Could This Airline’s New Seat-Map Tool Make Flying Less Stressful for Women?

The feature “aims to make the travel experience more comfortable for our female passengers,” the carrier said in a statement.

Traveler with bright-orange backpack looking out an airport window at an airplane taking off

The FBI recently reported a rise in in-flight sexual assault. Could this new tool help prevent such incidents?


One of India’s largest airlines recently launched a new program that allows female travelers to see where other women are seated when they select their seats online.

IndiGo Airlines, a budget carrier that operates more than 2,000 domestic and international flights per day, is running the program on a pilot basis, which will be available only to women who are traveling solo or with children.

“IndiGo is proud to announce the introduction of a new feature that aims to make the travel experience more comfortable for our female passengers,” IndiGo said in a statement.

Male passengers will still be able to choose their seats but won’t have the option to see the gender of their neighbors when making their selection.

While it is the first time something like this has been tested in the air, it’s not a completely novel concept for transportation. In places like Japan and the United Arab Emirates, there are women-only cars on metro lines or reserved seats in front of buses.

Melissa Byron, founder of A Solo Woman Traveling, a small-group trip operator specializing in all-female luxury travel, argues that one reason women prefer being seated next to another woman is a shared sense of camaraderie.

“Many women feel more at ease next to another woman due to shared experiences and a mutual understanding of personal space and security concerns,” Byron says. “This could significantly alleviate the stress associated with travel.”

While the carrier didn’t share additional information about why the feature was introduced, there has been an uptick in sexual assaults on airplanes worldwide in recent years. For instance, in 2022, a woman and her teenage daughter said they’d been repeatedly groped by an intoxicated man on a flight from New York to Athens. In 2023, another man sexually abused a woman on a flight from Phoenix to Seattle. And just this month, a flight from Edinburgh to Ibiza was forced to turn around so police could remove a male passenger following an alleged sexual assault.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a statement in April saying the agency had opened 96 cases based on in-flight sexual assault in the United States alone in 2023, up from 27 in 2018.

And those are just the cases that are reported.

The FBI noted that offenders often “take advantage of the fact that some victims might not report an incident because they are embarrassed, don’t want to cause a scene, or may try to convince themselves the assault was accidental,” underscoring why it is important to report issues to flight attendants.

According to the FBI, “Sexual assault aboard aircraft—which usually takes the form of unwanted touching—is a felony that can land offenders in prison. Typically, men are the perpetrators, and women and unaccompanied minors are the victims.”

The agency added that the attacks tend to occur on long-haul flights when the cabin is dark, and the victims are usually in the middle or window seats and covered by a blanket or jacket.

“We’ve all seen countless recent headlines about rowdy airplane passengers making others feel uncomfortable,” Jen Tenzer, founder of The Soloist, a luxury solo travel agency, tells Afar. “While IndiGo’s pilot program may not be utilized by all passengers, I appreciate any effort to provide female travelers with some added safety and peace of mind.”

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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