Emirates has carefully cultivated its image as a glamorous carrier through fancy bars and showers onboard, spacious first class suites, and according to several flight attendants, the weight police.
Emirates’ “Weight Police” Inspires Fear In Flight Attendants
In addition to education, language proficiency, and general health, the search for flight attendants at Emirates includes unspoken weight standards that seek to maintain the carrier’s mystique.
Once accepted, female cabin crew members are instructed on how long their hair can be, how to style their hair, what kind of makeup and nail polish is allowed, and according to many ex-flight attendants, strict controls over their weight.
Officially called the Appearance Management Program, the “weight police” can knock at the door after directly identifying a flight attendant deemed overweight or based upon the feedback of colleagues.
A former human resources officer told Insider, “A culture of telling on each other to management is prevalent.” Another trigger for scrutiny include a flight attendant needing to go up in size in less than six months.
Once identified, flight attendants are given exercise plans and placed on a diet. They must then meet with HR officers to chart their progress. Flight attendants who do not make adjustments continue to face close scrutiny and may even be slapped with pay cuts or grounded.
The former HR officer estimated that of the 25,000 flight attendants at Emirates (at the time), no more than 150 were on the program. Emirates has cut back significantly on flight attendants during the pandemic, reporting only 14,372 in its latest annual report.
Former Emirates flight attendant Karla Bayson, who left the airline last year, told Insider, how staff approach a flight attendant under observation:
“Hey, babe. You need to slow it down.”
Meanwhile, Emirates refused to address specifics, but defended its policy:
“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. 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.”
Whether Emirates considers physical fitness synonymous with being trim…well, you can read between the lines.
While U.S. carriers did away with flight attendant weight standards long ago, Emirates appears to continue to maintain weight standards under the guise of physical fitness. For flight attendants, scrutiny comes not only over service and dress code, but over weight.