Air France is scheduled to restart Paris – Tehran service in two weeks time. However, there’s a backlash against rules imposed on Air France crews who will be operating the flights.
Air France stewardesses, furious at being ordered to wear headscarves in Tehran, say they will refuse to fly to the Iranian capital when the airline resumes the service later this month.
Female members of flight crews have been ordered to cover their hair once they disembark in Tehran and unions are demanding that the flights be made voluntary for women.
…Stewardesses normally have a choice between a uniform with a skirt or trousers, but they have been instructed to wear a long jacket and trousers on Tehran flights.
France is largely secular, and attitudes towards Islam are in many ways quite negative. France, and Air France, is also quite unionized. So imposing working conditions that subjugate women to the demands of Islam as imposed by Iran is naturally unpopular.
When Condoleeza Rice became Secretary of State, James Lileks wrote “I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be ‘I’ll drive.'”
Air France flies three times-weekly Paris – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and “[i]n Saudi Arabia, stewardesses must wear the “abaya”, a long robe that covers the body, but unlike Saudi women they are not compelled to wear face veils.”
Air France is threatening ‘penalties’ against crew not observing the dress code suggesting that “air crew were ‘obliged like other foreign visitors to respect the laws of the countries to which they travelled’.”
Certainly Air France doesn’t want to incite an international incident, generate bad publicity for its flights, or find itself with crewmembers detained. So it’s understandable they don’t want to challenge Tehran. On the other hand Tehran has been aggressively courting European business deals, buying Airbus aircraft, precisely because they want to create a schism between Europe and the US to make it impossible for the US to re-impose sanctions.
And while Air France may have to abide by local laws, they do not have to require cabin crew to work those flights when it would violate their conscience to do so. The request that female flight crew be permitted to opt out of Tehran flights, taking assignments elsewhere, if they believe the rules for those flights violates their dignity seems not at all an unreasonable accommodation.
When Royal Brunei can fly a 787 with an all-female crew to Jeddah (they did wear headscarves), Air France can find a way to accommodate their female crew working flights to Tehran, or allowing them not to work those flights. And really, does financially-troubled Air France need even more trouble with its unions?