Could women-only flights take off?

Over the years, many news agencies have questioned whether women-only train carriages actually improve safety. Cities that have established such policies include Tokyo, Mexico City, and Delhi, and many others have also floated the idea. In 2017, the BBC analyzed data from Tokyo before and after the city implemented women-only subway cars in 2004. In one year, reported incidents of lewd behavior toward women in the city had fallen by 3 percent—but harassment on train lines that had women-only cars rose by 15 to 20 percent. The BBC determined that the correlation was unclear, however, as it could have been a result of higher levels of reporting or an increase in incidents in mixed cars.

In 2022, Scotland’s then-transport minister, Jenny Gilruth, proposed making women-only cars on Scottish trains. She spoke of her own experiences on late-night trains where intoxicated men would “squeeze in beside you despite the fact that you’re surrounded by empty seats.” But the rail workers’ union, the RMT, told BBC Scotland that it would present a “logistical nightmare,” and that there weren’t enough staff to enforce such policies.

Regardless, women have reported feeling safer and less anxious in transit spaces where there are no men. And while it remains to be seen whether IndiGo’s new policy will work, or catch on outside of India, there is an obvious key difference between planes and trains: On trains that aren’t overcrowded, passengers can typically get up and move away from someone who is bothering them—and you have much more agency to get off at an earlier stop if needed. On planes, you’re stuck until landing, and you typically have to enlist the help of a flight attendant to get reseated.

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