AirAsia flights to Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province to have all-male crew after hijab rule

Authorities in the northwestern region have demanded that all female attendants must cover their heads in line with sharia law practices

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 6:22pm

Budget airline AirAsia said its flights to Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province will have only male cabin crew after Acehnese authorities insisted all female Muslim flight attendants wear head coverings.

Other airlines have said they will comply and require their female Muslim crew members to cover their heads on flights to the sharia-law practising province.

AirAsia Indonesia’s corporate secretary Baskoro Adiwiyono said Friday that the airline was ensuring its flights adhere to regulations.

Indonesia poised to criminalise extramarital sex, which would include gay relationships, amid rising tide of religious conservatism

“For the time being, all AirAsia flights from and to Aceh will be operated by male cabin crew,” he said.

Aceh authorities on Wednesday circulated a letter with their demand to several airlines.

The letter, issued by the chief of Aceh Besar district, which oversees the airport in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, said female Muslim flight attendants are obliged to wear the hijab in accordance with the rules of Islam and airlines should support the implementation of sharia law in the province.

Non-Muslim flights attendants were not required to wear the headscarves, said Mawardi Ali, chief of the Aceh Besar region where the airport is located.

The capital’s international airport services dozens of domestic flights every week, and international routes to neighbouring Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

The announcement comes amid a tide of moral conservatism in Indonesia. The country’s parliament is currently mulling changes to the country’s criminal code to allow prison sentences of up to five years for sex between unmarried people.

National airline Garuda Indonesia and its budget arm Citilink said they “support the suggestions”.

“Garuda respects and upholds local wisdom,” said its spokesman Ikhsan Rosan.

Firefly in Malaysia declined to comment, citing “the sensitivity of the matter”.

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia where a strict form of Islam is mandatory. Public caning is a punishment for adultery, gambling, homosexuality, tight clothing and other behaviour deemed against Islam.

Additional reporting by Reuters