Women-only train carriages have been a feature of public transport in India for decades, but now the idea is taking to the air.
Air India became the first international airline to offer women-only seats in January, and Spicejet introduced a women-only row on all its Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q-400 aircraft on 8 March, just in time for International Women’s Day. The move is just the latest in series of measures being taken in India to improve the country’s reputation as a safe place for women to travel, after a string of highly publicised incidents on public transport. Both airlines now offer a row of seats which can only be reserved by women travelling alone, to reduce the risk of receiving unwanted advances.
Although this is the first time the policy has been employed in the air, Indian travellers have been able to use women-only carriages on trains since colonial times, and special women-only trains were introduced on the public transport networks in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in 2015.
India is not the only country to offer special seating for female passengers. Women-only train carriages have been used in Japan and Mexico since 2000 and Thailand, Brazil, Iran, Indonesia and Egypt also offer women-only seating on trains and public transport. Women-only carriages were proposed in Britain by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, but the idea did not receive government support.
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Spicejet’s announcement on International Women’s Day is timely – a number of airlines around the world ran flights with entirely female crews to mark the occasion, including Air India, which became the first airline to circumnavigate the globe with an all-women crew on 6 March. Nevertheless, there is still progress to be made – globally, only 3% of airline pilots are women, with airlines in Europe and America beating the international average.
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