In a first, Air India will start reserving six seats for women travellers travelling alone by the national carrier starting January 18. According to an ANI report, these seats will have come at no extra charge to those making reservations for them. This has triggered a debate on whether such a move is really useful for women or a forced gesture. In fact many women are questioning it themselves.
We will be reserving the third row — six seats — in the economy class of the aircraft for female passengers travelling alone,” Air India general manager-revenue management Meenakshi Malik told The Hindu. “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.”
This move has come after an incident that happened aboard Air India’s Mumbai-Newark flight in December when a woman was molested by a man. The accused changed his business class seat with an economy class seat and groped her when she drifted off to sleep.
A lady pilot who did not want to be named talked to SheThePeople.TV and called it a “marketing strategy”. She said, “I don’t think it is a great move.”
She added that since women’s empowerment is the trending topic at the moment so they are wrapping their strategy around it. But this does beg the question – reserving seats for women really an effective way of ‘empowering’ them? Or even useful to become a deterrent against molestation by a co passenger? Social media is abuzz with some strong reactions.
Another woman who works at an MNC, Priti Grewal asked, “Where is equality in this? While reservations in regular transports are still logical, I don’t think flights are that unsafe for women to have reservations there. There is no need for it, basically.”
However, 22-year-old Mahira Khan had a slightly different opinion from Grewal and said, “So, there are reserved seats for women in other mode of transport also. So if Air India does the same, I don’t see how that is suddenly a problem. I don’t know what their motive behind it was, but I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise if an airline too reserves seats for women. Don’t see how it helps equality, but well.”
Frankly, while it does sound like a good-intentioned move by Air India, its worth asking how it helps ‘empowerment.’ While we do have reservations in other modes of transport like buses and metros and even autos specially run for women, airplanes make for a different story all together.
The reason for this is that women takes these transport options on a daily basis and generally more often than not buses and metros carry more passengers than the number of seats in them which makes it logical for women to have reserved seats. And the fact that having a separate compartment in metro does help reduce sexual crime in them is a great win-win situation. However, the same is not the case with airplanes.