Air India Offers Special Seating to Solo Female Travelers

Jan 16, 2017

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Traveling solo is a freeing sort of feeling, as it leaves you open to be completely flexible and go where the day — and destination — take you, with the added perk of not having to consult on every little decision with a traveling companion. While one-person vacations are on the rise these days, there are certainly a few drawbacks — safety being one of them, particularly for solo female travelers. In an effort to cater to those concerns, Air India recently announced it will reserve one row of each flight — the third row in economy — as a special, female-only section.

“We feel, as national carriers, it is our responsibility to enhance [the] comfort level to female passengers,” Meenakshi Malik, the airline’s general manager of revenue management, told The Hindu. “There are a lot of female passengers who travel alone with us and we will be blocking a few seats for them.”

While female-only transportation options are nothing new to India — special sections can be found on trains and buses and there’s even a fleet of women-only pink rickshaws — Air India’s announcement marks the first time an airline has tried it. And it’s coming as what seems like a response to a few recent in-flight occurrences that have made headlines and raised eyebrows around the world, including one in December when a woman charged that she was groped by a fellow passenger after she fell asleep on a flight from Mumbai to Newark.

Though the airline’s intention seems to be in the right place, the new policy isn’t sitting well with everyone. Jitendra Bhargava, Air India’s former executive director and the author of The Descent of Air India, called the plan a “misplaced priority” and told The Hindu that, “Planes are not unsafe for women passengers. In case of unruly behavior, the airline crew are authorized to take action as per the law.” Other critics have taken to social media to call the airline out on its decision, describing it as both “ridiculous” and “shockingly sexist.”

The airline has yet to release more details on the seating plan, including, perhaps most importantly, how it will be enforced. But this surely isn’t the last we’ll hear about it. It certainly doesn’t help that Flightstats recently named Air India the third worst airline in terms of operational performance.

H/T: Quartz

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