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Chinese Airline Grounds Flight Attendants Who Become “Too Fat” to Fly

Look at the strict weight chart

Qingdao Airlines has confirmed that it requires its flight attendants to maintain strict weight requirements down to as little as 50 kilograms (110 lbs), partly due to reasons of “flight safety”.

Earlier Chinese reports showed a color-coded chart (below) purportedly used by the airline that indicates the ideal weight of a flight attendant as determined by her height. Qingdao Airlines flight attendants that allow their weight to fall into a “yellow zone” were supposedly grounded from flying, while those with a weight that fall into in a “red zone” are immediately terminated.

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The Qingdao Airlines spokesperson denied these allegations, and explained their chart is not a tool for managing its current employees, but a guide for hiring new recruits:

The chart seen in the article refers to a standard that we use when hiring flight attendants. Every airline has their own recruiting requirements. Our company’s requirements are slightly high.

Qingdao Airlines’ own website under “Flight Attendant Recruiting” shows all new applicants must be under 30 years old and fall within this formula for weight: [height(cm)-110]=weight(kg)(1±10%). This means that a 165 centimeter-tall (5’5″) applicant must weigh no more than 50 kilograms (110 lbs), while a 172 centimeter-tall (5’8) applicant can be no more than 68 kilograms (150 lbs).

The Qingdao Airlines spokesperson said the vast majority of its flight attendants comply with its weight requirements. The spokesperson did not say what punitive actions would be taken if its company’s weight regulations were violated.

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The spokesperson further clarified that flight attendants must adhere to their rigorous weight requirements as a way to maintain “flight safety”:

We consider that if the weight of a flight attendant is excessive, her ability to react during an emergency situation will be inadequate, which is why we hope they will be able to maintain their figures.

China’s National Civil Aviation Bureau also thinks the weight of a flight attendant is relevant to the safe operation of an airliner. A representative for the bureau confirmed there is a correlation between the weight of a flight crew member and aircraft safety because when calculating the load of an airplane, the total weight of a flight crew must be taken into account. Therefore, the representative said, the weight of a flight attendant can not be excessive.

No standards pertaining to the weight of pilots was mentioned in the report.

An unnamed veteran manager of the Chinese airline industry calls the Qingdao weight regulations “a human rights violation”. The manager says that flight attendants are treated unfairly given that “the calculation of the load of a plane usually lists every adult on board as being 72 kilograms without having to specifically weigh them.

Other developments in the Chinese airline industry this week reveal more questionable treatment of flight attendants.

Shanghai Airlines also cited “flight safety” when it was criticized this week after it revealed company policy allowed management to hold final approval when its employees want to get married. Flight attendants, security guards and pilots working for Shanghai Airlines must all provide information about their spouses-to-be to the company.

In an online statement, Shanghai Airlines said it wanted to find out to whom their workers were getting married before it was too late. “It is common in the civil aviation industry for companies to investigate their employees’ families to determine if they have a criminal record,” the statement read. “It is mainly to ensure flight safety.”

Although China’s marriage law states no one has the right to interfere in the marriages of other people, Shanghai Airlines says their policy has been in place for a long time.


Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor