India’s national airline will designate two rows on every flight as female-only.
Air India made the announcement after two incidents in the past month of men allegedly groping cabin staff or other passengers.
A general manager at the airline, Meenakshi Malik, said officials had made the decision because “we feel … it is our responsibility to enhance comfort level to female passengers”.
The service, which will come at no extra charge, will start this week on internal flights, and be rolled out across the network throughout the year.
Women in India can already ride in segregated train carriages and buses, and pink women-only auto-rickshaws in two cities near Delhi.
Air India is trying to rebuild its reputation as a safe airline for female passengers after an incident in December, when a business class passenger flying from Mumbai to Newark moved to an empty seat next to a woman in economy and allegedly groped her as she slept.
Another Air India passenger was also reportedly arrested in January after a flight attendant complained he had touched her inappropriately and made lewd remarks.
This month, the airline announced its crew would begin carrying restraints on domestic and international flights to be used on unruly passengers as a last resort.
A former Air India executive, Jitendra Bhargava, told the Hindu the move was a “misplaced priority”.
“To my knowledge, this happens nowhere in the world. Planes are not unsafe for women passengers,” he said. “In case of unruly behaviour, the airline crew are authorised to take action as per the law.”
Domestic air traffic jumped by more than 20% in India in 2015, making it the world’s fastest growing aviation market. But safety fears are also increasing, including near-misses by planes on the tarmac and pilots getting drunk on the job.
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