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Saudi Airlines to segregate sexes

National carrier responds to male passengers who say they don’t want their wives sitting next to other men

Men will still be allowed to sit with their wives. (illustrative Saudi passenger image via Shutterstock)
Men will still be allowed to sit with their wives. (illustrative Saudi passenger image via Shutterstock)

Saudi Arabia’s national carrier has reportedly decided to impose separate seating on its male and female passengers.

The plan is being implemented by Saudi Airlines due to a rash of complaints from men who said they did not want their wives sitting next to other men, the Daily Mail reported, citing Gulf media.

“There are solutions to this problem… we will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers,” Saudi Airlines’ assistant manager for marketing, Abdul Rahman Al Fahd, was quoted as saying.

According to the report, close relatives will be allowed to sit together.

The plan reportedly also follows recent complaints from male passengers about a “flirty” flight attendant.

Saudi women are not employed as flight attendants by the airline, which instead hires women from other countries, the report said.

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict segregation of the sexes in public spaces, and famously forbids women from driving motor vehicles.

Women are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public.

Operators of flights to and from Israel have faced similar complaints from men who refused to sit next to women.

An international flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed for half an hour on December 20 after ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit between two women.

The flight crew of Delta Flight 468 departing John F. Kennedy Airport attempted to find other seats for the men. But other passengers refused to swap seats in protest at their refusal to sit next to female passengers, according to a Friday report by Israel Radio.

The men were finally accommodated by an American passenger who agreed to switch seats.

According to Federal Aviation Authority regulations, a flight is not permitted to take off until all passengers are seated.

In September, an El Al flight was grounded after a group of ultra-Orthodox men refused to sit next to a female passenger, resulting in an 11-hour delay described as a “nightmare” by passengers.

That incident sparked a petition calling on EL AL to protect its female travelers by reserving “a few rows of separate sex seating on every flight, where for a fee, those passengers who need such seating can pre-book their seats and not annoy or coerce other passengers before take-off to change seats with them — thereby avoiding arguments, bullying, and delayed take-off.”

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