Report: Flight Attendants at Emirates Are Governed by “Weight Police”
Punishments for inability to lose weight include department transfers, pay cuts and, in some cases, termination
Most HR departments exist to ensure that all employees — regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — are presented with the same set of opportunities and generally treated with humanity and respect, both in candidacy and employment. And in most cases, if a colleague comments on another’s physical appearance in such a way that makes them uncomfortable, that’s typically grounds for HR to get involved.
Unless that company is Emirates, in which case the HR department allegedly encourages employees — specifically, flight attendants — to come forward with concerns surrounding overweight colleagues so that they might be addressed.
In a new report from Insider, a number of the airline’s former flight attendants have come forward with allegations surrounding Emirates’ “Appearance Management Program” — a program overseen by “image and grooming officers” who’s responsibility it is to make sure the staff adheres to every facet of the appearance portion of the employee handbook, including an apparent weight requirement.
The basis of the allegations is this: if any flight attendant appears to be gaining weight, they are either identified by or reported to what are referred to internally as “weight police.” If the employee in question is in fact deemed overweight by Emirates’ standards, they are then placed on a subsequent diet and exercise plan and, later, required to meet with HR to gauge their progress.
“Failure to make progress incurs a series of warnings, weight checks, and in some cases punishments such as pay cuts,” one former employee told Insider.
Per a former manager at the company, there are an estimated “150 people out of 25,000” participants in the program at any given time. As for those not able to lose the “extra” weight? In best-case scenarios, they are transferred to another department. Worst case, they are fired.
No concessions are made for new mothers, either. “We weigh them on their last day of work, and they have to come back within a certain percentile, plus or minus of that weight,” the former manager said.
Of course, it is worth noting that the FAA requires airlines to take the weight of the crew into account, as it’s necessary to know the aircraft’s overall weight prior to takeoff, but experts agree that to hold individual flight attendants accountable to such is archaic. The real issue here is that expecting flight attendants to adhere to certain beauty standards for the sake of furthering the brand is exploitative and misogynistic. It’s far more important that flight attendants be willing and able to save passengers in the event of an emergency than it is that they fit into a size two.
When asked to comment, Emirates said in a statement: “We do not comment on internal policies or procedures or specific, confidential cases of existing or past employees.”
“As a global airline, we treat the wellbeing of our employees with the highest priority, and we believe being fit and healthy, both physically and mentally, is a critical aspect in them carrying out their duties safely and effectively,” the statement goes on to say. “It may not always be apparent to our customers, but the responsibilities of our cabin crew are vast, and their ability to influence and achieve safe outcomes when needed, requires extensive training and a minimum standard of physical fitness.”
It’s a well-established fact at this point that being “overweight” (which is itself a hugely problematic designation) and being physically fit are not mutually exclusive. Apparently that very old news is yet to reach Emirates.
For more travel news, tips and inspo, sign up for InsideHook's weekly travel newsletter, The Journey.