Saudi Arabia's National Airline Plans to Keep Men and Women Apart

Move comes after customers complain about on-board gender mixing; on flights to Israel, women object to being asked to move away from men.

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Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (L) greets Prince Salman (R) before departing for the United States, at Riyadh airport Nov. 22, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Saudi Arabia's national airline plans to keep men and women apart after passengers objected to on-board gender mixing, the Emirates247 news website reported Wednesday.

"There are solutions to this problem," said Abdul Rahman Al Fahd, the assistant manager of national carrier Saudia. "We will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers," Saudi daily Ajel quoted him as saying.

The paper said flight staff at Saudi Arabia's airports would be instructed to keep men and women segregated on board Saudia planes, unless they are close relatives.

Complaints about mixed-gender sitting are also common on planes flying to Israel, with some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refusing to sit next to unrelated women and some women objecting to being asked to move so that the men won't have to sit next to them.

A Delta flight from New York to Israel was delayed earlier this month when ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to sit between two women, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

A number of similar incidents were reported in the media earlier this year, bringing the controversial issue into the headlines. In some cases, the men reportedly offered to pay the female passengers to switch their seats.

In September, a petition on urged Israeli carrier El Al to stop allowing female passengers to be "bullied, harassed, and intimidated into switching seats." El Al told Haaretz that its policy is "to try to accommodate any customer request.”