Indigo's female passenger seat indicator!

Indigo makes it to CNN with its option to let female passengers know which all seats are taken by other female passengers.

I first saw this in a tweet by Khabri Lal. Image is taken from the tweet

Below is what I have understood from the news

#1 The option to see which seat is taken by female passenger is NOT available during purchase of a ticket but only during web check-in, which opens 24 hours prior to flying. So you can't really decide if you want to buy a ticket or not, you can just hope to optimize your seat selection for better comfort.

#2 Indigo has not earmarked a section (in many city buses one half or front few rows are reserved) or few rows exclusively for solo female passengers, like KSRTC buses in Karnataka do. Female seat selection is scattered all around the plane and there will be male passengers around. So men will be seated in front, behind, nearby, on the other side etc while only person sitting besides is a female- this only reduces the risk of harassment by others, not eliminate it.

#3 It is not clear if females who travel with a male passenger are excluded from this- they might prefer to travel with their husband/father/son/boyfriend/relative than sitting with another female passenger

#4 Indigo charges for seat selection. So if you wish to sit next to a women or avoid sitting next to a women you will have to pay for seat selection

#5 If you don't want to pay for seat you've to wait for random seat allocation that will happen only 3 hours prior departure. Not sure if Indigo's seat allocation algorithm tries to keep male and female passengers separate. IRCTC apparently has such a logic- it never makes a single male sit with single female.

#6 Looks like this visibility is given only for female passengers. If a male passenger chooses to avoid sitting next to a woman he has no way to do it. He may select a sit unknowingly next to a female passenger.

#7 What happens when the flight is full and only seat available for a male passenger is to sit next to a female? Such male passengers will be denied boarding? Can the women complain? Will Indigo ask some other female passenger to give up her seat next to her husband/boyfriend/father/son and sit with this solo female passenger?

#8 People can change their seat selection anytime. Would a lady passenger be notified if female passenger next to her has changed her mind, selected some other seat and now a male passenger may be allocated to that seat?

#9 If there is a mix of male and female in a row of 3 seats, there will be inconveniences- during boarding, while going to toilets etc male/female will have to pass by each other in the constrained spaces of an aircraft fuselage. For maximum impact, all 3 seats in a row should be given to either male or female.

#10 Despite all these circus, airlines often change seat allocation last minute citing "operational reasons"- you won't get any refund if you'd paid for a specific seat and that can't be given. 

  • Seat change will be needed if aircraft type changes (say A321 is replaced with A320)
  • If there is a need to redistribute weight of passengers across the plane, or 
  • There is some pressure to make a family sit together or 
  • some seats reported damaged/not usable
  • A passenger is not able bodied, can't understand crew instruction and hence can't be seated in exit row
  •  or any other reasons

Even if you get your allocated seat you will have to deal with request from families who wish to sit together and request you to take some other seat. Do men now have to take permission from woman passenger in such cases if their seats are changed and adjacent passenger is a female?

What next? Reserve half the toilets and doors also for women? In a way this is also outright discrimination against men, branding all men as predators and should be kept distance from.

I am not seeing the scheme is bad. It may have its merits. Just that not enough clarity right now. Let us see how this scheme rolls out and what male and female passengers feel about it. Maybe Indigo will refine its policy or other airlines might be asked to follow suit not to lose women passengers.

Update: I asked ChatGPT to help

With just 20 female passengers out of 170, male passenger's probability of getting an empty seat next to them drops from 55.56% to 13.33%

First we calculate probability of a passenger getting an empty seat without any gender preference, when a plane as 180 seats and only 10 seats are empty

Next we induce a preference to give empty seats next to female passengers and check what is the chance of a male passenger getting empty seat next to them. Still possible but probability drops from 55.56 to 13 % or outright drop by one third.

But I think chatGPT is wrong. Assume 10 middle seats are left empty, then 20 people get to have an empty seat besides them. 20 out of 170 is some 11.7%

If preferences are given to 20 female passengers onboard to get these seats besides an empty seats, male passenger has 0 chance of getting empty seat next to them.

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