As rates of sexual assault against women in India continue to climb, one airline is doing its utmost to ensure the safety and well-being of its female passengers.
New Delhi-based airline, Vistara, has recently instituted a new policy in which it offers all female passengers who are flying alone the option to choose their own seats before or after booking a ticket. Women travelling alone are guaranteed a window or an aisle seat, as well as assistance and safe escort to their vehicle, if they choose to request it. According to one Vistara employee, “This service is a sincere effort to ensure peace of mind of our women customers.”
This unusual policy is aimed at reducing the high rates of sexual assault that are currently prevalent in India, which make life unsafe for both local women and for those travelling through the country. India has in recent years had several high-profile instances of violence against women, including the infamous 2012 New Delhi Gang Rape Case. In this tragic incident, a 23-year-old female student was brutally raped and murdered by six men on board a moving bus in New Delhi. The crime sent shock waves throughout the world, and recently made headlines again due to the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the death penalty for four of the six offenders.
However, concerns about travel safety for women are not restricted to India. Air travel in particular can be especially dangerous for women because of the close proximity in which it places passengers. There have been reports of many cases of sexual harassment, and even assault of women in airplanes. In one recent incident, a woman accused American Airlines of allowing her to continue sleeping next to a masturbating male passenger. Even more shockingly, after she woke up, the airline denied her request to change seats, and the then-traumatized woman was forced to remain seated next to the masturbator for the duration of the flight.
Given the prevalence of shocking occurrences such as these, Vistara’s efforts to accommodate and ensure the safety of its female passengers seem even more necessary and welcome. The airline estimates that 75 to 100 women use its services per day. This translates to safe travel for thousands of women per year who otherwise might have been confronted by the sexual harassment and groping that plague female airline passengers worldwide.
Large-scale, intentional efforts such as those being made by Vistara are crucial if we are to live in a world in which travel is safe for all. If airlines wish to continue benefitting from their female passengers, they need to demonstrate their willingness to make safety and comfort a constant priority for all passengers.
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