United Airlines Moved A Million-Mile Flyer’s Seat Because Two Pakistani Monks Can’t Be Near Women

Mary Campos is a million-mile flyer who is also the senior leader of an international gas and oil company. While waiting to board a flight in John Wayne Airport in Orange County, she heard her name called out. The United Airlines gate agent told her that her seat had been changed. Apparently, two Pakistani monks sitting next to her couldn’t be seated next to women, due to their religious and cultural beliefs. They also could not be served by female flight attendants; lucky for them, there was a male flight attendant onboard.

Mary Campos of Coto de Caza, California, who spoke to CBS News. Photo by CBS News.

Mary Campos of Coto de Caza, California, who spoke to CBS News. Photo by CBS News.

Orange County Register reports that Campos wasn’t given an option, and was essentially asked to board the plane or not fly. Once the plane landed in Houston, Campos reached out to a customer service representative, who gave her a $100 voucher. However, Campos is not satisfied—”this is isn’t about $100. It’s about treating everyone fairly.” Instead, she wrote an e-mail to United:

First, I do respect the religious beliefs of all groups. But I do not believe cultural beliefs should be enforced by United to discriminate against females. We live in the United States of America where females are treated as equals, not as subordinates. As a female, mother of two daughters and a business woman, this is unacceptable.

Mary Campos did not hear back from United Airlines other than a boiler plate “we’ll look into it” response. However, CBS Los Angeles investigated the situation, and did receive a response from United:

We regret that Ms. Campos was unhappy with the handling of the seat assignments on her flight. United holds its employees to the highest standards of professionalism and has zero tolerance for discrimination.

I am frankly a bit curious as to how this happened before boarding. Perhaps the monks also anticipated this happening, so they reached out to United ahead of time to arrange alternative seats. But at the same time, Campos pre-booked the seats, and United switching seats without first asking is rather disrespectful—I know I wouldn’t be happy and wouldn’t think it’s fair. I think a better way might have been to ask passengers to switch once onboard, since at least you could ask for volunteers that way.

However, this issue is also more complicated than just gender discrimination, since we might also have to factor in freedom of religion—how should the airline approach that with a religion the appears to discriminate? With the idea of “‘majority rules,” I tend to believe the responsibility of making alternative accommodations to be in the hands of those that go against the norm. Ultimately, I don’t envy being in United’s place, and they very much mishandled the situation, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Comments

  1. You can have your freedom of religion as long as it doesn’t break any laws like you can’t come here and stone two man for sleeping with another man, you cant come here and discriminate because she’s a female , United should have told them they’re free to move seats if they want.

  2. Wow you are so ignorant. Where in the article does it even say Pakistani. You are a typical racist always trying to bait and cause hatred. You should be stoned by your trump.

    • Hi Lara. The CBS Los Angeles article quoted in my post mentioned Pakistani. Before you make false accusations and jump to conclusions please at least make sure you have all the information.

    • Seems Lara is throwing around the hate due to her stupidity and not being even able to read the headline of the reference article, Yet is ready to stone another human being.

  3. Wow. Poor united-talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Sex discrimination vs. religious discrimination-they couldn’t win.

  4. What a load of crap from United. If someone has a problem with the social norms here, the responsibility falls on them to find a way around without inconveniencing the majority who don’t share their viewpoint. Using United’s logic, wouldn’t all bikinis have to be covered up if these guys visited a beach? It’s ridiculous for them to expect society to conform to their wishes.

  5. Wow – Terrible United. If a man refuses to sit next to any woman he must buy all of the seats surrounding him.

    And no there is no side of this for “freedom of religion”. Sorry to say you are ignorant and lost a reader.

    • I’m inclined to agree – they should have bought the entire row if it was that big of a factor for them. If we make overweight passengers buy two seats (http://www.ifly.com/overweight-passengers), I don’t see why we can’t do this. I am all for respecting religious boundaries, but just like you select a Kosher meal on a flight, it is your responsibility as the passenger to make sure your particular needs are met.

      More importantly, if they won’t allow a female flight attendant to serve them, I wonder if they would let a female pilot fly them? (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Royal-Brunei-Airlines-first-all-female-pilot-crew-lands-plane-in-Saudi-Arabia-where-women-are-not-allowed-to-drive/articleshow/51410019.cms)

    • Well, while we’re making up rules, how about this: if you post a snarky comment you must pay a penalty of $1000. Even if you buy extra seats, there’s not always a guarantee those seats will be together. In some planes 2 seats will ensure you’re not sitting by anyone other than your companion.

      Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for religious purposes-I would not be surprised if this is also legally required of common carriers such as United. But I’m sure you know all the laws and the Constitution back and forth, don’t you? Because everyone else is ignorant. But I know it was so terrible with someone with MILLION MILER STATUS on United move. That poor, poor woman. How will she ever survive??? How much more suffering will she be forced to endure beyond giving up her seat?

  6. Pakistani monks? How is someone not sure that those two monks aren’t Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Thai, Cambodian, Tibetan, Chinese or something else beside Pakistani?

    Orange/Saffron-colored attire on monks? That’s a predominantly Hindu or Buddhist thing, and not part of a majority religious tradition in Pakistan. Pakistani Muslim monks in orange/saffron colored attire? Improbable, to put it kindly.

    My bet is that Donald Trump fans are loving this news story. 😉

  7. OK, look first of all the two gentlemen should have made it known at booking, that way UA could have blocked the adjoining seat prior to boarding. Simple way. Second when you are flying there are no rules such as I can not sit next to a woman it’s just that way.

    Thirdly for some posters in interject politics into this discussion is total bs. take your political views elsewhere.

  8. Strange, if you are a Christian baker who cannot make a gay marriage cake because it violates your religious beliefs, you get your business shut down and your life destroyed. However, if you are a non-Christian, you get to bend everyone to your will, and anyone who resists is a racist bigot. This country has gone mad.

    • A commercial airliner isn’t your private business or property, numskull, so you dont have the right to dictate your own rules on ome

  9. They should have driven. Tired of all the accommodation in the world for everyone who has a special need – suck it up and deal with the real world or don’t take public transportation. Shame on United for reinforcing pansyness. This type of stuff is the reason Trump has gotten as far as he has.

    • SW, this isn’t about accommodation, this is about forcing their ways on everyone else like typical muslim supremacists.

  10. I am amazed for all the wrong reasons.
    I have seen posts in the past referring to Rabbis asking fellow passengers to switch seats to avoid a similar situation. In those cases there is a huge public outcry about rights being trampled and the rabbis were threatened with arrest. In this instance nobody had the ability to say no?
    To make it clear, while I will behave at all times, next tme you have models that need to sit next to me, there will be no issue.

  11. OMG, United moved a FF’s seat assignment. Boy, that sure is news. That must be the first time that has happened, this week. No, it isn’t even the first time this week. United moves seat assignments, w/o giving the passenger a choice, all the time. The only difference is this time they gave the pax a reason. If they had not told the pax why she was being moved, she never would’ve gone to the papers. I’m sure United will put all the GAs through training after this. Train them to give more nondescript excuses.

  12. Being a misogynist is NOT politically correct. Misogynist religions with misogynist men who think they stil live in 1589 needs to no longer be tolerated. They should have been sat on two coach seats at the very back right next to the toilet

  13. I wish Ms. Campos would also point out that she was ‘moved’ from an Economy Plus aisle seat to…another Economy Plus aisle seat…Its not like she was downgraded or shoved back into Economy minus middle… I applaud United for trying to accommodate this request which I’m sure wasn’t a demand at all and it was likely easier for the gate agent to move 1 person than 2 ppl. Seat assignments are never guaranteed and the only wrong here by United was going into detail with the customer. There was zero harm/damage done. I hate repressive religions as much as the next guy but thats not what this is about at all and she would know this if she had even a basic understanding of world religions. Hasidic Jews have similar requests all the time in NYC and you don’t see anyone on the East coast losing their $hit over it.

    • It’s easy, folks. If you don’t like how this was handled, avoid United whenever you have another option. And if you are female, hope you never have a Pakistani monk as boss.

  14. First all the above comments are wrong. People should know what Monks disciplines are before they make public comments. Even the guy that said he cooked for Monks is wrong. Second we do not know what or who those two guys were. I see conflict. However being in the airline industry I know we move people for a large number of reasons. And we do NOT need to give a reason especially if it could offend someone.
    When anybody buys an airline ticket they purchase a ride not a seat. All those seats belong to United airlines. As for women’s rights they are the first ones to complain when they have to sit next to a mother with a child or in front of a child.

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