Some may not be surprised to see a strict dress code on Saudi Arabian planes, since the country follows a conservative version of Sunni Islam, but others on social media think it has gone too far.
Known as one of the wealthiest nations in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia also has a reputation of restricting women’s rights, in line with its interpretation of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism.
Details of the dress code featured on Saudia Airlines website show that the airline requires guests to dress in a way that does not ‘cause offense or discomfort to other passengers’.
When the Saudi Makkah newspaper asked the former head of tourism and health, Ali Al Ghamdi, about the rules forbidding women from exposing limbs or wearing tight or transparent clothes he said they did not just apply to the one airline, but that many airlines around the world had a dress code at varying degrees.
There was mixed reaction on social media, as people used the hashtag #SaudiaAirlines.
One man tweeted that it was a positive move for the airline, which bars alcohol on all its flights and provides prayer areas for passengers. While another agreed with the implementation of the code: “I am not obliged to see such clothing in public spaces, great decision on the part of the airline”:
However, some passengers were unaware of the restrictions before flying, and others – of different nationalities – felt inconvenienced by having to either buy new clothes at the airport, or in some cases cancel their flights.
One female Twitter user asked how the country can encourage overseas tourists whilst at the same time control the way their passengers dress. Another wondered whether the code applies to cabin crew as well: “Are the hostesses wearing abayas?”
There were also questions on whether or not the airline’s rules would apply to everyone. One Saudia Airlines passenger photographed a fellow passenger seated ahead appearing to be wearing shorts
Some believe the airline should keep up with the times, and others feel that once tickets are paid for, passengers should be free to do what they want.
One commentator branded the code as regressive: “Not everyone using the airline are Muslim. This will create problems.”
Another social media user argues if the airline cares about passengers, it should provide alternative clothing, instead of preventing passengers from travelling.