Parading around in bikinis for job interviews, salaries lowered for gaining weight and outright employment rejection for being unattractive. No, these aren't snippets from the modelling industry, this is the reality for some flight attendants. Read on, as we share the strict physical requirements that a select group of flight attendants must adhere to.
In South Korea, becoming a flight attendant is an elusive career path. Pablo Lee, the director at a flight attendant training academy, told The Korea Herald, “They have to be physically perfect – weighing more than 132 pounds (59kgs) is kind of overweight,” he said.
Photos are essential on all resumes, with airbushing companies emerging to satiate this demand. Many aspiring applicants turn to cosmetic procedures, to increase their competitiveness. University graduates often undertake additional study at flight attendant academies, to learn key deportment, communications, language and styling skills.
In late 2016, Russian airline Aeroflot measured, weighed and photographed their flight attendants, in a bid to monitor their appearance. Those who were deemed unattractive were placed in the ‘old, ugly and fat’ categories. Anyone over 40 or larger than a size medium were taken off prestigious international flights. Their salaries were drastically lowered, and rightful employee bonuses were not paid.
Aeroflot flight attendant Yevgenia Magurina’s decade long dedication at the airline was deemed worthless, as soon as her weight increased. A few days after Yevgenia asked human resources for a larger uniform size, she discovered she had been demoted from senior stewardess to junior flight attendant. Aeroflot flight attendant Zhenya Magurina, told Russia’s Radio Liberty that she also faced weight based discrimination. She was informed by her boss: “You know your cheeks are too big for international flights.”
An Aeroflot representative said a passenger survey revealed that 92% of respondents prefer attractive flight attendants. The airline justifies their strict employee requirements as simply a strategic reflection of what consumers demand. “Aeroflot is a premium airline, and the staff’s looks are definitely one of the things the clients pay for,” Pavel Danilin, Aeroflot public council member, said at a press conference.
In China, being a flight attendant is considered as glamorous as being a model and their recruitment process and requirements certainly reflect this mentality. In fact, promotional agencies often host exclusive bikini parades for an audience of modelling agencies and aviation executives.
Airlines generally have a marking guideline for each applicant’s appearance. The marking criteria is categorised into certain ‘benchmark requirements’ for each physical feature.
China Eastern airlines require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, there is a series of written and verbal entrance examinations that applicants must score highly in.
Wendy, an international Chinese student tells us: “Even after the entrance exams, you have to pass airline training exams, like pharmacology and anatomy – so I think it’s more than just looks,” Wendy explains. However, she adds, “If you’re ugly you can’t be a flight attendant in China.”
Air France is hailed as one of the most elegant and sophisticated cabin crews in the world: their look is refined, a binary between the powerful corporate trailblazer and the polished aristocrat. So how do they do it? In pre-flight briefings, your cabin manager may conduct uniform and makeup screenings, to ensure your grooming aligns with Air France’s standards. Those who deviate from the grooming requirements may be told to “fix” their presentation. Additionally, according to former Air France flight attendant, Colinoue, a written report may be filed about you if your presentation isn’t on par. However, Colinoue states that presentation requirements are not stringent, “We have a list of approved hairstyles and makeup looks we can choose from. We are not restricted to one look and they are quite relaxed.”
Seasonal Air France flight attendant Mathilde, says Air France recruitment isn’t the equivalent of a beauty contest. She emphasises that Air France have never discriminated against people’s physical appearance during recruitment. “There are stewardesses of every shape and form in Air France, there’s so much diversity. You don’t have to be tall and beautiful. The most important part is our personality, kindness and customer service experiences.”
Despite this, presentation is still important and Mathilde says cabin crew can’t look tired because having a fresh face is a form of customer service. She explains, “We have to check our face pretty often in the restroom, to make sure everything is okay.”