Air France: Female Crew Not Wanting to Comply With Islamic Dress Code Can Decline to Fly to Iran

By Patrick Goodenough | April 4, 2016 | 9:01pm EDT
Air France flight crew. (Photo: Air France)

( – Air France management agreed Monday that any female crew member not wanting to comply with Islamic dress code once the airline resumes long-suspended services to Iran this month may opt out of working on the route.

The decision came after an uproar over the airline’s directive that air hostesses wear long trousers with a long jacket – instead of knee-length skirts – on flights to Tehran, and that during stopovers in the country, “outside the bedroom, women must wear a scarf and a wide and long garment to conceal their shapes.”

Air France said all international airlines flying to Iran expect staff to comply with Iranian law regarding women covering their hair, but that in talks with staff unions it has agreed to allow dissenting female pilots or stewardesses to choose not to work the Paris-Tehran route.

Unions had called the directive an invasion of privacy and an attack on individual rights, and urged the French women’s rights minister Laurence Rossigno to intervene.

Rossigno did so – the French government owns 17.6 percent of Air France-KLM – and the matter was resolved on Monday.

“In Iran, the law stipulates that all women present in the country have to wear a headscarf covering their hair in public places,” the airline said in a statement. “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.”

But in order to respect the “personal values” of every female staff member, it said, “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.”

A staff union, Union des Navigants de l’Aviation (UNAC), welcomed the decision, but said it regretted that it required media coverage and the minister’s intervention to resolve concerns that had been raised for more than four months.

The three-times weekly service to Tehran will resume on April 17 for the first time since Air France suspended the route in 2008 in line with international sanctions over Iran’s nuclear activities.

In France, a liberal, secular state which along with Germany has the largest Muslim community in Europe, the subject of Islamic dress code has long stoked controversy.

The government banned headscarves and other religious accouterments in public schools and government offices in 2004, a decision which brought condemnation from mainstream Islamic organizations, but also from extremists, with al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden calling it part of “a Zionist-Crusader war” against Muslims.

In 2010, France passed a law banned the wearing in public of any full face-covering clothing.

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