Air India flight attendants put on low-fat diets

Cash-starved Air India is putting its crew on a diet, changing their inflight menu to special low-fat meals.

Dhananjay Kumar, the state-run airline's spokesman, said Wednesday that the objective is to provide healthy and cost-effective meals to crews on domestic and international flights.

Kumar declined comment on media reports that the cost per meal, mostly vegetarian, will fall to one-third of the current 500-800 rupees (up to $16.50) per meal.

The new menu was introduced Monday on flights originating from New Delhi and Mumbai and will be extended to other routes soon.

"Special low-fat diet meals have been worked out on a day-wise basis in order to provide light and healthy meal with a home (Indian) touch," an airline statement said.

The decision comes at a time when the Indian government is trying to divest from Air India, which has debts of nearly 580 billion rupees ($12 billion).

After an earlier failed attempt to sell the airline off last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is expected to try again in October.

In 2009, the airline fired 10 flight attendants for being overweight after they failed to get back in shape three years after they were switched to ground crew jobs.

A court later ordered that the crew be re-hired. 

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Lower weight on an aircraft helps them save fuel costs, which can account for about 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the expenses.

The three Air India attendants were moved to ground roles as they were overweight to fly, according to the court documents.

Lawyers for Air India argued that "pleasing appearance, manners and physical fitness was required" in the travel industry and all crew members were expected to remain smart, alert and energetic, according to the documents.

The airline "has not applied its mind to germane factors before taking a decision to terminate the petitioners' services," the judge wrote.

AP/Bloomberg

See also: Weird requirements for becoming a flight attendant

See also: The rules of what flight attendants can and can't wear

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