Air France Will Let Female Crew Opt Out of Flying to Tehran

Air France is scheduled to restart Paris – Tehran service in two weeks. Their flight attendants objected to having to wear headscarves when disembarking as well as the airline’s ban on skirts for the flight.

They asked for the ability to opt out of working the Tehran flights on the basis of conscience. 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.

Air France had threatened 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’.”

As I wrote over the weekend,

[W]hile 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.

That’s exactly what’s happened. Female pilots and cabin crew will be permitted “to opt out of flying routes to Tehran.”

As Reuters reports, British Airways hasn’t yet announced their policy for female crew serving Tehran flights when the carrier re-enters the market in July. Meanwhile,

Germany’s Lufthansa, which continued to fly to Tehran throughout the sanctions, said it had not experienced any problems and that crew followed the rules to cover up when in public spaces.

While not surprising that the German flag carrier has not experienced a problem with crew following the rules, in fact there are only limited instances in my recollection where they’ve had such a problem.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. French “…attitudes towards Islam are in many ways quite negative.”

    On what research basis was this statement made? If there is no credible research to back up this sentence, then you really must conder stating that this is based on your perception or that you are speculating.

    I understand bloggers enjoy writing but lets not mix speculation with fact. What you see with your own eyes with a few visits to a country does not make it a fact; research and statistical analysis is what propels a statement from pure speculation to somewhat factual.

    I’m not sure if the 65 million people of France (of which 5 million are Muslims) would enjoy knowing this one blogger have decided, and on their behalf no less, that they view Islam negatively.

    I wonder if you would have the confidence to write that statement in a French national newspaper..

    I highly doubt it.

    Bottom line: Lets say when we speculate and not write as if we know for a fact.

  2. @HT Gary is correct. If you paid any attention to the whole “Tchador” issue where Muslim women are legally forbidden to exercise their rights to wear the veil in public spaces. But to be fair, the hostility towards Islam is more intertwined with issues with the North African immigrant community that has never quite integrated into French society. Of course, the recent terrorist attacks will unfortunately only make those attitudes worse

  3. Hey Gary, covering up with a head scarf is not a demand of Islam- please get your facts straight

  4. Of all European countries, France is one of the firmest in maintaining a secular tradition in its culture and way of life. And where that clashes with a religion, particularly a non-Catholic religion, the secular way of life wins out. Being French is going to be paramount when it comes between that and an Islamic tradition.

    Also, I would agree with Gary that this is really nothing to do with French culture or rules, since it’s what happens in a foreign country. Where I have some sympathy with Air France (and LH and BA) is that it’s part of the rules of the game that staff get sent to foreign countries and they have to obey the rules in those countries. Yes they are somewhat extreme in certain Arab countries, but totally survivable and arguably more tolerable than not being able to get a drink when you will be spending most of the time in an air-conditioned hotel room. Of course, if the FAs want to go touristing, they’ll have to cover up but they would in all circumstances anyway.

    So, in short, it’s a storm in a teacup.

  5. @HT Being that France has produced the largest number of Islamic State recruits of any Western country I think that right there shows that maybe things aren’t as rosy as you seem to imply in your post. Or the fact that Le Front National a right wing political party is becoming much more mainstream. This doesn’t even begin to get into the poor neighborhoods that the muslims live in and how segregated they are from the rest of Paris. Gary’s comments are entirely appropriate.

  6. I, too, was a little taken back about the judgment that “attitudes towards Islam are in many ways quite negative.” France’s laws of laïcité discourage showing overt religious symbols of any type. Historically, this goes back to the French Revolution, where it was believed that the church and the royalty were together keeping down the people. If you tour the Palais des Papes in Avignon, you will notice all of the heads missing from the religious statues. They were removed during the Revolution as the start of the strict separation of church and state that remains today.

    Bottom Line: It just happens that a head scarf or a full nikab is a lot more overt than a small cross suspended on a necklace inside a shirt or blouse.

  7. Doesn’t Iran also outlaw being gay?? If so, shouldn’t gay flight attendants also be able to opt out of the Tehran service on grounds of conscience?? After all, they are being sent by their employer to a place that does not even acknowledge their right to exist, and where they break the law merely by existing!! If all female flight attendants opt out of the Tehran route, joined by all gay flight attendants, will Air France have enough flight attendants left over on payroll to even fly this route??

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