With all due respect, there is a lot more to this issue than shows on the surface. To understand the entire situation and hence the legal reasoning behind the much overdue Supreme Court judgement, we need to take a history lesson.
Air India has always maintained separate cadres for male and female cabin crew. There are separate job descriptions, classifications and seniority lists in each cadre. This has been the case since the days of the Constellations where the Purser and the Hostess had very distinct and different roles to play. However, because of the lower "grounding age" for female crew (initially 30 then 42 then 48 then 50), they were on an accelerated track for promotions, etc.. and correspondingly on higher pay scales.
Hence, we had a situation where a male crew member with 20 years seniority makes say "X" dollars per hour, whereas a female crew member doing the same job with the same 20 years seniority is making "2X" dollars per hour. This was rationalized because females had shorter flying careers so the overall earning potential was being equalized. Additionally, females were eligible for pensions, fulll retirement benefits, etc.. after a shorter career and younger age than males were. Females also enjoyed accelerated promotions into management because of higher turnover of female crew.
For example, a Senior Check Air Hostess currently holds about 12 years seniority. The equivalent grade for the male cadres, Senior Check Flight Purser is currently holding about 23 years seniority. Hence, a 12 year veteran female crewmember is making the same money as a 23 year veteran male crewmember. Inflight Supervisor, a grade not available to female cadre is holding 31 years seniority. Beyond IFS, the cadres merge into management grades.
When females turned 50, they were given the option of working in ground jobs. Many chose to accept these, but many others were very happy to walk away with full retirement packages instead. Males never had this option at age 50. In fact, at age 50, most males still wouldn't have made IFS grade yet, let alone be eligible for management promotions.
The current case that the Supreme Court has ruled on deals with the amalgamation of seniority lists. Basically, the female cadre demands that relative seniority be maintained across lists. Hence, the 20 year veteran FEMALE crewmember at Manager grade should suddenly leapfrog ahead of the 30 year veteran MALE crew member who is still stuck as a purser for bidding purposes. Similarly, they want IFS grade opened up to all female crew above the grade of Senior Check Air Hostess - even though the equivalent seniority of about 15 years would still leave a male crew member at the entry level ASSISTANT PURSER grade. This means that we would have very interesting situations of some senior male crew being SUPERVISED by female crew 20 years junior to them and whom they had actually trained when they joined the airline.
The male crew on the other hand are willing to accept the amalgamation of lists, provided absolute seniority is maintained. Since the absolute seniority of the male cadre is significantly higher than the female, the male crew would immediately get a seniority boost for bidding etc.. That means that the senior air hostesses who currently can grab all the New Yorks they like will suddenly be stuck with 5 day layovers in Trivandrum doing the dreaded Gulf runs while the US runs would be staffed EXCLUSIVELY by male crew.
Neither situation is a good one and hence the best alternative was status quo where at least relative equity was maintained both for earning potential as well as seniority and job functions. This was the case until the High Court mandated that AI
permit the over-50 female crew to resume flyign last year. The Supreme Court ruling maintains the pre-appeal status quo by overturning the lower court decision and grounding the handful of females in the 50-58 age group. I welcome the decision.
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada