A court in Delhi has ordered Air India to reinstate three former air hostesses it had fired for being overweight, saying the state-run carrier had not “applied its mind” in terminating their services.

“Accumulated medical wisdom would have us believe that weight brings with it several health-related problems,” Justice Rajiv Shakdher of the Delhi High Court wrote in his March 31 order. “Does excess weight then, in every situation, impede optimal performance? The answer to this poser, would have to be in the negative.”

The order restores the services of the employees with full back wages from Air India. The carrier is trying to pare its employee-to-aircraft ratio to return to profit.

In 2008 Air India fired Sangita Garg, Punita Bakshi and Sona Chawla, who were employed as ground service staff at the time, saying they had failed to maintain their weight within a prescribed limit, court documents show.

“It is time we understood that the flight attendant is not supposed to be a pretty face you see in a plane,” said Mark Martin, the chief executive of Martin Consulting, which advises airlines on strategy. “She is there for safety, service and to evacuate you whenever necessary.”

Airlines look for ways to cut operating costs. Lower weight helps them save fuel costs, which can account for up to 40 percent of expenses. The three air hostesses were moved to ground roles as they were overweight to fly, court documents showed. – Bloomberg