Indian Airline Creates Women-Only Rows To Fight Harassment

The airline introduced the policy shortly after two recent reports of sexual harassment on its flights

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Jan 17, 2017 at 4:45 PM ET

Air India, the country’s national airline, will reserve the first two rows on every airplane for women only.

The policy was introduced shortly after two recent incidents of sexual harassment on Air India flights. In December, a business class passenger on a Mumbai-Newark flight transferred to an empty seat in economy class and allegedly groped a woman when she was asleep. Then in January, a man was arrested when an Air India flight attendant reported that he had molested her during a Muscat-Delhi flight. In response, Air India also announced they would begin carrying handcuffs on their domestic flights as a safety precaution.

“We feel, as national carriers, it is our responsibility to enhance comfort level to female passengers. There are a lot of female passengers who travel alone with us and we will be blocking a few seats for them,” Air India general manager-revenue management Meenakshi Malik, told the Hindu, an English-language daily newspaper in India. These seats will available at no additional cost.

The national president of Air Passengers Association of India, D. Sudhakara Reddy, was critical of the airline’s decision. “It is an impractical move and will lead to gender discrimination. The airline should not go ahead with the plan,” he said.

India, along with Iran, Japan, UAE, Egypt, Indonesia, Brazil, and other countries, has segregated female-only cars on public transportation including trains and buses.

Airline companies have their own set of complications in dealing with cases of sexual harassment, often because at 35,000 feet above ground, it’s unclear who these cases should be reported to, a recent article published by Slate found. Nora Caplan-Bricker, writes that airlines have “few policies in place that suggest they feel responsible for managing the risks particular to women,” and cases often fall through the cracks because they aren’t directed to the right authorities on time. Flight attendants also often receive little or no training on how to deal with these cases from passengers.