A number of flight attendants, who have been handed the directive, informed Dhaka Tribune that the authorities simply cannot take any such decision that affects their livelihood
National flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines has grounded a section of its cabin crews for being “overweight” and has asked them to slim down by the end of December to avoid strict actions.
In a crackdown on “overweight” flight attendants, two months ago, Biman had asked 21 members of the cabin crew to lose weight to meet minimum requirements by December this year, or face consequences in January next year.
A number of flight attendants, who have been handed the directive, informed Dhaka Tribune that the authorities simply cannot take any such decision that affects their livelihood.
The service regulation agreement between Bangladesh Biman and the association of cabin crew does not have any provision that can explain the issues related to being overweight and the procedure to ground them because of this.
Wishing to remain anonymous, a crew member who received the warning said they do not receive any pay when an attendant is grounded and the policy does not mention anything on this.
"Some of the cabin crew members who were already grounded were living in hardship because they receive no wage while being grounded, especially when their families depend on their income,” the crew member added.
Most of the grounded cabin crew members are now hurrying to make themselves physically fit to return to their duties, but they also demanded that there should be a policy for their payment during the grounded period.
“Non-payment of salaries during the period of grounding, based on a sudden decision, is nothing but inhuman,” informed another crew member.
“Because of the decision, we will not get any salary and allowances like house rent, medical allowance, flight attendance allowance etc,” she added.
Aviation expert Wahedul Alam said it is normal for airlines to ground their crews with pay if they exceed acceptable levels on the Body Mass Index (BMI).
A deputy general manager of Biman Bangladesh Airlines claimed that cabin crew members do receive basic salaries even if they are grounded. However, no other allowances including flight attendance will be paid.
Earlier in September, Biman conducted medical check-ups and identified 30 members to be grounded.
Among them, nine were grounded because for maternity leaves while the rest 21 were grounded for being physically unfit to fly by virtue of being overweight.
According to the latest Biman recruitment circular, the minimum height for a cabin crew is 168cm for male applicants and 161cm for female applicants while the minimum weight is calculated based on the Body Mass Index (BMI) which is ideally between 18.5-25.0.
BMI is an indicator to measure body fat, but it does not measure body fat and correlate it to direct measures of body fat.
The crew members get festival allowances, training at home and abroad, housing and transport allowance, medical allowance, uniform allowance, and so on.
A Biman flight attendant usually receives Tk15,900-Tk38,400 as basic salary under different scales and at times, the total salary can amount to about Tk1,70,000 when all facilities are included.
Confirming the development, Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director and chief executive officer of the national carrier said they were grounded because of being obese or overweight.
“Grounding staff members because of overweight, in terms of the BMI, is nothing but routine work,” he said.
“New cabin crew members will be recruited shortly as new flights have been added to the carrier along with extension of flights in new channels. Currently, 40 new cabin crew members are completing their training and 39 are waiting to join their training,” said the Biman CEO.
According to Biman's website, Biman has 289 permanent cabin crew members, of them 129 are male and 160 are female. On the other hand, Biman has 137 contractual permanent cabin crew members.
Biman, on October 28, launched a Dhaka-Medina-Dhaka flight while flight operations on the Chittagong-Medina route once a week is set to begin later this year.
Furthermore, it is also planning to launch a direct flight from Sylhet to London, Dhaka to New York and to destinations like Manchester, Tokyo, Colombo, and Male by 2020.