Air France has given its female staff the option to avoid Tehran flights after a debate ensued concerning the wearing of headscarves upon deplaning.

After eight years of not flying to Tehran because of economic sanctions, Air France will restart its flights to the Iranian capital on April 17. In line with this, the company released a memo that asks female cabin crew members to observe the Iranian dress code.

Airline staff cried foul after Air France previously mandated that female cabin crews must wear a headscarf and long-sleeved and loose-fitting jackets and pants when they are bound to Iran's capital. The company reasoned that the headscarf ruling has been in place for flights to Saudi Arabia, and they have not received any complaints from its female cabin crews in that regard. Therefore, the new ruling is nothing short of ordinary for the company.

Iranian law requires women to cover their hair when they are in public and this did not sit well with some of the staff, citing that the separation of religious and state institutions must be properly observed.

"They are forcing us to wear an ostentatious religious symbol. We have to let the girls choose what they want to wear. Those that don't want to must be able to say they don't want to work on those flights," Françoise Redolfi, an air transport union leader said.

The management of the airline met up with unions and discussed concerns raised by some of the company's female staff. Air France's human resources director Gilles Gateau said that female employees affected by the Paris-Tehran route would have an opt-out clause. The French national carrier promised that cabin crews who would refuse a Tehran flight would not be sanctioned.

"If, for personal reasons, they don't want to wear the headscarf when they leave the plane, they would be reassigned to another destination," said Gateau.

The decision speaks for the company only and does not affect other international airlines serving the Republic of Iran.

British Airways, which would begin flying to Iran on July 14, said that recommendations for their own crews would be given at a later time.

In France, wearing a full veil in public is illegal.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case of 24-year old Samantha Elauf against retailer Abercrombie & Fitch after the latter turned down Elauf for a job because she wore a hijab, a Muslim headscarf, to the job interview.

Photo: Eric Salard | Flickr

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