Air France crew slam order to wear headscarves in Iran

Jessica Hartogs, Special to CNBC
Air France crew angry over headscarves rule
Air France crew angry over headscarves rule

Air France will resume its direct Paris–Tehran flight after a gap of eight years following a thawing in relations between the West and the Islamic state. However, not everyone is pleased with the new three-times-a-week service.

The announcement of the new route, which will start April 17 and was confirmed on the airline's website, was met by protests from female members of the Air France crew who are refusing to wear loose-fitting clothes and headscarves once they land in Iran, as requested by the airline in an internal memo.

Representatives of the Air France female crew say the order goes against French law and should be voluntary. Headscarves worn for religious purposes in France are banned in public places including schools and offices, and it is illegal to wear the full-face Muslim veil in public.

Air France planes are parked on the tarmac of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.
Weak euro, oil price offset terror attacks: Air France-KLM CFO

The secular country does not allow its citizens to wear any outwardly signs of religious symbols. This stems from a 1905 law separating church and state.

The French air transport union SNPNC (National Syndicate of Air Transport Personnel) said on its website that obliging Air France female crew to wear loose-fitting clothes and a headscarf is a breach against women's rights and is asking the air carrier to make the wearing of a headscarf once crew lands in the country a voluntary measure, with no penalties to their jobs if they refuse.

Air France told AFP that all air crew were "obliged like other foreign visitors to respect the laws of the countries to which they travelled".

Air France crew already wear an abaya (a robe covering the body) when flying to Saudi Arabia.

An Airbus A320 aircraft (L) and an Airbus A321 (R) stand on the tarmac at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France.
Baby found hidden in bag on board Air France plane

A representative of the SNPNC union, Christophe Pillet, told the AFP that flight crews were prepared to wear headscarves in Iran when out of uniform, but objected to being ordered to wear them as part of their uniform.

Another air transport personnel union, UNAC, wrote a letter to Laurence Rossignol, the minister of families, children and women's rights, supporting the outcry against the new regulation, which also included telling its female crew not to smoke in Iran.

The order was allegedly not given to its male crew.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.