Saudia To Introduce Gender Segregation On Flights

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Saudia

Saudia is already arguably the airline that most closely adheres to Islamic practices, between their onboard prayer room, lack of alcohol/pork, travel prayer before takeoff, etc.

But it looks like they’re about to take things one step further. Via

Saudi Arabia’s national airline carrier is planning to introduce gender segregation aboard its flights following complaints from passengers who refused to have random males seated next to their wives, the Kingdom’s media report.

Airline company Saudia will order its staff to keep men and women separated onboard, unless they are close relatives, the Emirates247 news website reported.

“There are solutions to this problem…we will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers,” Saudia assistant manager for marketing Abdul Rahman Al Fahd said, according to Saudi daily Ajel.

Can’t wait to see how this is executed in practice…


  1. While I can understand and respect religious practices, this is is frankly pushing the limits in my opinion.

  2. Even as a Muslim I find this ridiculous, and frankly, embarassing. Not altogether unexpected though…

  3. Am I the only one who thinks this might be a good idea? Keep aside for the moment that fact that I will probably never travel to Saudi Arabia. But I am a woman usually traveling alone and the thought of being separated from potential creeps is kind of comforting. I am pretty sure the ladies’ area would probably be more comfortable all around.

    I traveled in women-only train cars in India and it was frankly a relief. This only comes up in countries where men apparently cannot be trusted to act appropriately (or safely) around women – requiring women to be covered from head to toe to stop men from becoming out-of-control sex maniacs upon seeing an ankle, or whatever the justification is.

    So, yes, bring it on. Bravo, Saudia.

  4. I can understand that they could get away with this on domestic flights but surely they couldn’t get away with it on flights to/from countries with sex discrimination laws.

  5. I agree with LadyFlyer – this could be great. I can imagine an entire section of a plane for my homies, watching hoop on the big screen (or perhaps something even “better”), without my wife telling me to be quiet, “rub my neck please,” or have to talk for hours about whether cousin Jenny’s new boyfriend is really right for her.

  6. It’s interesting to read a female perspective on this. But I’d be careful to label other countries as having a problem where men can’t be trusted, considering rape and sexual assault are rampant in our own military and college campuses.

  7. For my sins, I fly Saudia nearly every week and this is a common issue on domestic flights (although less common in recent years in my experience) and a very occasional issue on international routes. From a story perspective this crops up in the regional newspapers at least once a year, someone from the airline has been asked for an opinion by a conservative newspaper and told them whatever they want to hear – nothing will ever be implemented (and probably isn’t even planned).

  8. Damnit… My 2015 New Year resolution was to join the mile high club in every airline that flights from the Middle East… This rule just screwed that up…


  9. Somewhere in Saudi Arabia, a closeted gay man just let out an audible “Yay!”

    Not implying that all gay men are perverts. But of course we also shouldn’t imply that all men are perverts or all women are of good moral character.

    But as @LadyFlyer said, this is probably justifiable in societies which have a culture of violence, oppression or abuse towards women.

  10. @ Ben Davis

    It’s not just Islam, its religious fundamentalism of any kind. This has repeatedly been an issue on many El Al flights as well. Haredi Jewish men refuse to sit next to women they aren’t related to and when their seats can’t be reaccommodated, they throw a hissy fit and apparently have stood in the aisles praying loudly the entire flight instead of potentially touching a woman. Just as no one would say that those men are emblematic of members of the Jewish faith, don’t hold the billion or so other Muslims responsible for the archaic and backwards behavior of a few.

  11. TEX277 says: “I can understand that they could get away with this on domestic flights but surely they couldn’t get away with it on flights to/from countries with sex discrimination laws.”

    Who is going to complain? The Muslim women? The non-Muslim men?

    Supposedly if you’re an adult male passenger traveling alone on a US airline they will not allow any UM’s to sit next to you. Despite being based on nothing more than age and sex I doubt anyone has ever complained about that. The first time I heard this I assumed it was an urban legend but apparently it’s true and it’s perfectly fine by me. I’m not sure who in their right mind wants to be an unpaid surrogate of a random latchkey but the farther away you keep them the better my trip will be.

  12. It will be more of a seating allocation thing than a curtain between men and women. How I imagine it to be working is that it will be an option on their website. Of course if you’re a female who wants to sit next to a random male they can’t just force you to do so.
    And hey, there are women carts in some subways and trains. It’s no problem, IMO.

    @Ben Davis Please keep in mind that the extremism of an airline does not represent the Islamic population of over 1 billion humans, whom you are offending.

  13. I can see where they are coming from actually. I would assume it is easy to separate those who travel together on their ticketing and check ins. As a Muslim woman who travels often with and without my husband and before that on my own I have had my fair share of incidents and creeps. I would like to feel more comfortable when travelling and not squeezed into someone one I don’t know especially when airlines keep making their economy seats smaller.

  14. I’m female and the segregation concept on its own doesn’t offend me. But I have a feeling that it’s the women who will be moved, and they’ll be moved to inferior seats. The wives of the men who insist that they can’t sit next to strangers are probably already used to being treated like crap. But what about the female business travellers? Solo female pleasure travellers should probably just avoid this airline altogether.

  15. Elena, what if you selected a prime seat and then the flight attendant tells you that you have to move to some crappy seat because the strange dude sitting next to you doesn’t want to sit next to you? Is this really OK with you?

  16. Great… Lucky had to highlight this article. Its post like these that invite hateful comments (@Ben Davis). Not that you should ignore sensitive issues around you but you did previously do a post about adding insult to injury, possibly moderating comments then apologizing.

    Anyway, I would’nt say alcohol/pork is “lacking” but rather it’s something the majority of its passengers are not interested in and so the carrier does’nt offer it. The prayer room however, is awesome!

  17. “Supposedly if you’re an adult male passenger traveling alone on a US airline they will not allow any UM’s to sit next to you. ”

    This isn’t true. My daughter flew as an unaccompanied minor and sat next to an adult male passenger who was not flying with anyone else. If I recall correctly, it’s British Airways that has the policy of no men sitting next to unaccompanied children.

    As for Haredi men who refuse to sit next to women and Muslims who refuse to let their wives sit next to men: both groups should be forced off the plane. There is no reason why other passengers should suffer from other people’s religious practices. If religious people are so picky about whom they have to sit next to, they can charter their own planes rather than take public transportation (which is essentially what airlines are). End of problem.

  18. @Dax – I would mainly expect non-Muslims to complain. Imagine at check-in I request a window seat and am told non are available. I board the flight and discover an empty window seat. I go to sit in it and am prevented from doing so by cabin crew who inform me that only a women can sit there as there’s a women in the next seat. I think I may well complain at that and I think, if the genders were reversed, a window seat denied female may also do so.

    With regards to adult males sitting next to UMs: firstly – “Despite being based on nothing more than age and sex I doubt anyone has ever complained about that” – you doubt incorrectly – see: Secondly, remember that in this situation adult males are prevented from sitting next to UMs as *some* adult males have sexually abused children. However, to therefore assume that *all* adult males are a sexual threat to child is discrimination.

  19. @Lucky- while I’m not usually the one to sound the PC alarm, calling the Wahabi-medieval practices of Saudi Arabia “most Islamic” is probably quite offensive to many who practice the ancient (and tolerant) form of the religion.

  20. The male (Saudi) flight attendants certainly aren’t going to start doing any actual work on those flights, they are too busy with their newspapers and looking bored. The foreign female flight attendants, heavily Filipino, presumably will have to do this.

    That middle seat in business on their 777s is nearly impossible to extricate oneself from without a grappling hook, maybe that is one source of the complaints.

    Of all the airlines I have flown, my Saudia flights by far had the most people streaming around at all times of the flight, heading to prayer, visiting family, standing and chatting. It was like a festival and not a place to rest. I imagine much of this is already informally happening.

    One of the most fascinating things about flights in region is seeing the various sects and strains of Islam pushed together and how their observance contrast and how they interact.

  21. pretty much summed up as one more way a religion puts more control on its followers

    ( like all other religions to some extent)

  22. @pavel

    It a bit off topic, but I am so absolutely sick of the libel and slander being bandies by mindless harpy feminists that they must be addressed at every turn.

    You claim “rape and sexual assault are rampant in our own military and college campuses.”.

    I do not know about rates in the military, but recent Department of Justice data rape and sexual assault are less common on college campuses than off campus. And the true rates are far, far, lower than the slanderers claim.


  23. I don’t think those women should be allowed to fly at all, considering the plane is a giant phallus.

  24. The correct way to do this– if they wanted to institute such a policy- is to have a small section or set of rows that can initially only be booked by females or females traveling alone.

    Airlines already have some variants of these- they have rows that are preferentially available to families (i.e., rows with bassinets); rows reserved for smokers. and as a poster above noted, airlines also have specific restrictions (e.g., unaccompanied minors cannot sit next to a male passenger)…

    I do understand that some women may – for whatever reason- not want to sit next to a male passenger. And there are several legitimate ways to oblige. But it should be optional rather than mandatory, and requestable rather than guaranteed (just like when you request a king bed or a high floor at a hotel).

  25. @tara.
    “But I have a feeling that it’s the women who will be moved, and they’ll be moved to inferior seats. ”

    I hope that is not the case.
    But given existing separation in buses and trains, women usually get the front cabins with seats and it’s the men at the back who have to stand. So I hope that would mean that they would get prime seating…

  26. I urge more understanding and tolerance for all faiths.
    No one is forcing anyone to fly this particular airline.
    It’s a free market; vote with your money!

  27. This is nothing new. Saudia has been toying with the idea of gender segregation since at least the 1980’s. And nothing has ever been done about it.

    On a related note, the moment I read the topic line of this particular forum I just knew it would be hit with homophobic remarks and insults towards muslims. Do these internet trolls actually have jobs? Or do they just sit in darken rooms in front of their computer screens, tapping out their vitriolic hate, in a pathetic attempt to give themselves a feeling of self-importance?

  28. Nope. I tweeted with Saudi Airlines’ Abdul Rahman @ahfahad — and he confirms that the trial policy is seating families together, not segregating unrelated people. So little Ali won’t be seated in 28B while the rest of the family is in row 13.

    Can we all make our 2015 resolutions not to believe a thing we read in Russia Today or the Daily Mail?

  29. This is ridiculously stupid? What good will separating the men from the women do? Saudia is trying to make a claim about having a deeper level of respect for the Islamic rules (hence the prayers and lack of alcohol/pork on board), but this doesn’t follow the Islamic rule, it just puts Saudia on the block as “the world’s most sexist airline.” If they do this, what’s next? Discrimination on LGBT passengers by forcing them to sit at the back of the plane? Segregating people by the color of their skin (with no MLK Jr. to come to the rescue)? Refusing to let people board based on the way they dress? These are all ideas that are discriminatory and completely unforgivable, what the f&ck is wrong with Saudia?

    Overall, this is the worst idea I’ve ever heard and Saudia better get their heads out of their a$$e$ before they get their a$$e$ kicked and beaten.

  30. I think many of us have decided today that Saudia is an airline that we will never (or never again) fly on.

    By the way, jfhscott, please don’t think (if you do) that all feminists make outrageous unsupported claims about rape, or are man haters or have any of the other horrible characteristics frequently attributed to us. I’m a feminist, I just want good old fashioned equal treatment, that’s all. I would say women (and men) who deliberately skews facts to support man-hating or man-demeaning agendas are not feminists.

  31. I’m not convinced that it was a false rumor. Emirates24x7 says this:

    “There are solutions to this problem…we will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers,” Saudia assistant manager for marketing Abdul Rahman Al Fahd said, quoted by the Saudi Arabic language daily ‘Ajel’.

    He did not elaborate, but the paper said it would include instructions to flight booking staff at the Gulf kingdom’s airports to ensure males and females are separated aboard Saudia’s flights unless they are closely related.

    It’s hard to think that specific instructions to separate males and females who are not closely related could be confused with instructions to seat family members together. I have a feeling Saudia is trying to backtrack.

  32. I find the last sentence very insulting.

    Can’t wait to see how this is EXECUTED in practice…

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