Air India Will Offer Special Seating To Solo Female Travelers

Filed Under: Air India

Air India has just announced that they’ll begin holding seats for solo female travelers. While this is common for other forms of transportation in India, this is the first time I know of that an airline has offered such seating (through Japanese Airline All Nippon Airways offers onboard female lavatories).


Per The Hindu:

“We will soon reserve two rows (or six seats) for women passengers only,” Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani told The Hindu . The airline will not be charging any additional fee for blocking such seats for women passengers.

“We will be reserving the third row — six seats — in the economy class of the aircraft for female passengers traveling alone,” said Air India GM-revenue management Meenakshi Malik. “As national carriers, it is our responsibility to enhance comfort level to female passengers. There are a lot of women who travel alone with us and we will be blocking a few seats for them.”

This move comes after a woman was allegedly groped on an Air India flight between India and the United States last month, where a business class passenger moved to economy to sit next to a woman, and proceeded to grope her when she fell asleep.

However, not everyone is a fan of this new policy. A former Air India executive and the president of the Air Passengers Association of India oppose the move:

Describing the move as a ‘misplaced priority’, former Air India executive director Jitendra Bhargava said: “To my knowledge, this happens nowhere in the world. Planes are not unsafe for women passengers. In case of unruly behaviour, the airline crew are authorised to take action as per the law.” Passenger representatives also expressed reservations. “It is an impractical move and will lead to gender discrimination. The airline should not go ahead with the plan,” said D. Sudhakara Reddy, national president of Air Passengers Association of India.

Personally I think the concept of a female-only seating area is good, though it will come down to execution. If only one of the seats in the section is taken and the flight is full, will they be sure to only move females to that section, or could it be that a man ends up sitting there? Also, will they add more “reserved” seating if the section proves popular and books out months in advance?

So I think the idea is good in theory, though we’ll see how it works out in practice.

What do you make of Air India introducing women-only seating?

  1. Separate but equal is never equal.

    Why should women be forced to segregate themselves into a separate row? If someone is behaving poorly or breaking the law crew should deal with it like they would any other situation.

    If a woman chooses not to sit in a defined area, will people wrongly assume that she is ‘open’ to advances? Will women feel pressured to segregate themselves?

    As has happened (according to new reports with Orthodox Jews) what if a man for religious reasons refuses to sit next to a woman? Will she be forced to move to a special row to accommodate a man?

    So many things wrong with this idea I don’t know where to start. Ugh.

  2. This will be a battle between common sense solutions and militant-non-discrimination stances. And then somewhere in between.

  3. This is something that Air India has been under pressure to implement for years, together with preferred seating for Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribes / Other Backward Classes. It is a slippery slope to start with the typical bureaucratic reservation system on board aircraft like in so many other facets of Indian society.

  4. @DougG +1

    The only way they could make this any worse would be to force single women to sit together in row 36.

  5. @TG, as outlined in the article it sounds like no one is being forced so forgive my poor choice of words.

    My concern is that having that row makes it that much easier for someone in the future if they have an issue. Expanding my comment about Orthodox Jews, here is a story where a woman was forced to give up her seat on El Al:

  6. As a woman I see a potential problem – the sentiment can be turned around: if you’re a woman who has a problem with being groped, book the special seat. Otherwise, you’re fair game and asking for it. Much like dressing “provocatively.”

    Sounds crazy but in this day the “she was asking for it” argument is still too prevalent.

  7. Can I sit in a male only section then? I’m tired of dealing with crazy chicks and would feel more comfortable among the brotherhood.

  8. This is victim blaming – no way should anyone have to book a special seat to avoid freight uncomfortable about who they are seated next to. Deal with the harassing passengers not those who are being harassed.

  9. @ Sean M

    Buddy your sense of understanding about Indian caste system is either based on heresay or stuck in the 50s

    Have you just woken up from coma after 60yeas?

  10. As someone who travels to Mumbai very frequently, it is very common in India to have women’s reserved accommodations, like women’s only seats in buses, or women’s only compartments in trains. Heck, there are entire trains only for women. Same goes for reserved seats/compartments for handicapped/disabled. I feel it is a great system which works in India. It would be safe to assume, AI is not trying to offend anyone as some might suggest.

  11. Lucky highlights an important point. AI has limited capacity in domestic sector and flights are often overbooked. What if there are not 6 women travelling alone while the flight is?

  12. I think this system makes sense. In no case should inappropriate action against women be tolerated, but I think there is no harm in offering this option to women as a logical extension of the system already in place in almost all other forms of public transportation in India.

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