United Airlines Airbus A320-232 On Taxiway
Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Woman Told to Switch Seats Due to Religious Beliefs of Pakistani Monks

A  woman was told to switch seats due to the religious beliefs of two monks from Pakistan, who did not want to sit next to her aboard an airplane — which was operated by United Airlines, on which the woman had earned million miler status — being used for a flight from Santa Ana to Houston on Monday, September 26, 2016.

Furthermore, any members of the flight crew who were female were not allowed to serve the two men who were wearing long orange shirts.

Woman Told to Switch Seats Due to Religious Beliefs of Pakistani Monks

Mary Campos was shocked when a gate agent suddenly handed her a new boarding pass prior to boarding the airplane for the flight, stating that “this is your new seat” because “the two gentlemen seated next to you have cultural beliefs that prevent them for sitting next to, or talking to or communicating with females”, according to this article from KCBS-TV CBS2 News in Los Angeles.

The senior consultant in the oil and gas industry thought that she “lived in a culture where women were equal to men” — yet had no choice but to take her new seat assignment.

Part of a letter in which Campos wrote to Oscar Munoz — who is the current chief executive officer of United Airlines — reportedly included questions such as “What if I were handicapped, or transgender? What if your entire crew were female? Any belief that prevents individuals from interacting with females should not travel on commercial aircraft.”

The only reply which Campos received was one in which United Airlines would look into the matter — otherwise, she received no further communications from the airline.

She got a reply that said United Airlines would look into it. She said she didn’t hear from them again; but if United Airlines did not comply with the following two requests, she would “do whatever she had to do to protect women’s rights”:

  1. Apologize to every female who was on that airplane — including members of the flight crew
  2. Change its policy

Should Airlines Consider Religious Beliefs in How Seats Are Assigned?

El Al Israel Airlines Limited was charged with discrimination and sexism because a grandmother — who was 81 years of age at the time — was asked to change to a “better seat” when an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man did not want to sit next to her aboard an airplane operating as El Al Flight 028 from Newark to Tel Aviv back in December of 2015.

The “better seat” turned out to be at the end of a row of three seats in which two of the seats were occupied by other women; and Renee Rabinowitz — who was married to two rabbis in her lifetime — felt further insulted because the member of the flight crew who asked her to move had allegedly attempted to mislead her.

This issue of seating based on religious beliefs and gender is unfortunately not new and has indeed been problematic, as a number of flights from New York to Israel within the past two years have been delayed when ultra-Orthodox Jewish men have refused to sit next to women, according to this article written by Michael Paulson of The New York Times, who wrote that “some ultra-Orthodox travelers have tried to avoid mixed-sex seating for years. But now the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population is growing rapidly because of high birthrates. Ultra-Orthodox men and their families now make up a larger share of airline travelers to Israel and other locations, giving them more economic clout with airlines, and they are making their views more widely known in response to what they see as the sexualization of society.”

One example is when several ultra-Orthodox Jewish men reportedly refused to sit in their assigned seats because those seats were located next to seats in which women sat aboard an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines as flight 468 on Saturday, December 20, 2014 from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv — with the commotion resulting in a delay of the departure of the flight by approximately 30 minutes.

It is important to note that there are different denominations, beliefs and movements of Orthodox Judaism; and that not all ultra-Orthodox Jewish men believe similarly in what can be considered an extreme measure pertaining to seat assignments aboard airplanes. In response to this article which I first wrote on this topic back on Tuesday, December 30, 2014, Daniel Eleff of Dans Deals posted this comment that “I’ve never had an issue with my seatmate and these stories horrify me. Unless you’re obese there’s no reason you should have to touch the person sitting next to you. And if you are obese-you should be buying 2 tickets or sitting in the pointy nose section of the plane.”


So what happens when an airplane is full of passengers who have strong religious beliefs, need emotional support animals, are allergic to peanuts and other types of food as well as animals, have a fear of flying, wrestle over who gets the armrest and who gets to open and close the window shade, argue over what gets to be stored in the overhead storage bin, and want to recline their seats in order to be slightly more comfortable?

People who plan on being passengers aboard a commercial airplane should expect to have to compromise and respect fellow passengers and not have an obnoxious attitude of DYKWIA — or Do You Know Who I Am — but unfortunately, compromise, respect and civility is not guaranteed to be reciprocal; and therein lies the problem.

Swapping seats is already a contentious issue on a number of different levels — which includes sitting in the middle seat between two travel companions who could be chatty; and a practice known as seat squatting…

…but invoking religious beliefs on fellow passengers — especially when they are not even of the same religion — is unacceptable and exacerbates the problems of being a passenger aboard an airplane, in my opinion. Religious passengers do not have the authority or the right to attempt to require other people to conform to what they believe — no matter how strongly or devoutly are their beliefs.

As to whether or not airlines consider religious beliefs in how seats are assigned, I am wondering if airlines should not include a specific question pertaining to special seating — that is, if a comment section for custom requests is not already included — during the booking process to prevent situations similar to the aforementioned ones from occurring.

I believe that it is more important to keep an open mind and be respectful and considerate to other people around you — whether it is you or someone else engaging in their religious beliefs. Tolerance is one of the important keys towards a pleasant flight.

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Extraordinary. What next? Will they demand that all non-believer infidels deplane? The arrogance is breathtaking and how they get away with it in the supposed secular West. When will the PC madness end? Hopefully the female passenger files a big lawsuit for discrimination. I can only imagine what would have happened had the reverse happened. An outcry of ‘racism’. Flying is now a true curse. And that’s from someone who started to fly back in the early 1960s. None of this nonsense existed back then. None.

    1. If you were educated you would understand the larger discrimination liability would be infringing upon the rights of the two monks. Learn to be more accepting of different cultures. This woman shouldn’t have been such a cow about switching seats. This isn’t news.

      1. Serious? A cow because she didn’t want to change seats.
        I wouldn’t want to have changed seats either. Would that make me a bull?

      2. I agree that we should all be accepting of different cultures, but they should have been the ones to move not her. They were the ones with the beliefs that did not allow for them to sit next to a woman. I think your point would have been better taken had you not called her a cow lol

  2. I don’t think passengers on common carriers should be able to force carriers to move other passengers based on their religious beliefs. Moving about in the wider world, beyond their monasteries or tight knight religious communities, inevitably will expose people such as this to others who do not agree with their religious beliefs. If they are unable to operate in the wider world without being able to reasonably compromise then they should stay home or ensure suitable private transportation, etc. This isn’t the 1st century where such strict religious folks can live in a village with others who share and understand their restrictions.

    Passengers such as these should either charter private transport or perhaps book sufficient extra seats beside themselves to ensure they don’t have to be seated next to someone that they fund unacceptable. And if such passengers can’t receive in-flight service from female FAs, then the passengers can simply go without drink and meal service – bring their own food onboard in that case.

    1. Absolutely head on!!!! A lawsuit needs to be filed and this must be stopped dead in its tracts immediately!! These people would be the first to scream discrimination had the situation been reversed. This is AMERICA! Assimilate to OUR culture or simply stay out.

  3. Unbelievable. Should have thrown the two off the plane and told em to ride a camel – which is the mode of transportation appropriate for their 8th Century beliefs.

    United has their collective head up their backside acceding to those two religious nitwit’s demands

    1. I believe their 8th century mode of transportation would either been a mule, horse or cart. At least for the part of the world that they came from. But not a camel.

  4. If my religious beliefs prevent me from being seated next to Muslims, would I have been equally accomodated? I think not.

  5. These religious fanatics should not be able to impose their religious beliefs on others and the airlines should not be their accomplices. If they cannot sit next to women, they should move, not the women. It’s their problem, not the women’s.

  6. If you replace the word “flight” with “world”, the article has just explained the troubles that is happening in our world presently…..

  7. I think the men should have been asked to change their seats , or take another flight. I, as a female and Black, would have stood my ground, not budged and thought about our rights, not only as an airline, frequent flyer, passenger, but as a female along with my history. ROSA PARKS stood firm, made history, and as females we have come a long way. Evidently not far enough, however. Compensation would have resolved some other persons issue, but not mine….even if I was asked to move to first class or they payed me to bump me off the flight, I wouldn’t have accepted. On principle

  8. Hate mongering click bait article.. it was the fault of United. Those men didnt ask that lady themselves to change seats or refused to fly like the jewish guys did

    1. The “Pakistani monks” weren’t Muslim, not that the facts will make for less hate-mongering when the biased just seek out confirmation bias. 😉

  9. The whole argument is invalid because there is no god. Let’s stop indulging these people and their imaginary friends. The bullsh*t people get away with simply for saying their imaginary friend told them they could is insane. When a child does something wrong and blames it on their “friend” we don’t indulge, yet these nuts are adults and use the same bullsh*t excuse to justify their insanity and we simply say, “ok”. The quicker we can cure this mass delusion the better off we’ll be.

  10. As long as the seat was just as good, I don’t see the problem. It’s not like she was being forced to the back of the bus. As a woman who has traveled in the Middle East, I understand and respect that in some cultures the men are uncomfortable touching or making eye contact with women. But perhaps the policy should be to move the men with the issue to different seats, rather than inconveniencing the woman. Or let them pay to upgrade her to a better seat. 🙂

  11. @Rachel There should be no respect for oppression. So you’d advocate for “equal but separate” standards? Google that phrase if you don’t know what it is. That is basically what you said above, same seat = no harm, no foul. Do you think woman in the middle east (or anyone being oppressed) feels respect when treated as lesser humans? Oppression is not isolated to the middle east, either. People need to wake up and stop ‘respecting’ oppression, especially when people say their make believe friend said it’s the way it’s supposed to be. I do not need to respect any ideals based on this mass delusion called god.

  12. I just remember the fellow US readers, that it was exactly on a US based flight on a US carrier, where a muslim woman wearing her head scarf was shoutet at with sentences like: “we are in the US” “remove it” “terrorist”!!!

    Who has no tollarance here (,too)????

    1. I think you will find that type of discrimination taking place in many countries, not just the U.S. So simply throwing out that incidents of discrimination and prejudice take place in the U.S. does nothing to rectify the source of the oppression and discrimination. You are devolving this into a contest of finger pointing. The people on the flight that were harassing the woman should have been removed from the flight, and I hope they were. That does nothing to negate the archaic and completely made up beliefs that some god said that woman are not equal to men or insert any other types of oppression, discrimination, racism, etc that comes from tribal religious separation. Pointing fingers and saying, “well, you did this” does nothing to further us as human species. Destroying the mass delusion of a god will greatly improve us as a species.

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