Air India Bans Crews From Having Gray Hair, Balding

Air India Bans Crews From Having Gray Hair, Balding

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Air India has just updated its appearance standards for flight attendants, and there are some interesting requirements in there.

While most airline appearance standard updates in recent years have given employees more personal choice (like updating standards around gender, tattoos, piercings, etc.), Air India is getting stricter. These changes come as Air India has been privatized, and the airline is trying to become more competitive.

Air India’s updated flight attendant appearance standards

Air India has published a new 39-page handbook with uniform grooming guidelines. While some of the rules are what you’d expect, others are… surprising. A couple requirements in particular stand out.

For example, if an employee has gray hair, it must be colored in a “natural” hair color:

“Grey hair must be colored regularly only in a natural hair color. Salt and pepper look, and grey hair is not permitted with uniform.”

Along similar lines, if an employee has any bald patches, they have to completely shave their head:

“Bald look is allowed for crew with male balding patterns. Crew with U and V shape hairline on crown, visible scalp and large bald patches must keep a full bald look. Head must be shaved daily for a clean look.”

I’d say those are the two most drastic requirements, though in general these standards just hold crews to a very high, and borderline unrealistic standard. I’m also not sure to what end some of these restrictions are being put in place. For example, flight attendants aren’t allowed to read:

“Reading items such as newspapers, magazines and story books are strictly prohibited throughout the flight, however Cabin Crew may read the In-flight magazines, In-flight Menu, and Safety Manual as a quick reference.”

Why, exactly? If a flight attendant is on a 15-hour flight and in the galley, I’m happier if they are entertaining themselves by reading a book, rather than chatting loudly with colleagues.

You can see the entire 39-page document for yourself at this link.

Are these restrictions necessary?

Air India has 99 problems, like the fact that most of the carrier’s planes are in awful condition. Air India’s product is woefully uncompetitive, especially in business class. Meanwhile if you ask me, flight attendants having gray hair isn’t among Air India’s issues.

Aside from just giving people the ability to present themselves how they’d like, I’d like to say that personally I prefer someone who embraces that they have gray hair, rather than trying to hide it with some bizarre, unnatural hair color. Admittedly that’s just my own preference, but my point is that I’m not even sure these guidelines objectively reflect what’s considered to be a “better” appearance.

Air India hasn’t exactly done a great job historically with morale and getting all staff on one page. I feel like this 39-page guide does more damage than good when it comes to improving the situation at the airline.

Bottom line

Air India has published updated appearance standards for flight attendants. Among other things, the airline is banning gray hair and bald patches. Rather, flight attendants who have bald patches will have to shave their head daily, while flight attendants who have gray hair will have to color it with a “natural” color.

I suppose this is still less strange than when Pakistan International Airlines told flight attendants they had to wear undergarments

What do you make of these updated Air India appearance standards?

Conversations (30)
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  1. Emily Guest

    The comments are hilarious. Fine example of western hypocrisy around their view of how societies should behave. If only the authors of this blog and the western commentators enraged by such “inhumane” policies could take a stance against the governments imposing brutal human rights’ conditions, including on foreign workers (FAs included), instead of applauding the champagne on their glorified airlines. If you’re happy to fly the middle eastern airlines while running a blind eye on...

    The comments are hilarious. Fine example of western hypocrisy around their view of how societies should behave. If only the authors of this blog and the western commentators enraged by such “inhumane” policies could take a stance against the governments imposing brutal human rights’ conditions, including on foreign workers (FAs included), instead of applauding the champagne on their glorified airlines. If you’re happy to fly the middle eastern airlines while running a blind eye on what they represent, you’ve lost the moral ground and credibility to comment on human rights and discrimination. Easier to talk the talk than walk the walk.

    Not to mention, the world and many other well known airlines have unwritten criteria around who can become a FA. If you think otherwise, boy must it be blissful to bask in your ignorance. Women are (unfortunately) used to such biases and discrimination on acceptable gestures of attraction. All in all, a click bait article in a slow week.

  2. CDK Guest

    Rather than the safety video which no one watches, I would prefer AI to produce a preflight video instructing passengers how to use the toilets. Any sight challenged person recognises they are on AI flight by the "sandaas" (indian word for toilet aroma) smell on boarding..!

    1. DCharlie Guest

      …and I wish the airlines in the U.S. can teach people to control their alcohol, not decorate the lavatory with their urine, and how not to fight if someone reclines their seat.

  3. Fed UP Guest

    Another reason not to fly at wretched airline

  4. Sandra Guest

    Why doesn't air india fly rome to mumbai.

  5. Alain Guest

    This is totally ashamed and against dignity and human rights…
    But air India is well known for this (absurd) kind of rules …

  6. Duck Ling Guest

    I am a Flight Attendant for QANTAS and we have exactly the same rules regarding reading material. We are not allowed to read anything other than QANTAS issued material. You will not see us reading newspapers, books etc when we are on duty.

    1. Ash Guest

      so on a 16 hour flight, what do you do when everyone is asleep? It must be crazy boring.

  7. Adi Guest

    Knowing the mechanics of the deal, it might be a temporary solution to get some of the existing Air India cabin crew to quit proactively since they can’t be let go until next year

  8. mauipeter Guest

    'Incredible India' LOL

  9. iamhere Guest

    I think you should research the requirements for other non-American and non-European airlines. Your results will likely surprise you. As some of the comments indicate, it is not uncommon to see requirements for age, weight/height, etc included. This is written from a very American or Western point of view of assuming it should be an open application policy.

  10. Wilo1 Guest

    I would prefer Air India to ban employees and passengers that do not use deodorant

  11. S Grewal Guest

    Few corrections are fine but most are very discriminating and horrible and disrespectful, mean the hair loser has to shave whole head ?? Grey hairs have to be dyed ? What a condition against humanity. Shame on Air India .

  12. TravelinWilly Diamond

    Ugh, I feel terrible, I'm guilty of all the Air India Hair Crimes™ against humanity.

    And I really wanted to work for them, and now I find out that they won't be hiring me any time soon. Well, ever. :)

    I'm okay with that. I'll never fly them, either, so I guess that makes us even or something(?)...

  13. Sandip Guest

    Air-India seems to still have their priorities misplaced. When you look at their product and the price they try to charge and compare to their competitors and the prices to they are charging, you can say whoever is doing the pricing has completely lost it, to put it politely.

  14. warren trout Guest

    And US companies are just happy to have employees who show up for work.

    1. Tommy t Guest

      If Pete was a quarter of the secretary of transportation you thought he was he would immediately ban this airline from American airspace.

      Come on pete!!!Pete!!!!

  15. Hindustani Guest

    Truthfully, Air India isn’t the last choice for affluent disasporic Indians. Their Indian food is pretty good, and when you’re an Indian living in the West, strict vegetarian food in an airplane is really hard to come by. I won’t prefer AI to LX, SQ, CX, etc. but certainly to an American carrier, yes, of course. Sometimes even to JL or NH, not because it’s bad, but simply because Japanese service is too cold and...

    Truthfully, Air India isn’t the last choice for affluent disasporic Indians. Their Indian food is pretty good, and when you’re an Indian living in the West, strict vegetarian food in an airplane is really hard to come by. I won’t prefer AI to LX, SQ, CX, etc. but certainly to an American carrier, yes, of course. Sometimes even to JL or NH, not because it’s bad, but simply because Japanese service is too cold and regimented (i.e., too different from Indian customer service) and they don’t make any effort to cater to South Asians.

    1. KK13 Guest

      Stop being weird and meaningless with your comments. Never heard any complaints about Japanese service; that too being cold? One of the best foods in J and F class has been in JAL and ANA, hands down.

      If you want vegetarian food, you can order in advance before catching your flight. AI is one of the worst airlines in terms of food, luxury, ambience, baggage handling - you name it! Reason they never feature...

      Stop being weird and meaningless with your comments. Never heard any complaints about Japanese service; that too being cold? One of the best foods in J and F class has been in JAL and ANA, hands down.

      If you want vegetarian food, you can order in advance before catching your flight. AI is one of the worst airlines in terms of food, luxury, ambience, baggage handling - you name it! Reason they never feature in top 25 or even a 2-star airline. And about your not giving you any special preference being a South Asian... boo whoo!

  16. guisun Gold

    If only Air India would put this much effort in the product...

  17. Enrique Guest

    I hope they still allow balding and/or gray haired passengers to still fly with them

  18. Never In Doubt Guest

    I’d guess these specific rules are meant to be an age filter on their employees.

    They won’t get rid of everyone that’s gray/balding, but they’ll get rid of some of them.

  19. snic Diamond

    Welp, I guess I'm not working for Air India...

  20. Sean M. Diamond

    Air India is the only airline in India that currently employs cabin crew who can even be of an age where balding and grey hairs is an issue. All the others (Indigo, Vistara, SpiceJet, etc..) have you out the door long before then. Some of those (eg. Indigo, Spicejet) also explicitly require that all crew must be females and no older than 27 years old when they apply. Additionally, all of them have grooming standards...

    Air India is the only airline in India that currently employs cabin crew who can even be of an age where balding and grey hairs is an issue. All the others (Indigo, Vistara, SpiceJet, etc..) have you out the door long before then. Some of those (eg. Indigo, Spicejet) also explicitly require that all crew must be females and no older than 27 years old when they apply. Additionally, all of them have grooming standards that not just incorporate these exact requirements, but go much further in their specifications.

    I personally don't support this level of regimented micromanagement, but if you are going to point a finger at an Indian carrier over this kind of perceived "discrimination", Air India should be the absolute last one to pick on.

    1. Noa Guest

      Indian passengers (and others from the south Asian region) wrongly expect their crew to look young and good looking, and often female. Air India is fulfilling that demand.

  21. X-CCCP Member

    I think the "collective West" should stop forcing its culture (masquerading as "Universal Human Values") on the rest of the world....IF (and once again IF) this is acceptable to majority of the Indian society, then be it.... Who are we to judge them?

    1. Jim Guest

      I've seen plenty of men with bald spots in India, starting with their Prime Minister.

    2. snic Diamond

      It is just as acceptable to have grey hair or to be partially bald in India as it is to have artificially colored hair and be totally bald. I have a zillion middle aged Indian friends, both men and women; some dye their hair and some don't, one or two guys are completely bald (by choice), the rest have thinning hair. The airline's grooming standards are completely ridiculous by any measure.

    3. Watson Gold

      Congrats, X-CCCP, you got your virtue signaling points for the day.

      Should we also accept that some Muslim women are forced to wear a burka if a majority of their country thinks it's okay?

    4. Bobo Bolinski Guest

      What do you expect from Russian (Soviet, even!) trolls. Putin and his goons are perfectly inline with American nazis.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sean M. Diamond

Air India is the only airline in India that currently employs cabin crew who can even be of an age where balding and grey hairs is an issue. All the others (Indigo, Vistara, SpiceJet, etc..) have you out the door long before then. Some of those (eg. Indigo, Spicejet) also explicitly require that all crew must be females and no older than 27 years old when they apply. Additionally, all of them have grooming standards that not just incorporate these exact requirements, but go much further in their specifications. I personally don't support this level of regimented micromanagement, but if you are going to point a finger at an Indian carrier over this kind of perceived "discrimination", Air India should be the absolute last one to pick on.

6
KK13 Guest

Stop being weird and meaningless with your comments. Never heard any complaints about Japanese service; that too being cold? One of the best foods in J and F class has been in JAL and ANA, hands down. If you want vegetarian food, you can order in advance before catching your flight. AI is one of the worst airlines in terms of food, luxury, ambience, baggage handling - you name it! Reason they never feature in top 25 or even a 2-star airline. And about your not giving you any special preference being a South Asian... boo whoo!

3
Jim Guest

I've seen plenty of men with bald spots in India, starting with their Prime Minister.

3
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