It's 2015, and an airline is reportedly considering segregating its passengers by gender. And while I can't claim to to know anything about the cultural practices in Saudi Arabia, this outrageous policy would fly in the face of decades of progress made for women's rights around the world.
Saudia Boeing 777, by aceebee (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
Saudi Arabia's national airline, Saudia is allegedly considering seating male and female passengers apart from each other, according to Emirates247. The airline has cited complaints from male passengers who don't like unknown men being seated next to their wives when they fly. Saudia assistant manager for marketing Abdul Rahman Al Fahd said, "There are solutions to this problem…we will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers." The airline will supposedly begin having airport staff assign separate seating for men and women, unless they are closely related.
It's not only Muslims that are concerned over seating assignments, but also Orthodox Jews. An El Al Airlines flight in September from New York to Israel was delayed because some men refused to be seated next to women. Their faith forbids it, but where to you draw the line between accommodating someone's faith and interfering with a flight crew, which is a felonious offense? One could easily argue that delaying a flight by the refusal to take one's assigned seat would qualify as interfering with a flight crew's duties to help the plane depart on time. Here's the FAA rule on flight crew disruption:
Federal Aviation Regulations 91.11, 121.580 and 135.120 state that "no person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated."
On December 20th, Delta Air Lines flight 468 was also delayed for the same reason, but was finally resolved when an American passenger offered to switch seats with the man who was assigned to sit by a woman.
What are your thoughts on this? If these men are truly standing up for their faith, should they also inconvenience hundreds of other people in the process? Should they make a personal sacrifice by taking their assigned seat and just dealing with it? Without turning this into a religious flame war, do you have a solution for this? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
Top image via shutterstock
Update: According to a post on Mashable, a marketing manager for the airline is denying their plans to segregate passengers. However, we should be cautions here — companies often deny they're working on a new product or procedure, and then all of a sudden it's introduced as a "surprise."
Paul Thompson is a aviation journalist with over 13 years of experience working in the airline industry, who maintains the website Flight Club for Jalopnik.com. You can contact Paul to submit story ideas, your own "Plane Porn" photos, and comments regarding this or any other aviation topic via email at paul@Jalopnik.com. You can also follow Flight Club on Twitter: @flightclubnews