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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 11:34 GMT
No bar on handlebar moustaches
Indian Airlines plane
Indian Airlines said Mr De's moustache could be unhygienic
Can you look after air passengers properly if you have a big moustache?

That is the question that has been vexing legal minds in the Indian city of Calcutta.

Steward Victor Joynath De
Mr De is extremely proud of his moustache
Victor Joynath De, an air steward with India Airlines, was grounded last June for refusing shave off his handlebar moustache.

But Mr De could not handle the bar on his flying: "My moustache is me".

And so he took this prickly issue to court where he has just won a famous victory.

A Calcutta court has now ruled that Mr De should get his job back.

"The high court judgement vindicates my stand. I missed flying all these months," Mr De said, the AFP news agency reports.

"The management decision was very painful for me to accept. I had to stand up for myself."

Mr De's brush with his employers began when Indian Airlines argued that his prized asset was a health risk, especially with him frequently handling food.

A spokesman for the airline said at the time of Mr De's grounding that Indian Airline's personal conduct code of 1998 did not allow the display of moustaches which could be unhygienic.

Moustache for life

The spokesman said that some passengers could be unnerved by such a striking facial feature.


My moustache attracted many adoring eyes inside the plane and on the ground

Victor Joynath De

The regulations said that only Sikhs could have beards, moustaches could not be droopy and long side-burns were not permitted, AFP says.

At the time of his grounding, Mr De said he was proud of his moustache which had taken 25 years to grow and now stretches prominently across both cheekbones.

"I never dreamed of trimming it. All the time I worked for the airline, my moustache attracted many adoring eyes inside the plane and on the ground," he said.

Mr De has worked for Indian Airlines for over 20 years.

Since June he has been doing a desk job at Calcutta airport dealing with passenger complaints.

Mr De was supported by his wife Chanda, who is an Indian Airlines airhostess.

See also:

28 Jun 01 | South Asia
Steward flies off the handle
25 Jan 00 | South Asia
Indian Airlines to be privatised
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