Lounge Access & Polygamy — This Is Complicated

Earlier I was flying out of Dubai Airport and using the SkyTeam Lounge, when I witnessed something for the first time (at least knowingly). A guy was entering the lounge and tried to get access for his family as well. Based on that I would assume he was flying in business class and they were flying economy. There was only one thing that made this different than similar instances I’ve seen in the past — he had four wives. “I can’t bring my wives in?”

After being denied, the wives sat outside the lounge while he relaxed inside. Now, based on reading up on polygamy in Saudi Arabia, it’s allowed as long as you treat all your wives equally. Whether or not that happens in practice, I don’t know. But even if he could guest just one wife in, it sounds like that wouldn’t have been practical. Or perhaps equality can come in the form of guesting one wife once, the other the next time, etc.).

I’ve written in the past about whether it’s okay to fly business class while leaving your spouse in economy, but polygamous relationships take this issue to the next level.

A lot of lounge benefits are available to “immediate family members,” and this caused me to read up on how various companies define that. Most of the airline terms & conditions I read about immediate family members refer to a single spouse, which, if you’re married and have to treat all your spouses exactly equal, doesn’t seem terribly useful.

Even Saudia isn’t explicit on this in their membership guide. They have family accounts that allow you to invite up to eight people. They say you can include “immediate relatives” and even private drivers and housemaids, so it sounds like they’d include multiple wives:

As head of the household you may invite up to eight members of your family to become Alfursan members, so that they can enjoy all the privileges of membership while earning you additional rewards. Family membership covers immediate relatives including children over two years old, as well as private drivers and housemaids under your sponsorship. Each receives their own membership card.

This made me even more curious, and caused me to read up on how the US recognizes foreign polygamous marriages. Long story short, there doesn’t seem to be a clear or consistent answer.

It sure would be interesting to see a Saudi man with four wives buy an Admirals Club membership and show up at the lounge with his four wives and children, and see how they react. I’m not sure Dallas Debbie would know how to handle that.

I really do find all of this incredibly interesting. I was caught a bit off guard when I first saw this, though the more thought I’ve put into it, the more I’ve realized that having a polygamous relationship and accessing lounges can be complicated. Though come and think of it, I’m guessing that’s probably the least complicated part of such a relationship.

On the plus side, Saudia often makes at least five first class award seats available on a given flight. I usually say “enough award space for the whole family,” but I guess in this case it’s “enough award space for all the wives.”

Does anyone know how airlines would treat a polygamous relationship for the purposes of “immediate family” benefits?

Comments

  1. 1-My blood is boiling with rage after reading this bit “After being denied, the wives sat outside the lounge while he relaxed inside”
    2-I’m here for the comments, let the sh*t show begin!

  2. From a legal standpoint, they should recognize all of them as technically and by definition they are all immediate family members. However, a lawyer could easily argue the contrary in that the marriage arrangements do not apply if not recognized at the location in question.

    An interesting topic indeed!

  3. From the photo it looks like he treats them all equally when it comes to buying them cell phones.

    Imagine the difficulty if he wants to get all his wives into another… mile high club… on the flight.

  4. Did you ask for permission to take the photo of the women outside the lounge? If not, I think it is best that you take it down. I think it is rude to post something without their permission, especially since they are the subject of the photo and not just incidentally in it.

  5. In before the regressives who claim to “care” about the plight of women…

    Lucky, it would have taken one sentence to distinguish between the systems of polygamy (which is generally rooted in male dominance under the guise of religion) and polyamory (which is based on free will and radical equality). The latter, while not for many or even most humans, is making progress in the West. But the average person conflates it with the former. That makes life legally and socially difficult for the committed throuples and quadruples out there, especially when they have kids.

    Lounge access is a tiny challenge in the big scheme, but I could actually see it becoming more of an issue in the US and elsewhere in the coming years.

  6. Also, despite the privacy concern, needless to say, this dude is an A****ole. He flies in a higher class of service and leaves them all outside.

  7. My wife (only one, relax!) brought up an interesting observation: The guy had 4 wives and only one kid?!
    She thinks they might have been his sisters or relatives and he tried to sneak them into the lounge.
    Regardless, he went in to relax while they sat outside on the ground which makes a major Douche in my book.

  8. @Tom: you can’t really recognize any of the women in the picture (as well as the boy, who is facing the other direction). So I believe there is no privacy issue here.

  9. I respect the concerns for privacy but I infer the photo was taken in a quasi-public space where there wouldn’t be an expectation of privacy (although I have no idea of what the law would be there).

    More practically, how the heck could anybody identify them?

  10. I’m thinking about Tom’s comment about the photo and whether it should be published presumably due to invasion of privacy. I find the photo incredibly powerful — a society in which women have to completely covered to the point where they are unrecognizable. And that leads me to wonder is there any invasion of privacy in a situation like this

  11. It varies by airline and local jurisdiction. I remember that at least one middle eastern airline insisted that interline employee travel benefits had to be extended to “up to 4 spouses concurrently” before they would enter into a ZED agreement.

  12. @Tom: it’s only rude to publish photos of strangers if they are recognizable. As a responsible photographer, Lucky was careful to make sure that their faces were not shown.

  13. @ Abdul — For what it’s worth, there were other kids. They were running around, and I framed them out of the picture to respect their privacy. You might be onto something, though, I’m not sure.

  14. I find it rather disturbing how willing some people are to accept gross violations of basic human decency as long as it’s non-white people doing it.

  15. It was dubai, but your reference goes to polygamy in saudi. Well, same thing can be found (altough less common) in malaysia, brunei, indonesia. You can guess what entitles them to have maximum of four wives at the same time….

  16. FWIW coming from a Muslim family background, Saudi Arabia takes things way more to the extreme than any other. Wahhabist is to Islam what Opus Dei is to Catholicism. Doesn’t represent the whole spectrum.

    This guy just seems like a real a-hole above all else.

  17. It’s not complicated. It’s disgusting. I enjoy reading your blog but sometimes have to wonder if it’s worth visiting these medieval countries that allow this stuff (not to mention outlawing homosexuality, something I’d think you’d care about) in the name of reviewing plastic seats on a metal tube and some reheated food.

  18. I find (some) of the Gulf states men to be arrogant, pompous, disrespectful, and truly UN-Islamic when it comes to treatment of women. Sad really cuz Islam teaches them to treat them better than themselves….but in this case, this D-bad(as Abdul put it) decided he really wanted some free canapes and snacks.

  19. If I were heterosexual and if I were Saudi and if I were entitled to take multiple wives…

    …I wouldn’t.

    A guy with four wives walks into an airport lounge….

  20. Ben, you are a seasoned traveller and expert in your field.

    So why do you constantly bombard us with backwatered cultures and destinations?

    As a woman, I’m so tired of hearing about, and having to live in the possibility in Western society, of inequality….

    Why would anyone support these countries, airlines and companies which openly condemn being equal and fair towards all?

  21. I enjoy your blog, typically. Why does this topic matter to you so much so that you would write about it? It literally does not impact you, the issue doesn’t take money from your pocket, nor does it take away your ability to get into a lounge.

    This was a inane topic for you to cover, particularly as ignorantly as you did. You lack knowledge on this topic and it shows.

  22. Well, I guess leaving the wives outside the lounge is “treating them equally”. I love the T&C line that household accounts include the housemaids (presumably this also covers nanny/au pairs) and drivers. I guess they come along on trips too.

  23. How do you even know that he’s Saudi, and how do you know that they’re his wives? just because he’s in a Skyteam lounge in Dubai and the women are covered up?

    You’re ignorance and prejudice keeps getting more evident everyday, it’s repulsive.

    And most of your commenters aren’t any better than you are.

    Try criticizing Israel the same way you criticize the Gulf countries and allowing the same type of comments, I dare you.

    This blog is broken beyond repair.

  24. Sooo… you just decided to take a picture of them? Granted, you can’t recognize them, but thats just disrespectful – in any culture. And it might possibly be illegal in some middle eastern countries.

  25. can women fly from or to a us airport either international or domestic with those full black suits on? i am sorry i do not know what they are called burqua maybe?

    in the usa if so, do they have to take them off when they do through security? if they do not take them off, couldn’t anyone be under there an escaped criminal, a bad person, etc…

  26. I disagree that the people in the photo cannot be recognized just because you can’t see faces. I would think that acquaintances or family could identify them through the general description of time/location, the fact that there was four, the purses on the luggage cart and the kid, even from behind. It just struck me as an invasion of privacy to write a post about four women, include a picture of them. I think if Lucky has told them what he was going to do, they would have objected.

  27. but lucky takes all kinds of pictures of all kinds of people, but none of himself that i have ever seen, and does he ask all of these other people for permission? he should, lucky/ ben please take some pictures of yourself or your traveling companions, if he tried to take a picture of me the camera would be going to the police for invasion of privacy

  28. James, polygamy is practically non-existent in Indonesia. I don’t know about Brunei or Malaysia though.

  29. What does Islam say? Can the husband sleep with all the 4 wives at the same time?

    Can you not to see? Even lesbians would be happy in this situation. So Saudi was more progressive than Americans were a few centuries ago.

  30. Frankly it would have been more interesting if you had encountered the wives going through ID check at security. How can they possibly be identified in these garments? In California, the face cannot be covered in a Driver’s License or State ID photo. Not sure how this can be permitted in travel situations without violating basic security provisions.

  31. Lighten up everybody – Lucky, this is the stuff that keeps many of us coming back. Hilarious. Never let this OMAAT beast get too big that it loses your personality.

  32. @Donna the women only need to be covered from the eyes of male strangers. At a checkpoint they would be taken to a private room where a woman officer can check their (uncovered photo) ID.

  33. Please stop lying. Four wives hah. Do you think that someone would travel with four wives at the same time? When someone have more than one wife they always keep them at separate homes because they wouldn’t like to see each other. A wife would think of a second wife as a devil. and here you are saying four wives travelling together. You saw something took a picture and wrote a fake story. Its like someone taking a picture of someone sitting next to his wife eating a sandwich and saying “The husband is enjoying a sandwich while keeping his wife hungry”. Stop Stop Stop trying to make a story based on fake information. ((You are trying to defame a people just because you hate them)).

  34. Please stop lying. Four wives hah. Do you think that someone would travel with four wives at the same time? When someone have more than one wife they always keep them at separate homes because they wouldn’t like to see each other. A wife would think of a second wife as a devil. and here you are saying four wives travelling together. You saw something took a picture and wrote a fake story. Its like someone taking a picture of someone sitting next to his wife eating a sandwich and saying “The husband is enjoying a sandwich while keeping his wife hungry”. Stop Stop Stop trying to make a story based on fake information. ((You are trying to defame a people just because you hate them)).

  35. Why is polygamy one man with many wives? I can’t one women have several husbands? She could fly business class and they could fly economy. Doesn’t that seem fair?

  36. most people forget that Singapore allows up to 4 wives for muslims too lol

    And up until when I was a kid it was common to hear of chinese families with 2 grandmothers and such, polygamy in asia is very common. Rich men take many wives.

  37. At least if you said a “Father kept his 4 daughters outside” (that would be a little believable) but for wives hahahahahha. Like saying a guy with 4 girlfriends wouldn’t they hate each other?????? Please stop lying. Four wives hah. Do you think that someone would travel with four wives at the same time? When someone have more than one wife they always keep them at separate homes because they wouldn’t like to see each other. A wife would think of a second wife as a devil. and here you are saying four wives travelling together. You saw something took a picture and wrote a fake story. Its like someone taking a picture of someone sitting next to his wife eating a sandwich and saying “The husband is enjoying a sandwich while keeping his wife hungry”. Stop Stop Stop trying to make a story based on fake information. ((You are trying to defame a people just because you hate them)).

  38. I have a friend who is Egyptian Coptic physician. He said they had to make female medical students take off their burqas when writing exams, as many send a doctor in to take exam for them. haha

    What a freaking backward country and we are letting these lowlifes into western countries to change us to their Sharia lifestyle.

  39. @william y – yes, the ever discriminated white people, continuously suffering through the centuries…

  40. Unless you’re a white mormon, then it’s ok to have all wives live in the same house in utah.

    After all, the older wives need to take care of the underage ones…

  41. To OMAR

    Who are you? You claim to have an Arabic name but your ignorance is limitless and you have the audacity to call Lucky racist?

    I lived and worked in the Middle East for 11 years. Yes – those are his wives and children. Yes – they definitely live and travel together. There is a hierarchy in which there is a senior wife and three others who never can achieve the same status. 4 wives can be in the family at the same time but it is not uncommon for this to be a serial relationship with the husband divorcing one of them and then adding another. Almost always the entire family lives in one residence although it must be said that they often resemble a small palace so that everyone has their own space. The women have their own Majilis (gathering area)

    From their dress I would actually assume they were Emirates. Usually they are allowed into the lounge but this is an American lounge so I assume they are applying US standards in a foreign country.

    If you visit hotel lounges in London you see a lot of ‘extended’ families in the lounge. Often the women are dressed in the Obaya and Burka as in the picture and the husband dude is dressed in jeans and a baseball cap.

    Maids always travel with the family – who else looks after the kids? Therefore they also have to be allowed into the lounge. Only makes sense that someone should be responsible for keeping some element of control. Boys are the worst as they are pampered and spoiled.

    When we first lived in the UAE the women had their passport photos taken while fully covered so there was no way to identify them. Since then they actually have to have a real photograph but it can only be examined by a female officer.

    I suppose the good news is that after 40 years of post secondary education for Emirati women they have started to object to the customs of the past and monogamous relationships are becoming more the norm. The number of children per family has also fallen from numbers in the 20’s in 1980 to single digits now.

    The real inequality and subjugation still exists in Saudi Arabia because of the continuing fundamentalism that is allowed to exist.

  42. Hahahaha…. it was fun reading comments condemning polygamy because of certain religion. Those who are stupid enough never learned history as european nobles and rules also conducted polygamy. Care to guess their religion?

    @gary
    You can. Its called polyandry. India, tibet, some african region have it. Go for it!!!

  43. @david
    Hahahaha…. those freaking backward countries knows how to bath and sanitize properly loooong before your ancestors does. And they also pioneer of modern medical. Funny you consider them backward because your own lacknof knowledge.

  44. In every bunch there is always the moron social justice warrior like Tom trying to make a case out of nothing.
    1) In an airport you have zero expectation of privacy

    2) Facial recognition technology can’t even detect who they are.

    Out of thousands of people there’s always that one tool bag saying everyone ELSE is wrong lol

  45. For me I would like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and say he stepped in for a quick bite or to use the bathroom.

    However if this was not the case then yes his manners are truly lacking! Who puts their families outside whilst they enjoy the lounge?? I have on many occasions put my wife in my first class seat (given to me thanks to work) and on my last flight put her and the kids in first and I sat in economy.

    I am Muslim Arab and from the GCC so I can tell you his behaviour is not indicative of our heritage, culture or religion. Sadly in any religion and any society the bad apples always get the spot light and the good guys do not.

    In terms of lounge access most limit it by number whether kids wives friends or otherwise. I have often had to pay to get my kids access.

    Saudi Arabia is going through some reforms and its starting with education system etc. Other GCC countries have a different views however in general they are actually becoming more in line with the teachings of Islam as opposed to what they practiced after recent British rule.

  46. @ Omar – lighten up.

    @ Alan – Saudi friends have told me it’s more common in Saudi to have multiple residences for the different wives.

    @ Lucky – interesting post. Like me, you seem fascinated by Saudi culture. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned before, there’s a very interesting insight on Amazon called “The Bro Code of Saudi Culture”. It needs an edit (there are a few typos), but it’s utterly fascinating.

  47. @Dennis I’ve been “offered”, or maybe proposed to is a better term, by many Indonesian women to convert to Islam and get married to four of them lol. A couple of them even come from wealthy families and “hinted” at good dowries for me. It’s not uncommon in Indonesia at all. Tempting but one woman at a time is enough for me and I am not into the religion thing lol.

  48. I can’t see the point in discussing such an offensive theme – at least not from this angle. What next? “How many victims can people traffickers bring into the lounge with them?” “How many children can Gary Glitter bring into the lounge with him?”

    This deeply disturbing practice is fit only for condemnation. What on earth could be gained from considering the finer logistical problems which may arise amongst those who practise it and in those countries which permit it?

  49. do you have any ideea how many men, women regardless of religion, nationality or background leave thier companions -friends or relatives -outside of the lounge while they go in to relax! why would you bring them to the lounge door if they are not travelling business class ? just to show off or try your luck with the host?

  50. you all missed the point: you can enter a lounge only if you are entitled to regardless of your family or friend status relation. the 4 + kids didn’t get it because they were not entitled to not because they were all 4 wives. there are rules to enter lounges: first and business class, platinum, diamond, elite gold and very last silver members with the airline subjest to the airlines scheme of rewarding frecvent flyiers. get yourselves updated before you go to any lounge anywhere in the world

  51. @AM
    The discussion would be around what is fair for passenger and the lounge management with regards who can be guest of the lounge-entitled-passenger. The fact that this happened in Dubai, where its common and legal to have (up to) 4 wives, shall leads to different interpretation of ‘immidiate family’.

    If you cannot accept that there is (fact) some area in earth that stating having multiple wives at the same time is legal, then perhaps you should travel or study more. Don’t live in a cave. Go outside, see the world.

  52. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE ANSWER ME HERE I AM ASKING A GENUINE QUESTION AND I AM BEING SERIOUS ABOUT THIS, THANK YOU.

    can women fly from or to a us airport either international or domestic with those full black suits on? i am sorry i do not know what they are called burqua maybe?

    in the usa if so, do they have to take them off when they do through security? if they do not take them off, couldn’t anyone be under there an escaped criminal, a bad person, etc…

  53. @john, yes women can fly with full burkas into the United States; I have seen it personally. I was right behind a woman so dressed in the customs line and she had to pull back her veil for a full face picture. I don’t remember whether the passport agent was male or female, but the fact that I was a male stranger ~ 10 feet away did not change things. This was several years ago; I don’t know if she could have requested that a female agent photograph her in private.

  54. @neil “…a society in which women have to completely covered…” So from someone born and raised in this part of the world, many women don’t HAVE to be completely covered. Yes we do have tons of issues here (Saudi) and some people are finally opening their eyes and some people are demanding change, but most women who wear niqabs wear it because it’s their decision. I’m not the biggest fan of the niqab, but what a women choses isn’t up to me. And no I’m not denying that there are several (if not many) cases of women being forced to do so, but it isn’t as severe and widespread as it’s made out to be.

  55. @Thenayan
    “It’s their decision”. No, it isn’t in the Middle East. Women are very much compelled(forced might be the more appropriate term) to wear niqabs.

  56. @Thenayan, it is NOT their decision. It is a cultural imperative. In Bahrain, the Sunni ladies wear the abaya open, in a way that university profs from 60 years ago would wear their gown top in a lecture. Also, many do not cover their heads. In a way, they are maybe the most liberal in their approach to clothing. In Qatar, the abaya is worn closed and the hair is covered. If the girls did not conform, they would be spited. As for The Kingdom of Darkness? Well, you have so little control over your own lives, it is just sad :/

  57. @Seeker of Truth @SullyofDoha I (sadly) live in one of the more conservative parts of the country (Riyadh) so I still see niqabs often, and yes there are many horrible cases of women being forced to do so and that issue should be addressed. I’m not saying that Saudi is the best country and that the media is lying. We still have tons of social issues that need to be resolved but with radicals in power, there needs to be a louder opposition, but I can’t help but feel that saying most/all of women are forced to do so. Hell many women here just loosely wear an abaya and nothing else (this is common here and much more common in more open cities like Dammam/Jeddah). Once again, don’t think that I’m defending the current system. It’s messed up and we need change.

  58. @Seeker of Truth @SullyofDoha I (sadly) live in one of the more conservative parts of the country (Riyadh) so I still see niqabs often, and yes there are many horrible cases of women being forced to do so and that issue should be addressed. I’m not saying that Saudi is the best country and that the media is lying. We still have tons of social issues that need to be resolved but with radicals in power, there needs to be a louder opposition, but I can’t help but feel that saying most/all of women are forced to do so is a bit of a generalization. Hell many women here just loosely wear an abaya and nothing else (this is common here and much more common in more open cities like Dammam/Jeddah). Once again, don’t think that I’m defending the current system. It’s messed up and we need change

  59. @Thenayan, I appreciate your willingness to engage in discussion, it’s too bad that too few of your countrymen realize the problems, let alone won’t confront the problems. Of course, I ‘get it’, the very attempt to speak up in the Khaliji culture will have you thrown in prison faster than you can say ‘yanni’. As for wearing a loose abaya, I still think/know the ladies wear it out of cultural necessity. Heck, look at Iran, the shayla is warn so far off the head it is funny. Though not funny if they don’t make a pretense to wear it.

  60. @SullyofDoha I’m pro letting women chose what to wear and speaking up has always been a risk here but with the rise of social media and a more liberal youth, things are slowly happening. Although progress is still slow, it’s a billion times better than someone willing to speak up say a decade ago. And many people here aren’t willing to accept the reality that our country is heavily flawed because many have been taught that what we’re doing is correct. I was raised in a more liberal household (it stems from my grandpa who’s a lawyer(now retired) who used to advocate for women’s rights) so I’m aware of many problems and if you speak to young people here, you’ll see that many want change. Life here isn’t as horrific as some think but it isn’t as great as others would want you to think.

  61. Funny… someone living somewhere claims that another person’s is being forced to do something just because he/she watch something on tv or read something on the internet, without ever understand what is going on in that somewhere.

    No wonder many air crew from their kind have power issue and lack of courtesy not to mention logic, since their ‘av geek’ people are just like the abovementioned characters…..

    Hahahahahaha

  62. To answer Lucky’s underlying question: many Middle Eastern lounges do allow all immediate family to enter the lounge with one membership or premium cabin ticket. I have seen this in Amman and Damascus among other places, so the man’s expectation was not that unusual.

  63. As polygamy is legal in UAE (or even arab peninsula) and lounge situated in Dubai, I do hope that man get a lawyer to sue the lounge. Just for fun!!!

  64. Unfortunately this is the mentality of many of these arab men. Even some mothers. They are seated in the luxury of first or business class and they leave their kids with the nanny in economy.

    This couldve possibly been this man’s daughters, sisters, one or two wives maybe because they still look very young. In Islam it is allowed to marry up to 4 wives so its no big deal. If u can look after them then why are people bothered.

    I dont know if anyone else read the membership paragraph properly but it said ” you may invite up to eight members of your family to become Alfursan members, so that they can enjoy all the privileges of membership while earning you additional rewards”. From my understanding only if ur family are members they will be able to enjoy privileges with u. I stand under correction.

    People need to understand this is their way of living. They have done this for years. No-one is trying to change u and ur western ways so leave them alone. I also dont agree with many things they do but i dont post shit about others.

    Who are we to judge?! Only God can judge so let it be

  65. This guy is my hero! Fly business and put everyone else in coach! Can’t make it in to the lounge? No problem! they wait outside while I go indulge inside! Genius! you can’t make this stuff up!

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