Air France accepts that Muslim women don’t have to remove veils on plane

French cabin crews have no right to tell Muslim women to remove their burqa aboard Air France flights – despite a nationwide ban on full face veils, the airline has ruled.

Islamic passengers can be ordered to remove the garment while waiting in French airports to board the plane at the gate. But once on board, they are free to put their burqa back on, according to an internal memo to staff from Air France’s legal department.

The company’s lawyers said: “Flight crews on board planes can not ask a person to uncover their face if they are hiding it. The law can only be enforced by police and other public officials on the ground.”

But pilots said they had “no issue” with women wearing burqas during flights – as long as they had been through security checks before the flight. One told French daily Le Figaro:

“As long as burqa-wearers have been checked before getting on board, then I can’t see the problem. Security on board a plane does not have much to do with whether one’s face is visible or not. Besides, on long-haul flights a lot of passengers hide their face with eye masks when they go to sleep.”

Daily Mail, 9 November 2011