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Journalist Believes Adding ‘Women Only’ Sections On Planes Is The Key To Stopping Assault

By Sharelle Burt

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Journalist Kate Whitehead thinks she knows what would stop sexual harassment in airplanes: ‘women only sections.’

In a piece for the South China Morning Post, Whitehead pens her thoughts on ways to stop midair assaults that have been on the rise. “I dream of a future in which there are women-only seating sections on planes. Most women intuitively understand that the armrest is “neutral territory” and leave it as a slim buffer between them and their neighbor,” Whitehead writes. “I’d be prepared to campaign vocally for “pink rows”, but I suspect airlines wouldn’t be in favor because that would mean other rows full only of men – and that wouldn’t work.”

Claiming the beloved armrest is a “gender political issue” in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Whitehead’s piece has received some criticism. “Grow up ladies, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” one critic said. Another agreeing said, “How ridiculous is this! Next, it’s women only planes, then pilots and cabin crew.” Whitehead threw in some statistics to back up her thoughts. “Nine times out of 10 – based on my extensive experience flying “cattle class” – if a man is seated beside a woman he will claim the armrest,” Whitehead wrote. “With the average seat width being 17.2 inches, this means you have effectively lost about 12 percent. If you are unfortunate enough to be in the middle of a row and have a man on either side, you have lost nearly a quarter of your seat. And yet you are paying the same price as those space-invading men.”

RELATED: New Task Force Aims To Stop Sexual Misconduct During Flights

Even though there is a backlash, she isn’t alone in her thoughts. One airline has already addressed the rising issue. Air India debuted women-only rows on planes last year after two reported incidents of sexual assault. Vistara, another Indian airline, launched “Woman Flyer” service, giving preferred seating to women traveling alone.

Although one critic thought the lengthy piece was satire, the issue isn’t a joking matter. There were 63 reported cases of in-flight sexual assault in 2017 and the number continued to grow this year. In November, a pilot for Alaska Airlines was fired after a female co-pilot claimed the captain drugged and raped her during a work trip in 2017. The veteran pilot claims he was wrongly terminated, thanks to “false #MeToo claims” in a “negligent, flawed investigation.” This past August, a man from Detroit was convicted of sexually assaulting a sleeping passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight. Delta Airlines is fighting a lawsuit after a woman claimed her assault fell on deaf ears when crew members didn’t detain her assailant.


The National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force, announced by the Trump Administration last month, is set to investigate sexual misconduct and assault crimes in the high skies.

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