Yesterday morning I wrote about Air France restarting flights between Paris and Tehran this month, and the trouble it was causing with their unions. In Iran women are required to wear headscarves, so Air France staff were told they’d have to cover up as soon as they deplaned in Tehran
Air France’s union took issue with this, and requested that the route be staffed voluntarily, in the sense that female flight attendants and pilots could opt to not work the route. They said they weren’t passing judgment on Iran’s policies, but rather that forcing staff to work these flights restricted their individual liberties.
Meanwhile Air France’s management argued that French law allows for the restriction of individual liberties if it’s justified by the nature of the task to be accomplished, which they argued was the case here. That reminded me a bit of the lawsuit a while back from a Muslim flight attendants who didn’t want to serve alcohol.
Well, it seems like Air France management and the unions have come to a quick agreement. Or more precisely, Air France management has given into the union’s demands. Per Reuters, Air France’s Paris to Tehran flight will be voluntarily staffed, meaning female crews can opt out of operating the service:
Air France said it would allow female cabin crew and pilots to opt out of flying routes to Tehran after some staff said they did not want to be forced to cover their hair when in Iran.
Air France, part of the Franco-Dutch group Air France-KLM, is preparing to restart flights to Tehran from April 17 after an eight-year hiatus due to sanctions.
After a meeting between Air France management and unions on Monday, the French carrier said it would offer female staff the choice of opting out of the flights.
I’m curious to see if other airlines’ unions now raise similar concerns and follow in Air France’s footsteps. The Reuters article quotes spokespeople from British Airways and Lufthansa regarding their policies:
A spokeswoman for British Airways, part of International Consolidated Airlines Group, which is planning to restart flights to Iran from Heathrow on July 14, said it would make recommendations to its crew nearer the time.
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.
Nicoley Baublies, head of Lufthansa’s main cabin crew union, said some crew members had raised concerns, but not to the extent seen at Air France.
Personally I’d love to visit Iran, though I realize the perception from many is that it isn’t safe. I’m curious to see how many Air France employees end up opting out of this Tehran flight, either because of the requirement to cover up, or more likely because they simply don’t want to fly to Iran.
While women will have the ability to opt out if they so choose, male staff (a significant number of which are openly gay), will be forced to work these flights instead. Of course this is all a slippery slope, but…
Do you think Air France made the right decision here, and do you think other airlines will follow?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)