I think the issue is though Martyn is whether gender segregation is a result of the airline management figuring it would be good for their market and good for business – or whether it is just under pressure from someone in the upper echelons of the saud society.
I have absolutely NO problem with Saudi having a system that does it’s best to accommodate the needs of ALL their passengers – for a Saudi family that may be sat together with no unrelated males in the direct vicinity. However, they should respect that they are an international carrier and that other people may very much wish to be seated next to people of the opposite gender. Saudi is very much trying to diversify it’s passenger profile – I noticed in the printed edition of BT that included the seat plans guide that Saudi had two huge full page ads – obviously directed at the UK business travel market. They have also been trying to take advantage of some of the east – west transiting traffic…particularly to India, Manila, etc.
I think any westerner can go without a drink or pork for twelve hours – but to be told that you can not be sat next to the person you are travelling with because they are the opposite gender is plain unacceptable, I think will set Saudi back a LOT in it’s steps it has made to modernise.
That’s IF the DM article is based on truth and not just a total overblown exaggeration of the facts which knowing the DM could be the case.