AI set to give its onboard experience a younger look

The new merged Maharaja is aiming for the right mix of youth and experience in his cabin crew. From now on, all new recruits will serve as cabin crew only till the age of 50, while the existing male and female crew will continue to serve till 58 and 50 years respectively, as allowed at present.

An Air India (AI) spokesperson said the airline currently has about 2,200 cabin crew. In the past three years, it has hired about 1,000 young staffers. "Only 250 to 300 cabin crew members are over 55 years of age. We will have a mix of youth and experience on all our flights, More young people will be taken on the rolls as the fleet size grows," he said.

The fact is that AI''s closest rivals in overseas flights — Jet and Kingfisher — have an upper age limit of 35 for their cabin crew. In fact, Kingfisher, which has an all-female cabin crew at present, has an age limit of 27 for new recruits. Only experienced staffers are allowed to fly till 35. Kingfisher recently applied to have foreign cabin crew but this has not been allowed so far as it does not run any foreign flights at present.

Air India''s founder, J R D Tata, was ahead of his times. In his time, the cabin crew could fly only till the age of 30. This slowly became 35, then 45 and finally 50 for females while males could fly till 58. There was a legal tiff, and the airline then allowed women to fly till the age of 58 in certain circumstances.

Cabin crew age has always been a touchy issue in both AI and Indian Airlines. The management of the now-merged IA has been having a long legal battle with its crew over this issue, as it also wanted a younger look. Ultra long-haul flights, especially, require younger staff headed by a senior person of experience.