Air India: Women-Only Seating Is Not a Response to In-Flight Sexual Assaults

FILE - In this April 16, 2015 file photo, an Airbus A319 of Air India prepares to land at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi, India. Airport and airline authorities in India on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 began investigating the death of a technician who was sucked into …
AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File

Air India has announced that six seats in economy class on each of its domestic flights will henceforth be reserved for women traveling alone, a move Reuters speculates is unique in the air travel industry. The policy may soon be extended to international flights as well.

“We are doing this as we get lots of requests by female passengers at the check-in counter who want to sit next to another woman, rather than a male passenger,” explained Air India general manager for corporate communications G. Prasada Rao. “It is not connected to the reports of sexual assaults. It’s more to do with the fact that economy class doesn’t have much space to move around easily and comfortably for women, so this option will give them more choice.”

As Reuters goes on to note, there have been “numerous reports of women being groped or ‘touched up’ on crowded buses or on trains, and even on flights,” plus two serious accounts in the past month of women molested by male passengers seated next to them. Unsatisfied with the response of the authorities, women have been posting videos and photos of the incidents on social media.

The UK Telegraph notes that Air India announced last week that it would begin keeping plastic handcuffs on all flights to “restrain unruly passengers” during situations that become “totally out of control.” Observers believe, despite the airline’s protestations to the contrary, that this measure also has something to do with the reports of female passengers being groped.

Fox News reports that several Indian cities have introduced women-only seating on some long distance trains and buses. And it’s not just happening in India; Japan introduced women-only rail cars over a decade ago, while China has “experimented with women-only bus service in an effort to reduce the number of groping incidents.”