Air France bows to pressure and allows cabin crew to refuse flights to Iran

It comes after several stewardesses said they would defy instructions by company chiefs to wear headscarves in Tehran

Ashley Cowburn
Monday 04 April 2016 19:32 BST
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Passengers of Paris-Tehran flight of Air France take the stairs down to Tehran's Mehrabad airport in June 2004
Passengers of Paris-Tehran flight of Air France take the stairs down to Tehran's Mehrabad airport in June 2004 (Getty)

Air France has bowed to pressure and will now allow female cabin crew and pilots to opt out of flights to the Iranian capital once the service resumes.

The move comes after several stewardesses said they would defy instructions by company chiefs to wear headscarves once they disembarked in Tehran.

Air France, who defended the obligation over the weekend, insisted the rules were not new and already applied to cabin crew during stop-overs in Saudi Arabia.

The company is set to resume flights three times a week, between Tehran and Paris, following a thaw in relations between the governments of the two countries. The service, which began in 1946, was originally suspended in 2008 after Iran was hit with international sanctions over nuclear ambitions.

Under the new negotiated terms, after talks between airline chiefs and unions, the company will introduce an exception so that employees who don’t want to work on the route will be reassigned on other destinations with no penalties.

In a statement released today an Air France spokesperson said: “In Iran, the law stipulates that all women present in the country have to wear a headscarf covering their hair in public places. This obligation does not apply during the flight and is respected by all international airlines serving the Republic of Iran.

“Tolerance and respect for the cultures and customs in the countries served by the airline are part of the fundamental values of Air France and its staff.”

They added: “Therefore, to ensure this fundamental principle governing the profession of crew member guarantees the respect of the personal values of each Air France female crew member, when a stewardess or female pilot is assigned to a flight to Tehran, Air France will offer them the possibility to choose not to fly to Tehran and work on a different flight. They will have to inform of their decision to refuse to wear the headscarf in line with a specific procedure beforehand.”

Iranian women have been forced by law to cover their hair since the 1979 Islamic revolution. But, in France, the debate on wearing headscarves and other religious symbols in public is a particularly heated, which attaches importance to the separation of state and religious institutions.

Christophe Pillet of the SNPC union, told AFP new agency yesterday: "Every day we have calls from worried female cabin crew who tell us that they do not want to wear the headscarf.”

He added that Air France chiefs had sent a memo to staff informing them that female employees would be required to “wear trousers during the flight with a loose fitting jacket and a scarf covering their hair on leave the plane”.

According to Reuters, 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.

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