Aeroflot flight attendants lose discrimination case after being branded 'old, fat and ugly'

Ben Chapman
“Constructive observations regarding appearance, adherence to dress codes, application of make-up etc. may be made as part of regular training,” Aeroflot said: Reuters

A group of female flight attendants who say they were discriminated against after being deemed “old, fat and ugly” by Russia’s flagship airline has lost the first round of a legal battle with their employer.

A Moscow court this week rejected a sex discrimination claim by Irina Ierusalimskaya against national carrier, Aeroflot, the BBC reported on Thursday. She plans to appeal and another flight attendant, Yevgenia Magurina, is preparing her case.

The flight attendants are part of a wider group who have jokingly dubbed themselves STS - an abbreviation of “old, fat, ugly” in Russian. They claim that Aeroflot moved them from international flights to lesser-paid domestic routes because of their looks and age.

The airline strongly denies the allegations.

Ms Magurina told Russia’s Radio Liberty that last year all flight attendants were photographed and measured, with some even weighed, under the pretext that they needed new uniforms because of a re-branding.

She said she was then removed from shifts on international flights because her clothes size was too big. Other crew members deemed too old or overweight were also moved, Ms Magurina claimed.

“When my boss looked at my photo, he said, ‘Zhenya, you know, your cheeks are too big for international flights. And you have big breasts, so you should be wearing a sports bra.' This is the way they explained to me the new rules,” Ms Magurina reportedly told the local broadcaster.

Aeroflot’s flight attendant application form requires prospective employees to specify their height, weight and clothing size.

In the recent court case, an Aeroflot official said every extra kilogramme meant spending an extra 800 roubles (£14) per year on fuel, according to the BBC.

He also reportedly said that a survey for Aeroflot demonstrated that passengers preferred attractive flight attendants and agreed that airlines should be allowed to implement weight limits and clothes sizes for their staff.

In a statement, the airline said: “Cabin crew are the face of any airline. Cabin crew of a national flag carrier are the calling card of their country. Their deportment and how they serve passengers creates the first impression of and attitude towards Russia.”

It said height could be a restricting factor because staff had to be able to reach the overhead lockers. The claim that it removed “old and ugly" cabin crew from flight duties is untrue, the airline said. The statement made no mention of weight.

“Constructive observations regarding appearance, adherence to dress codes, application of make-up etc. may be made as part of regular training,” Aeroflot said.

“The principal selection criteria are communication skills, a friendly and approachable nature, knowledge of foreign languages and neat and tidy self-presentation.”

The Independent has contacted Aeroflot for comment.