National carrier Air India will soon reserve six seats in the front rows of its aeroplane fleet for women passengers for their safety — without any extra charges.
“We will soon reserve two rows (or six seats) for women passengers only,” Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani told The Hindu . The airline will not be charging any additional fee for blocking such seats for women passengers.
This is perhaps the first time in the world that seats will be reserved only for women passengers on planes in such a manner.
However, other modes of transport in India, including local and long-distance trains, metros and buses have reserved berths, seats or coaches for women. Pink auto rickshaws reserved for women have also been introduced in Gurugram and Noida.
Third row reserved
“We will be reserving the third row — six seats — in the economy class of the aircraft for female passengers travelling alone,” said Air India GM-revenue management Meenakshi Malik. “As national carriers, it is our responsibility to enhance comfort level to female passengers. There are a lot of women who travel alone with us and we will be blocking a few seats for them.”
The move assumes significance, as it comes soon after an on-board incident in Air India’s Mumbai-Newark flight late last month where a flier reportedly groped a woman co-passenger.
During the flight, a business class passenger changed his seat to sit next to a female passenger in the economy class and allegedly groped her when she fell asleep.
Describing the move as a ‘misplaced priority’, former Air India executive director Jitendra Bhargava said: “To my knowledge, this happens nowhere in the world. Planes are not unsafe for women passengers. In case of unruly behaviour, the airline crew are authorised to take action as per the law.” Passenger representatives also expressed reservations. “It is an impractical move and will lead to gender discrimination. The airline should not go ahead with the plan,” said D. Sudhakara Reddy, national president of Air Passengers Association of India.