While the instances of sexual harassment on airlines is very rare, in some circumstances the risk can be far greater. Women in India, in particular, have been suffering from a number of cases of assault and harassment on public transport in recent years. In confined spaces, such as those found within an aircraft, it is especially important to ensure that women feel comfortable that they will not be exposed to unwanted advances. To address this critical issue, two Indian airlines, Vistara and Air India, have taken steps to protect women passengers.
In 2017, Vistara launched its Woman Flyer service, which aims to re-risk the entire flying process by helping women with their bags, escorting them to and from their ground transportation and, crucially, providing women with the choice between a window or and aisle seat – not the dreaded middle seat where the risk of harassment is at its greatest. Vistara says that between 75 and 100 women use this free service every day.
Air India, too, will be putting in place seating policies aimed at protecting female passengers. Rather than allowing women to avoid the middle seats, Air India is reserving two rows (six seats in all) for women travelling alone.