I understand that airlines can reassign a seat for operational reasons, such as making sure the plane is balanced.

But I've read a September 2016 article about airline staff from United Airlines in the US giving a woman a different boarding pass because she was a woman, and some men didn't want to sit next to a woman.

In Australia, for domestic flights, are airlines allowed to involuntarily reassign a seat on the basis of gender? Also, are such reassignments prohibited by the policies of the major players in domestic travel in Australia?


Airlines have the right to assign / reassign seats as they see fit, for pretty much any reason they deem proper. Most every airline has a clause in their Contract of Carriage, that states seat assignments are not guaranteed and subject to change without notice.

In your linked example, like most disagreements, there are two sides. The airline moved a passenger to accommodate the religious beliefs and taboos of two passengers. The displaced passenger decided to make it about gender discrimination. The article doesn't mention if the new seat was poorer quality or a hardship for the traveler, rather the issue is more about a ..... who didn't get her favorite seat.

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    I think it's a bit much to call her a "prima donna" over this. It's not unreasonable for someone to be offended that an airline demanded she move because of her gender (many people wouldn't tolerate the same situation on the basis of race, for instance). And the religious beliefs of the other passengers shouldn't be dismissed out of hand either (though one could argue that they should solve the problem at their one expense by buying an extra seat). Balancing those interests is a long debate that's off-topic here, but dismissing the whole thing as a "prima donna" seems unfair. – Zach Lipton Nov 30 '16 at 3:25
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    Her comments about demanding an apology for all women, bringing up her million miler status, her lack of tolerance for other people's religious beliefs, that is a selfish prima donna in my book. – user13044 Nov 30 '16 at 3:37
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    @Tom that is, you know, your opinion, and an insulting one at that. That has no place in an answer. – Belle-Sophie Nov 30 '16 at 17:06
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    @Tom Your last sentence kind of undermines your interpretation as does the apology demand. There is (indeed) no suggestion anywhere that she was unhappy about her new seat so your contention that she is being selfish is entirely baseless. Whether it's feminism, bigotry or something else and whether you (or I) agree with her reasons or not, she is clearly objecting as a matter of principle. How's that being a prima donna? – Relaxed Dec 1 '16 at 2:09
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    @Relaxed - I eliminated my prima donna verbiage, the answer was deleted by the powers that be, but I guess we can keep kicking the dead horse. I live where Buddhist monks are routinely given "elbow" room on flights to accommodate their religious practices and I have played musical seats as a result. It is all part of the giving necessary to share this planet. This woman's unwillingness to share such a minor request and demand for gratification shows in part why this world remains mired in conflict. It takes many small, kind gestures to eventually add up to a bigger happiness. – user13044 Dec 1 '16 at 2:24

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