India has earned a reputation as a place that's dangerous for women and girls, underscored by the story of a 10-year-old rape victim now in the news for trying to get permission to get an abortion. Another shocking story from 2012 set off a series of protests across the country after a young woman was fatally gang-raped on a public bus, and—along with many other high-profile sexual assaults—has prompted countries like the US to caution women not to travel alone in India. Now the Indian airline Vistara has taken matters into its own hands, offering a free service called Woman Flyer, which it describes to Bloomberg as a "sincere effort to ensure peace of mind of our women customers."
The free service, which launched in March, is used by between 75 and 100 women every day, according to Vistara. Women who sign up for the service will get help with their bags, be guaranteed a window or aisle seat, and be escorted to a pickup point by airline staff, reports Emirates Woman. While this is thought to be the first airline anywhere to offer this kind of service, Air India began providing female-only rows earlier this year in response to assaults in the air. In 2015, researchers in the UK noted that in places with gender equality, separating women "reinforces a message that women must be contained and segregated in order to protect them," but many who are hailing Vistara's new service says safety comes first. (That 10-year-old mentioned earlier is being made to deliver her baby.)