Malaysian Court Rejects Claim From Attendant Fired For Her Weight

The former Malaysian Airlines flight attendant who claimed the airline unfairly fired her due to being overweight has lost her case. The 5’2″, 133 pound woman said the termination took place because she was one pound “overweight”. Unfortunately this fell outside of the airline’s BMI (body mass index) requirements.

Malaysia A350 premium business
The flight attendant claims her termination was due to being overweight. Photo: Malaysia Airlines

The allegations

The allegation against Malaysia Airlines was made by Ina Meliesa Hassim, a veteran flight attendant who has worked with the carrier for 25 years. According to the Independent, Hassim was fired in 2017 for being one pound “overweight”.

The allegation of being overweight relates to a 2015 company policy that requires employees to maintain a “healthy’ body mass index (BMI). “Healthy” in this case was considered below 132 pounds. Mashable reported that the decision came after Hassim was placed on a “weight management program”, given 18-months to meet the requirements.

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The plaintiff’s lawyers said that a number of other international airlines do not have a BMI or weight requirement for cabin crew. Example airlines named include British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM and Qantas. Hassim’s lawyers go on to say that no safety issues have arisen as a result. They argued that being “overweight” by such a small factor would hardly prevent their client from effectively performing her duties.

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The company policy

The Independent managed to obtain the guidelines, which include the following text:

“Being front liners in uniform, cabin crew cast an unforgettable image in the minds of our valued guests…It is for this reason that the company considers the feedback received from our customers on the image of crew and inevitably even the appearance of cabin crew has been included as one of the attributes in the passenger flight experience survey and which is being tracked monthly.”

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On the more specific topic of health the guidelines state:

“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,”

The conflict relates to a policy instituted in 2015. Photo: Getty Images

The court’s ruling and reaction

Part of the company’s defense, which factored into the court’s ruling, is that Hassim had failed to attend several of her scheduled weigh-ins. Furthermore, the flight attendant had “ample opportunities” to achieve the “optimal weight.”

The New Straits Times reported on the official ruling, which stated:

“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,”

Several rights and advocacy organizations rushed to defend Ms. Hassim and fight the court’s ruling. In fact, the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) said the airline’s policy was “erroneously inhumane” while Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), also accused the company of discrimination.

Air India A321
In 2009 Air India dismissed 10 female cabin crew for being “overweight” after moving them to ground crew roles according to Forbes. Photo: Getty Images

Conclusion

While we would agree that health and weight can affect job performance, this airline’s policy seems rather strict. It’s true that many airlines do not have a clear policy on weight – but it seems like recruitment and selection usually favors those with slimmer physiques. This would largely avoid the need for a weight policy, which would lead to controversial situations such as this.

Did Ms. Hassim have a case here? Do you think she was wrongfully terminated? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

We reached out to Malaysian Airlines with a request for comment. We have yet to receive a response from the airline but will update this article if anything new comes in.

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Joseph

A policy is a policy. It’s only 1 pound? What about 2? Or 3? She knew the rules.

John Couch

Never fly that airline again.
What can you expect from an Malaysian Airline.
The service and food has seriously degraded with this Airline,even in Business class.
I use other airlines nowadays to travel.

Upul jayatilake

I am from Australia,I strongly believe that policy has no place in a decent society.She should be reinstated.

PowerfulNomad

They are probably trying to trim down their workforce. 14000 employees is a lot for just 81 aircrafts.

Alex

Perhaps if you had merely approached Malaysia Airlines, instead of “reaching out” to them, they would have responded.

John MacLeod

This is one job where physical size really does impinge on ability to do the job. Passengers in aisle seats on airlines which have less stringent weight requirements for cabin crew suffer from repeated battering as somewhat oversized cabin crew members pass down the aisle. Most US carriers are guilty… Read more »

JustSaying

No, it’s NOT discrimination! Noone has said anything negative about her, she just didn’t fit into the companies requirements anymore. Discrimination issues are about the Way You Were Born and not about What You Make Of Yourself!!! Stop abusing this term to defend any BS you do willingly! And that… Read more »

Flemming Stücker

It is a matter of emergency situation and bodyweight and language is for some airlines a big issue. Some airlines in South America only speak Spanish or Portuguese. Some airlines have overweight staff, so jut pray to God and hope for the best.

Joe

She had 18 months to loose some weight. That is not exactly the hardest thing to do. If they had fired her with no warning, then that would be obviously unfair. However, she had one and a half years to loose what? One or two pounds? I think she could… Read more »

William

Malaysian Airlines has some excellent eye candy. I guess they’re trying to maintain that edge. At a certain point weight becomes a safety issue since flight attendants have a very important function. She’s only crossed into borderline over weight.. Are there any pictures of this woman?

David

Seems to me the job does need limitations on size and weight but I would not like to try and specify those numbers. We do seem to appreciate cabin crew who might be eligible to win beauty contests. For the sake of 1 lb she could easily have complied.

Ray Powell

Does the airline have similar restrictions on male cabin crew members? Maybe it is time for airlines to be more specific with their cabin crew requirements, like a speed test of how fast to get from the rear of the aircraft to the front. How many languages do they know.… Read more »

R.Sivarajah

Yes she had a good case…. MAS needs to focus on their business plan and become profitable again… going after eranoeus old backward thinking policies is not going to help…. look around MAS …. focus on their ability to perform safety related duties… cabins are not damm nite clubs…