The Global Business Travel Association of India is estimated to emerge as the world’s sixth largest business travel market by 2020. Other than leisure and emergency reasons, women’s increased entry into the job market has also simultaneously multiplied the requirement to travel alone across the globe. Unfortunately, the country’s womenfolk face several safety issues while travelling alone. Their freedom of movement has been repeatedly plagued by a certain grade of men trying to ruin the dignity of women passengers and contribute to ill-reputation of the nation. In fact the Foreign Office currently advises women passengers to be careful and use caution while travelling alone in our country. Cases of repeated sexual assaults against women have been on the rise across Indian cities, and several cases reported daily reveal that foreign women travelling whether alone or in groups are at high risk too. Yes, quite an embarrassment and a matter of deep concern it is for a country, where women population travelling alone has increased manifold times over the past few years. To ensure women’s safety, strengthen its position as a well-networked and international business travel hub, India needs support and active involvement of responsible corporate’s and citizens to drive the way forward.
As a little step towards celebrating women and encouraging them in expanding their horizons, the Vistara Indian Airlines has launched an initiative that seeks to guarantee their women travelers that they won’t be offered or allocated a middle seat in their aircraft’s. Whether women can safeguard themselves, and if any special benefits offered could disgrace their self-worth, is an entirely different discussion and can be debated on a parallel forum.
As a measure to protect individual women flyers, the Vistara Airlines, introduced this optional service in March 2017 in the domestic segment. Vistara representatives quoted that this solo women flyer initiative will ensure that women passengers are only allotted window or aisle seats, even if they do not select preferred seats while web check- in, in advance. Women passengers can also select their preferred seat at the time of flight booking and during the web check-in. As an additional benefit, the airline has also proposed services where, upon arrival at the airport, female travellers can avail assistance for baggage reclaim. Vistara has assured that their staff will be available and pro-active to escort women in booking authorized cabs from the airport, if required by female passengers. Senior Vice President of Vistara Airlines, Ms. Deepa Chadha, expressed that “women are a major force that make economies stronger and societies healthier” and that with their plans to extend services beyond India skies, they intend to provide this service on international flights as well. The success of this full swing service-carrier initiative has been revealed, as their proposed services are being availed by around 70- 100 female flyers every day. Reports suggest that almost 8000 female travelers have approved of the arrangement by according their participation by signing up for the scheme. Vistara officials claimed that the women-centric moves trailed intuitive introspection and discussion based on feedback from women passengers.
Personally, as a flyer, I have survived several nightmares of undergoing possible harrowing experience and discomfort of sitting between over-friendly men displaying unwarranted gestures. So, this initiative is an absolute thumbs-up as it appears quite promising to me.