Female passenger asked to change seats on flight because of her gender

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Porter airlines

A female passenger on a Porter Airlines flight alleges she was asked to change seats to accommodate a man who refused to sit beside her for religious reasons, according to CBC.

31-year-old Christine Flynn was on a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Toronto when an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man came towards her.

“He came down the aisle, he didn’t actually look at me … or make eye contact. He turned to the gentleman across the aisle and said, ‘Change,'” Flynn told CBC.

She admits there may have been a language barrier, but was shocked that the man would not even acknowledge her or speak to her. Flynn said she might have been more accommodating if the man had spoken to her directly to try and address the situation.

“He could have made a plan, he could have put in a request,” Flynn said to CBC,”When someone doesn’t look at you, and when someone doesn’t acknowledge you as person because of your gender, you’re a lot less willing to be accommodating.

“Leaving it to the last minute and expecting me to move is appalling. He’s expecting me to fall in to that archetypical feminine role and acquiesce.”

After the first man refused to move, he asked another male passenger behind him to switch seats with Flynn. A flight attendant then approached to try and ameliorate the situation.

“I said, ‘This man is refusing to sit next to me because I am a woman.’ At that point, another man behind … offered to switch with me and the airline attendant said, ‘Would you be willing to move? and I said, ‘Absolutely not. This is ridiculous,'” she said. “I was without words.”

Eventually, the man was able to switch seats and the flight took off.

“[The flight attendant] probably, maybe, didn’t realize that asking a woman to move because the fact she had a uterus made the man next to her uncomfortable … I don’t think he even would have put it together that that’s kind of insulting and maybe even discriminatory,” she said.

“If someone had refused to sit next to me because I was gay and maybe they were some kind of old-school religion that doesn’t like gay people no one would have switched with him. It would have been off the table.”

Porter Airlines confirmed to CBC that the incident happened and added that religion is rarely the cause of seat change requests.

In the end, Flynn just wants one thing from the airline.

“I’d like an apology.”

“There really should be a policy around this. If people are going to get on flights and demand that they sit next to someone of the same sex, there should be an area where they can go. I should not have to move because someone has a problem with my uterus.”

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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