A number of female Air France cabin crew are resisting an airline ruling that they should wear a headscarf while in Tehran, when flights to the Iranian capital resume on April 17, a union representative told AFP on Saturday.
"Every day we have calls from worried female cabin crew who tell us that they do not want to wear the headscarf," Christophe Pillet of the SNPNC union told the news agency. The union is asking Air France management to make it a voluntary measure.
Company chiefs had sent staff a memo informing that female staff would be required "to wear trousers during the flight with a loose fitting jacket and a scarf covering their hair on leaving he plane", Pillet said, adding that management has raised the possibility of "penalties" against anyone not observing the dress code.
Air France told AFP in response that all air crew were "obliged like other foreign visitors to respect the laws of the countries to which they travelled".
"Iranian law requires that a veil covering the hair be worn in public places by all women on its territory,” the airline said, adding, "This obligation, which does not apply during the flight, is respected by all international airlines which fly to Iran.”
Air France added that the headscarf rule when flying to certain destinations was "not new" since it had applied before flights to Tehran were stopped and also to crew flying to Saudi Arabia.
Air France announced in December that it would resume flights between Paris and Tehran, which were suspended in 2008 when Iran was hit with international sanctions over its nuclear program.
But Iran and the West signed a nuclear deal this past summer, and sanctions over the Islamic Republic were lifted several months ago when it was implemented.
Since the deal with the West was announced, energy sector companies and businesses from other sectors have travelled to Iran to seek market opportunities, and several European countries have reached out as well in an attempt to restore economic and diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.
In France itself, the wearing of a Muslim niqab (full face veil) was outlawed in public in April 2011, with the country citing security concerns as the reason for the ban. Women who wear the veil face a 150 euro ($190) fine.
France was the first country in Europe to outlaw Muslim headgear that hides the face. A parliamentary committee in Belgium later voted to ban the burqa, or full body covering worn by Muslim women, as well. Italy has drafted a similar law.