Air France Flight Attendants ‘Mutiny’ Over Attire Rules for Tehran Flights

Air France is scheduled to restart Paris – Tehran service in two weeks time. However, there’s a backlash against rules imposed on Air France crews who will be operating the flights.

Air France stewardesses, furious at being ordered to wear headscarves in Tehran, say they will refuse to fly to the Iranian capital when the airline resumes the service later this month.

Female members of flight crews have been ordered to cover their hair once they disembark in Tehran and unions are demanding that the flights be made voluntary for women.

…Stewardesses normally have a choice between a uniform with a skirt or trousers, but they have been instructed to wear a long jacket and trousers on Tehran flights.

France is largely secular, and attitudes towards Islam are in many ways quite negative. France, and Air France, is also quite unionized. So imposing working conditions that subjugate women to the demands of Islam as imposed by Iran is naturally unpopular.

When Condoleeza Rice became Secretary of State, James Lileks wrote “I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be ‘I’ll drive.'”

Air France flies three times-weekly Paris – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and “[i]n Saudi Arabia, stewardesses must wear the “abaya”, a long robe that covers the body, but unlike Saudi women they are not compelled to wear face veils.”

Air France is threatening ‘penalties’ against crew not observing the dress code suggesting that “air crew were ‘obliged like other foreign visitors to respect the laws of the countries to which they travelled’.”

Certainly Air France doesn’t want to incite an international incident, generate bad publicity for its flights, or find itself with crewmembers detained. So it’s understandable they don’t want to challenge Tehran. On the other hand Tehran has been aggressively courting European business deals, buying Airbus aircraft, precisely because they want to create a schism between Europe and the US to make it impossible for the US to re-impose sanctions.

And while Air France may have to abide by local laws, they do not have to require cabin crew to work those flights when it would violate their conscience to do so. The request that female flight crew be permitted to opt out of Tehran flights, taking assignments elsewhere, if they believe the rules for those flights violates their dignity seems not at all an unreasonable accommodation.

When Royal Brunei can fly a 787 with an all-female crew to Jeddah (they did wear headscarves), Air France can find a way to accommodate their female crew working flights to Tehran, or allowing them not to work those flights. And really, does financially-troubled Air France need even more trouble with its unions?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. LH has always had IKA flights, even before the sancations were lifted. Just copy LH they would be fine. If acceptable to LH crew chances is that it would be an acceptable solution in France.

  2. Further more Morocco and Tunisia, whose population is 99+% Muslim, strictly prohibit veiled women from working on board of their flag carriers.
    Would you also assert that Royal Air Maroc and Tunisair are accurately reflecting the demands of Islam?!

  3. I don’t think this is an unreasonable requirement from Air France, even if I think that it’s silly and prehistoric of Islamic countries to have women veiled and scarfed. I am planning on taking a tour of Iran early next year and they say that the women are required to wear head scarves. I think if you’re going to visit a country you should adhere to its culture whenever possible. It’s not all that big of a deal

  4. @Abdul I am not making any claims about Islam. I *am* criticizing the subjugation of women.

    @Cory I fully recognize that to do business with Iran, you must adhere to its laws. Seems to me that the airline can accommodate female flight attendants who prefer not to pick up Tehran trips. Certainly any Air France crew who joined up within the past 8 years did so without an expectation of being sent to Iran.

  5. Perhaps the title “Air France Flight Attendants ‘Mutiny’ Over Attire Rules for Tehran Flights” is a bit strong, as it does not seem that the rules apply to in-flight attire, but to attire on the ground.

    What any employer that sends employees internationally should do is merely to inform them what laws, including ones relating to attire, exist in in other countries, with those employees not following those laws at their peril. If Air France cannot find flight attendants who will follow Iranian law (whatever it may be) whilst on the ground, perhaps the Tehran route is not for them.

  6. And I will add, with respect to France, which may or may not be tolerant of Islam, “le Tchador” is a different matter altogether, as it is viewed as a item which subjugates women. Indeed, laws which would never pass First Amendment muster in the US limit students from wearing the chador in France.

  7. if it is acceptable for muslem countries to insist we respect their dress code, why don’t muslem women observe our dress norm by taking off their sheets when they are here?
    why is it ok for muslem men to marry Christian girls but riot erupts whenever Coptic man marries muslem girl?
    hypocritical, aren’t they?

  8. They haven’t said what the penalty is for female flight crew members who are not compliant with this ridiculous order. I would ignore the order. Michelle Obama did not cover her head on a State Visit to Saudi Arabia – ’nuff said.

  9. Hey Gary,
    I see you tweaked your previous statement a bit to better convey your intentions and for that I am thankful <3

  10. Air France should just tell employees they must obey local laws. If the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran mandate certain attire and the employees violate, then they can be arrested / fined / jailed / deported under Iranian Law.

  11. Look, it’s part of the uniform for that service. How is it “violating their conscious” to require wearing the uniform? They aren’t part of a religion or sect that disallows covering the hair, so there’s no violation of conscious involved here.

  12. @Tom, I think that regardless of the circumstances here, it’s certainly offensive to suggest that a violation of conscience can only occur when religion is involved. People of different faiths, and of no faith, are perfectly justified in their convictions even if they choose not to ascribe them to a higher power. Moreover, your implication that religion should somehow compound the allowances made for conscience ipso facto necessitates a test of religiosity–something which I think you will find offends the sensibilities of theists and atheists alike.

    As to Tehran, there has long been a tradition among carriers of making destinations that are dangerous, or–as in this case–restrictive of human rights, optional. To break with this tradition is to precipitate a least-common-denominator standard for working conditions among international aircrew–something I think we can all agree would be highly deleterious to the rights they currently enjoy.

  13. Good for these French stewardesses! Time to stop pandering to ridiculous Islamic nonsense – but I’d say that about any/all religions, which are the scourge of our world.

  14. If they can opt out of those flights without the end result of other employees being forced to do those flights to fill in at the cost of a better assignment then it is reasonable. If other employees are going to be inconvenienced then the woman with this issue should just deal. I am assuming of course this deals with complying with the head scarf rule when on the ground in Iran. The law is inappropriate, but it is the law there and just because they are foreigners does not mean they get to pick and choose which laws they follow.

  15. If a country has local customs (cultural or religion), travelers/workers should follow that or don’t go there. People should learn to respect other countries regardless if you agree or not because it cuts both ways!

  16. “Air France is threatening ‘penalties’ against crew not observing the dress code suggesting that “air crew were ‘obliged like other foreign visitors to respect the laws of the countries to which they travelled’.”

    It’s too bad the same can’t be said of foreign visitors to almost anywhere else on the planet…

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