Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Aeroflot workers told passengers want attractive crews

NY Times News Service, MOSCOW

By Russian standards, the news conference on Tuesday was unusual: an airing of grievances by two female flight attendants who had taken the rare step of suing Aeroflot, the country’s flag carrier, for age and sex discrimination.

However, the event took a bizarre twist as two men defending the airline interrupted the proceedings to upbraid the two employees, talking about one’s breast size, and undercutting repeated assertions from Aeroflot that it had not discriminated by arguing that attractive flight staff were important for business.

Both sides focused on what they said was a move by Aeroflot last year to enforce weight guidelines for its cabin staff, suggesting that women fit into a maximum clothing size of 48, equivalent to a 14 in the US.

Men were allowed somewhat more weight, according to an independent union representative.

The two women, Evgeniya Magurina and Irina Ierusalimskaya, who sued separately, said they were barred from international flights, losing a significant chunk of their potential paychecks, because their clothing sizes were larger. (Magurina said hers is 52.)

Magurina told the news conference that she wanted to know why her “professional success” was tied to her clothing size. The two women — one of whom had worked for the airline for 26 years — lost their initial court cases and had called the news conference to announce that they would appeal.

Pavel Danilin, a journalist, and Nikita Krichevskiy, an economist, both speaking for the Aeroflot Public Council, loudly enunciated several reasons they thought the guidelines should be followed.

The council works at the behest of the company, but its 25 members are not paid and are not official spokespeople for the airline.

First, Aeroflot was striving to join the ranks of the top 10 airlines in the world, so the appearance of the cabin staff mattered because customers want pretty flight attendants, the two men said.

Second, of the 600 or so cabin attendants informed that they were overweight, only about 50 failed to lose the extra kilograms, they said.

Third, heavy flight attendants would present a danger in any emergency situation and the women should be grateful that the airline took an interest in their health, they said.

There was also some discussion of an argument that the airline had made — that planes carrying heavier employees cost the company more in fuel consumption.

“I don’t understand why the requirement of wearing size 42-48 is considered so unworkable,” said Krichevskiy, adding that he had shed 20kg in recent years.

As the discussion grew heated, Krichevskiy accused Magurina of bragging about her body during court hearings.

“She said she had big breasts which served her well throughout her life, and more recently started doing her a disservice,” he said.

The two women shook their heads in disbelief, but did not respond directly.

Aeroflot, which has earned high marks for shedding its Soviet skin to become a fairly efficient, friendly airline, quickly tried to distance itself from the proceedings.

Aeroflot issued a statement noting that the public council meets twice a year and that opinions of its members do not necessarily represent the views of Aeroflot.

“N. Krichevskiy and P. Danilin were expressing their personal opinions,” the statement said. “They are public figures and on their own initiative expressed the desire to take part in today’s press conference. Aeroflot’s position was set out in the court, which rejected the claims brought by Magurina and Ierusalimskaya against Aeroflot.”

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