According to Mrs. Amporn, THAI cabin crews have lodged a complaint against the airline last week for enforcing waistline restrictions on them. Both male and female hostesses are obligated to maintain their waistline at no more than 35 and 32 inches respectively.
Mrs. Amporn notified THAI of the issue and has advised both the executives and employees to discuss the situation, saying it was the best solution to the problem as was the similar case in the past where a female golf caddy was expelled from her job because she was too old and too large.
Around 40 employees have been caught up in the crackdown. Mrs. Amporn said although it was not against the law, executives could have been more sensitive towards their employees whose frames do not meet the requirements. However, she added that the airlines’ recent imposition on body size could also be seen as a move to encourage employees to stay healthy.
Last year THAI offered senior staff an unprecedented voluntary resignation package which aimed to improve its appeal to customers while circumventing accusations of age and sex discrimination with a tempting ‘‘mutual separation plan’’ for female flight attendants aged 45 and over. Those who took up the offer received up to 30 times their monthly salary in a lump sum.
The scheme was the first so-called "mutual separation plan" - or MSP - to be launched by THAI in its 50-year history and exclusively targeted female flight attendants aged 45 and over.
The initiative was backed by the airline's union and was part of the management's bid to rejuvenate THAI's brand image and save costs, while giving senior crew the chance to stay on or leave the firm, said THAI executives.
Thai president Piyasvasti Amranand said the MSP helps the airline trim operating costs. Older THAI cabin attendants earn about 100,000 baht a month, while younger colleagues get about 30,000 baht.
Thai is believed to be among very few leading carriers in Asia in having very liberal employment terms for female cabin attendants, with no fixed period of service or age limit beyond the compulsory retirement age of 60.
The Thai carrier had originally followed the norms of the worldwide airline industry, hiring cabin attendants on contract terms and setting the age limit for operating on flights at 45. But union and political pressure in the 1990s, while Montree Pongpanit served as transport minister, succeeded in removing restrictions, enabling attendants to work on board until 60, provided they were willing and physically fit enough.
In total, THAI has about 6,000 cabin attendants, of whom 4,800 are women.
The current average age of THAI female attendants is about 35 to 38, believed to be higher than many of the carrier's direct competitors such as Singapore Airlines (SIA), where the average age of female attendants is said to be in the early thirties.
SIA, billed as the world's best airline, has successfully used "Singapore Girls" as one of its prime customer appeals. While Singapore Airlines has no age policy for cabin attendants as such, its cabin crew work on five-year contracts, with only one possible renewal.
"At the end of five years, they receive a gratuity, and then opt either to continue or stop by finding some other career," SIA chief executive Chew Choon Seng said.
Most older THAI female attendants started working at the airline in their early twenties. By 45 they can have flown for 20 or 25 years. In comparison, SIA normally begins hiring cabin attendants when they are between 19 and 23, so they would retire as attendants at between 29 and 33.
The average age of cabin crew at both Bangkok Airways and budget carrier Thai Air Asia is 28, according to executives of the two airlines.
Bangkok Airways flight attendants are hired on a contract terms and can spend a maximum of 10 years in the air. Thai Air Asia treats its cabin attendants as permanent employees and sets no in-flight service period limit.
Executives want the MSP repeated in coming years to bring down the average age of female flight attendants to about 30 years, or not over 35, in order to enhance THAI's appeal to customers.
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