying and mostly do not require a university degree, becoming a flight attendant in China requires not only height and physical attractiveness but also a bachelor's degree and preferably passing a challenging government-administrated English test.