in Questions last updated September 2022
If you’ve spent a lot of time on airplanes, then something you may have noticed is that there aren’t many flight attendants who are overweight. They are generally thinner individuals for a few reasons, ranging from their ability to sit in a jump seat to airline companies wanting to maintain a certain appearance for their airline.
So, is there a weight limit for flight attendants?
Most airlines stopped requiring flight attendants to weigh in after they faced backlash in 1990s for discrimination. That being said, they do still require flight attendants to be able to sit in the jump seat without an extended belt, fit through the emergency exit, and have a weight proportional to their height.
Therefore, while there isn’t any specific weight limit imposed for most airline companies, there are still some restrictions when it comes to how you look and what you weigh. Flight attendants also have to be within a certain height range and since their weight has to be proportional to their height, you do not see a lot of plus-size flight attendants.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the restrictions in place for flight attendants, whether or not overweight men and women can be flight attendants and some of the drawbacks of the job.
Is There a Weight Limit for Flight Attendants?
No, there is no exact weight limit for flight attendants. That being said, many airline companies do have restrictions in place for a person’s height that is set by the individual airline. Some have an industry standard, while others set the height restrictions based on the specific airplane since different models are going to have different requirements.
There is a minimum height because attendants need to be able to reach up into overhead bins. Therefore, some have a minimum reach instead of a minimum height. Airline companies have a maximum height because employees who crouch constantly are at greater risk of health problems. Plus, it is just uncomfortable to be crouched or hunched over an entire flight.
There is also a maximum size when it comes to your waistline, though most airline companies don’t have a specific number for this. In most cases, this comes down to safety reasons like being able to fit in the jump seat and easily get through the emergency exit. Having a proportional body shape also ensures attendants can move quickly around the cabin in an emergency and won’t take up the entire aisle.
Additionally, some airline companies have other weight-relayed restrictions that don’t necessarily relate to safety, such as being able to fit in the uniforms that the airline already has on hand. They are allowed to have these regulations to reduce costs.
That being said, having a great personality also can help you shine as a flight attendant, even if you are plus-sized. Flight attendants work in public, are generally friendly, and have an easy time making conversation. Working on making friends can help you go a long way if you aren’t as outgoing as the typical flight attendant.
Do Flight Attendants Get Weighed?
Weighing flight attendants before takeoff is something that’s pretty controversial. It was especially common prior to the 1990s when weight discrimination hadn’t really been addressed.
That being said, there were a lot of people who were against this behavior. Since the majority of flight attendants are female, it was seen as a type of discrimination. Requiring weigh-ins is also more likely to lead to body image problems and increase the risk of eating disorders.
With it being considered discrimination, eventually, many companies stopped weighing their flight attendants. Even so, it’s not necessarily illegal and while I can’t name any companies that participate in company weigh-ins in the United States, it is common in other countries like China.
Are There Any Other Requirements for Being a Flight Attendant?
You’re going to find that the requirements for being a flight attendant really vary depending on the company that you work with. Even though companies have done away with requiring attendants to meet certain weight requirements, there are still height requirements in place. With some companies requiring a “proportional” body shape, you may find your weight doesn’t really matter as much as your appearance and personality.
It’s also not uncommon for airline companies to test their attendants on their capabilities for the job. Being a flight attendant does require some lifting, particularly when you’re handling the flight doors. This means that how strong you are as a plus-size individual might affect whether or not you get the job, too.
Finally, appearance does matter as a flight attendant. Most airlines prefer lighter, more classic makeup styles and there are restrictions about the size and volume of your hair, as well as the color. Flight attendants also cannot have visible tattoos and piercings, so while a belly button piercing would be okay, facial piercings or hand tattoos would not.
Can You Be a Plus-Size Flight Attendant?
Yes, it is possible to be a plus-size flight attendant (fat people can be pilots, too!). While it’s not as common to see flight attendants that are plus-sized, there are airlines that hire bigger men and women. This is especially true if they are qualified for the job and meet all the requirements in place. Showing up well-groomed for your job interview and showing off your sparkling personality can really help!
While being a plus-sized flight attendant is possible, it is something that’s really going to vary depending on the airline. With all the restrictions in place, there really aren’t a lot of overweight flight attendants. This comes down to safety, since most airlines require flight attendants to be able to sit in the jump seat without needing an extender belt, as well as easily get through the emergency exit.
If you look into it though, there is anecdotal evidence from plus-sized women online that do work as flight attendants. One of the women wears a size 18, so it’s evident that people who are overweight can be a flight attendant up to a certain point. A good rule of thumb is that if you can fit in an airline seat, then you should be able to fit in the jump seat as well.
Why Overall Fitness Matters as a Flight Attendant
Even when you can get hired by an airline, being a flight attendant isn’t an easy job. If you have a hard time being on your feet for long hours or your feet swell frequently, for example, this might not be the best job. Flight attendants are on their feet all day long and many female flight attendants are required to wear high heels.
On top of that, being a flight attendant is a physically demanding job. You’ll need to balance as you walk down the aisles while the plane is moving and move across the airport between flights.
Are Flight Attendants Allowed to Gain Weight?
While this may not apply to every airline, one flight attendant went into detail about some of the restrictions they face, including not being allowed to gain weight. Generally, once a uniform is issued, that is the size that the flight attendant must continue to wear.
While this might not be a problem if you gain a few pounds over the holiday, it could be problematic for people who struggle with their weight. This is especially true when you consider some of the risks associated with being a flight attendant, which we’ll get into next.
Are There Health Risks Associated with Being a Flight Attendant?
According to a study published by BMC Public Health, some of the most prevalent health conditions among flight attendants include depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue. There’s also a greater prevalence of cancers of the female reproductive system.
For people that spend a longer time working as a flight attendant, these conditions can get worse. All the time spent on their feet can lead to a need for foot surgery in the future, particularly for women because they are required to wear high heels. There is also a greater prevalence of all cancers as time goes on.
Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can worsen over time while working as a flight attendant. Sleep disorders also worsen and there’s a greater risk of alcohol abuse and conditions like sinusitis.
As far as advantages, being up moving around is good for staying active during the day. The same study also found flight attendants have a lower risk of cardiac and respiratory conditions, though this could be because flight attendants are not allowed to smoke.
Is there a weight limit for flight attendants? Not necessarily. However, there are restrictions based on size such as being able to sit in the jump seat and quickly and comfortably move down the aisles.
A lot of the restrictions imposed on flight attendants are based on safety. While they do discriminate based on size, most companies in the United States do not require flight attedants to weigh in and they do hire bigger men and women to be flight attendants.
If the job is something you’re interested in, then it’s best to look up the requirements for the airline before you apply. It’s always an advantage when you can be sure that the culture of the airline aligns with your own personal values and there isn’t discrimination against larger employees.