Friday, January 02, 2015

ISIS launches "Caliphate Airways" with separate seating cabins for men and women

Well, no, they didn't, but that's about the level of "reporting" that is on the Internet in the last couple of days regarding a claim that the Saudi national airline, Saudia, is planning separate seating for men and women. The way the claim has propagated from a thinly sourced regional media outfit to screaming clickbait on the Daily Mail website mirrors the ISIS reporting from last summer, and indeed seems to reflect some of the same mentality about Islamic culture.

So what happened? A few days ago, Emirates 24/7 had this story --

Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia intends to ban gender-mixing aboard all its flights in line with rules enforced by the conservative Gulf kingdom. The airlines said it decided to act following recurrent complaints from passengers objecting to have males seated next to their wives and other female family members. “There are solutions to this problem…we will soon enforce rules that will satisfy all passengers,” Saudia assistant manager for marketing Abdul Rahman Al Fahd said, quoted by the Saudi Arabic language daily ‘Ajel’

Now for one thing, it's difficult to find evidence of the existence of a Saudi daily "Ajel," so the story was already a little dodgy. The news article surge in the last 2 days is essentially a cut and paste from the earlier version, all citing the same name and Arabic newspaper.

The one part of the story that checks out is the same of the Saudia marketing manager. He has a Twitter account. And while the tweets contain no discussion of the alleged scoop, they do contain an exchange regarding media reports of Orthodox Jewish passengers delaying flights over seating disputes. To which the Saudia executive responds, on his airline, families can guarantee being seated together through seat selection at ticket purchase or anytime before flight.

And then someone, somewhere, turned that into a claim that the airline will segregate seats by sex.

UPDATE: Saudia confirms that the story began as a misinterpretation of the above Twitter exchange.