Female Air France cabin crew, who have been told to wear headscarves on the airline’s new route to the Iranian capital, Tehran, are unhappy with the order and some say they won’t fly the route.
Air France is due to resume three-times-weekly service to Tehran later this month, from 17 April 2016. Female flight attendants won’t need to wear headscarves in flight, but must do so when they disembark in Tehran.
Unions object to this and insist that female flight attendants should have the right to opt out of the route.
The divide between the airline and its staff pits secular French traditions against theocratic rule in Iran, where women have been compelled since the 1979 Islamic revolution to cover their hair or pay fines.
France bans burkhas and full-face veils on its streets. Headscarves are allowed on streets but are banned in French state schools and offices, where it is illegal to display religious symbols.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph, in reporting on the dispute, says French women see Islamic headscarves and veils as an affront to their dignity. The big UNAC flight crew union says female crew should have the right to refuse to fly the route, without penalty.
The airline argues it must follow the laws of the countries it serves, as must the crews of other carriers. It says it is only reimposing the same rules that existed before it was forced to drop services to Tehran in 2008. Unions say times have changed.
Air France has clashed with unions recently. A scuffle last year saw an angry mob of workers rip the shirt off the back of an Air France manager, who escaped by climbing over a fence.
Written by Peter Needham