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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Air hostesses told to shed weight
Indian air hostesses in a training school
Private airlines hire slim flight attendants
An Indian court has ruled against a group of female flight attendants who were grounded from the national airline for being overweight.

The court said that state-owned Indian Airlines had the right to take the step in the interest of flight safety and in the face of growing competition.

The flight attendants had argued that the move was demeaning.

The airline began a system of measuring air hostesses based on their height and weight last year.

The Delhi High Court has ruled in favour of the airline, saying that with aircraft flying at higher altitudes, the safety of the passengers depended on the crew's ability to perform.

"No airline can afford to remain lax in any department whatsoever, be it the personality of the crew members of their physical fitness," Justice Rekha Sharma said.

"If by perseverance, the snail could reach the Ark, why can't these worthy ladies stand on and turn the scale."

Growing debate

The female judge also dismissed the flight attendants' contention that the airline policy towards their weight was an "insult to their womanhood".

"I do not understand how it is any way unfair, unreasonable and insulting to their womanhood if they are asked to control their growth."

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says this is a part of a debate that is being carried out across Indian society, from the entertainment industry to now, the airline business - are Indians discarding traditionally-held ideals of beauty and appearance in favour of a more Westernised skinny look?

Indian plane
The state carrier introduced the weight limits last year

A year ago, Indian Airlines introduced strict weight guidelines for its flight crew, saying they were doing it in the interest of safety and growing competition.

The Indian airline industry has grown rapidly over the past decade and new private airlines have introduced an element of glamour, hiring young slim air hostesses, often dressed in short skirts and high heels.

In contrast, Indian Airlines flight crew are dressed in the traditional sari and are allowed to fly until they are 58 years old.

The group of air hostesses who had challenged the airline had argued that it was an attempt to replace them with younger crew.

One of them was grounded after flying for 25 years, despite being only two kilos over the prescribed limit.

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