United Airlines reseats woman because two Pakistani monks objected to sitting next to females

Well, gang, it’s happened again: a woman named Mary Campos was forced to change her seat on a United Airlines flight because two Pakistani monks didn’t want their airspace polluted by women. Before boarding a flight to Houston, Campos was given a new boarding pass by the gate agent, who explained, “The two gentlemen seated next to you have cultural beliefs that prevent them for sitting next to, or talking to or communicating with females.”

Cultural beliefs, my tuchas! It’s religion, Jake, and United compliantly rolled over on its belly and capitulated. Campos felt she had no choice, and so she moved. Further, the female flight crew was prohibited from serving the monks. (The monks we wearing orange, so I have no idea whether they were Buddhists or of another faith.)

Campos wrote a letter of complaint to the CEO of United (part of her text, which is very good, is in the screenshot below) and heard—nothing. You can see the story on the Los Angeles station CBS2 by clicking the screenshot below. The station, however, got a lame-ass response when writing to United:

A company spokesperson wrote, in part:

“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.”

Well, if they have zero tolerance for discrimination, they should fire the gate agent and give some re-education to the crew of that flight. That response is really a non-response.

Click to see the story and video:


The station asked Campos, a senior consultant to the oil and gas industry, if she planned to sue United, and Campos said this:

[The reporter Stacey] Butler asked Campos if she intended on suing the airline and she said that was not her intention. But she did want two things from United.

  • Apologize to every female that was on that plane, including their employees.
  • Change their policy. Campos said if she didn’t get those things, she would do whatever she had to do to protect women’s rights.

You go, Ms. Campos! That’s an eminently reasonable pair of requests. It’s time for this ridiculous religiously-based discrimination to stop. I’ve reported it here over and over again, and it’s involved Jews, Muslims, and now, perhaps, Buddhists. I’m tired of it, and women must be even more ticked off. It’s unconscionable and, in fact, I’m going to make one of my rare direct tweets to United Airlines. You’re invited to join me:


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Shame, United.

  2. busterggi
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    All these religious fascistas hate women except as procreation machines – no wonder rape culture can be found everywhere.

  3. steve oberski
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps United can be the official airline for FIDE, the World Chess Federation, for its Women’s World Championship in Iran.

  4. Pliny the in Between
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that everything takes precedence over being a woman?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if religion has made people think this way. It seems you are frowned upon for being racist and this would not be tolerated if a person refused to sit next to someone for race, even if for religious reasons, but because so many religions preach misogyny, it’s like it can’t help but seep into the mainstream.

      • eric
        Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        I think if bigots would just stop being so self-righteous about having “religious reasons,” stopped announcing their bigotry, and instead were subtle about it they’d probably be a lot more successful at getting what they want.

        Purchase separate window seats. There’s only a 1/4 chance both of you will be in rows where the aisle seat is occupied by a woman. So the monk in the woman-aisle row says to the middle-seat person in the man-aisle row, “excuse me, can I sit next to my friend? You can have my window seat in exchange for your middle seat.” Everyone sees two weird monks in orange robes and thinks nothing of it. And middle for window is generally considered a good deal anyway. The switch goes off without a problem.

        But nooo. These guys invite criticism by announcing the reason they want to switch is sexism. Because they self-righteously think everyone should respect that belief.

        Its a bit like sitting next to the vegan who goes about their life just being vegan, vs. the vegan who sits there and tells you why your burger is a crime against nature. Ten minutes later when your seat mate asks you to turn your radio down, you’re much more likely to accommodate that request from vegan 1 vs. vegan 2.

      • B b
        Posted October 5, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        If they hadnt been wearing monks robes i wonder how the request would have been handled

        • busterggi
          Posted October 6, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          I hope they were wearing something under those robes – commando monks belong in the comics.

    • Posted October 5, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      Yes. The airline “regretted” Ms. Campos was unhappy, but the monks were unhappy before she was. The airline should have “regretted” the monks were unhappy and given them the choice to stay put or take another flight.

  5. Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Surely if the monks objected to sitting next to a woman they could have been reseated on the wings?

  6. eric
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t tweet but support you in spirit.

    The airlines really need to get a grip here. Letting two people change seats if they both agree to do it may be fine. Using the intercom to ask if anyone is willing to change seats with person X, also fine. *Making* someone move out of their purchased, ticketed seat because a different passenger requested they be moved is definitely not fine. Especially given how Nazi-like they can be about people moving around the cabin before takeoff. Pro tip: if you want people to take their seat in preparation for take-off, then frakking let them sit in their seat.

  7. Marilyn
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    So make the guys who object change their seats!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 6, 2016 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      … with a built-in downgrade.

  8. DKP
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the monks could have been invited to reserve a private plane for themselves since they seemed to have such disdain for 50% of the people on that flight. Or at the very least, let them pay for an extra seat so they can have a row to themselves without having to insult people with their ridiculous beliefs.

  9. Rod
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Eagerly looking forward to the flight attendant who says to the “religious” men…. “tough shit!”

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. And to the plane full of normal human passengers who all get up and say to the religious crazies, “Go fuck yourselves”.

  10. Posted October 5, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I have one problem with what Campos said. “We can not discriminate against half the population for a belief from another nation”. It makes her sound rather xenophobic, and makes me wonder whether her problem with sexual discrimination, in this instance, was motivated, at least in part, by a problem with foreigners.

    • Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Unlikely, probably just a slip of the pen, or keyboard.

    • Posted October 7, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      1) I think that it is OK to be xenophobic to backward, crappy foreign cultures.

      2) To me, her words imply that she thinks local culture has precedence. I agree. If she or I go to a place with misogynist culture ingrained into law, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, we shall be forced to conform to local rules. So it is only fair that people from backward cultures, when on the territory of a more advanced one, are forced to conform to it, instead of locals bending over backwards to conform to the foreign backward culture.

  11. Kevin
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    “I thought I lived in a culture where women were equal to men.” Not since man made God, baby, not since man made God.

    Ms. Campos, you can sit next to me on any plane. Bravisimo! United, a plague on all your male coddling.

  12. Stephen
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    You do have to wonder if it had been two nuns who had objected to sitting near a male if this would have played out any differently.

  13. Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I am curious to which religion the 2 monks actually belong. According to Wikipedia, the Buddhist population in Pakistan is minuscule (1492 adults).

    • bric
      Posted October 6, 2016 at 2:43 am | Permalink

      I had the same thought, it’s very unlikely they were Pakistani; in any case Buddhist monks tend not to be so literal – a story from the Dhammapada (a Hinayana scripture):

      Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.

      But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.

      Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 6, 2016 at 3:10 am | Permalink

        That sounds very Buddhist


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 6, 2016 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      I was suspicious of the accuracy of the identification too. I suspect that the “Pakistani” identification is just a dog-whistle for “straight black hair, moderately dark yellowish-brown skin, un-flattened nose”. I know that I can’t distinguish an Indian from a Bangladeshi from a Pakistani from a Nepali from a Bhutanese.

      Campos, a senior consultant to the oil and gas industry,

      Odd, I’d have thought that in that industry she’d have tripped over the political sensitivities between Indians and Pakistanis before. Being as they’re, like, nuclear-armed nations with an active war going on (in Jammu & Kashmir) and plenty of other bad blood since the Partition. In the late 90s, I had a hard week trying to get an Indian (day shift) and a Pakistani (night shift) data engineer to cooperate with each other. Both perfectly good at their jobs – but neither would change his working style to work better with the other guy. Fortunately, we didn’t lose control of the well, but it wasn’t thanks to those two working well together.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 6, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink

        “… working well together.”

        I see what you did there!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          Ha ha. I didn’t. That was one of those jobs where you’re looking at the records of the nearby wells and you read “Well suspended due to blowout. Rig destroyed. Well resumed [18 months later] by [another rig]”.
          What the records didn’t bother to include was that one man was killed in that blowout, because of the actions of a senior member of the company’s management, and that that senior member was still in employment in a country that didn’t have an extradition agreement with the UK. Meanwhile, the person who substituted a $5 sealing O-ring for the specified $60 O-ring, which lead to the blowout, also remains in employment. The man they killed is no longer in employment.
          Lovely industry, the oil business.

  14. Steve Pollard
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Completely not acceptable. If guys like that want to travel on a first-world invented and operated mode of transport, they can damn’ well abide by first-world standards of behaviour. If not, they can f*cking well walk to wherever they think they need to go.

  15. ploubere
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I have sympathy for the gate agents and attendants, they have the tough job of trying to keep everyone happy while following the airline’s policies. They’re not the ones who should be fired. It’s management that has to make a clear policy that nobody can force another passenger to move simply because they don’t want to sit next to her.

  16. Posted October 5, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Even if the airline chooses to accommodate the male passenger with the contemptible religious view, I can’t see the logic of moving the woman to a different seat. Why not swap his seat with that of another male passenger who’s not seated next to a woman?

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted October 5, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Why is it the burden for the woman to move?? If you’re going to even consider accommodating these guys, have THEM move, and have them announce this preference BEFORE they buy their fricking ticket, rather than have them surprise the airline upon boarding.

  17. somer
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    In Theravada buddhism at least, the WOMEN must cook for the monks and put food in their bowls but must not touch them Because they are Impure. Believing women justify this crap with oh the Buddha said women must be subordinate as a way of protecting them from the violent world of his time!

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted October 5, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Mahayana Buddhism is not much of an improvement.
      (For those who don’t know, every one of the 35-odd schools of Buddhism is either Theravada or Mahayana: umbrella categories like “Protestant”),
      Some Mahayana texts contain some horribly misogynistic images, although there are a few happy exceptions.

      • somer
        Posted October 5, 2016 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Sadly I shouldn’t be surprised. So much for the Buddhist goddess of Compassion. Regarding Tibetan Mahayanas, to be fair to the Dalai Lama he has denounced sexism in his faith and he may have even (shock) suggested a future lama of any school could be female … maybe not.

        • bric
          Posted October 7, 2016 at 3:49 am | Permalink

          Actually the ‘Buddhist Goddess of Compassion’ is an interesting case in gender identity. She started out in Indian Buddhism as the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, a male as are all the Indian bodhisattvas, although depictions are often quite feminine. After the transmission of Buddhism to China through Tibet Avalokitesvara somehow became entwined with native female deities associated with compassion and mercy and became a female boddhisatva, Kuanyin (a translation of the Sanskrit name ‘one who hears the cries of the needy’). The sobriquet ‘goddess’ is thoroughly entrenched in English, although again it is confusing; Buddhism does indeed have gods and goddesses, often borrowed from local pre-Buddhist traditions, but they are quite distinct from Boddisattvas; for one thing they need to be re-born as human to attain enlightenment and are often the subject of ridicule in Buddhist stories.
          Guanyin has the same sort of function in Mahayana schools as the Virgin Mary in Roman Catholicism, in fact I have seen white Guanyin statues sold as statues of the Virgin in Italy.

    • bric
      Posted October 6, 2016 at 3:45 am | Permalink

      Sorry to be pedantic but the major divisions are Hinayana (‘lesser vehicle’} and Mahayana (‘greater vehicle’); Theravada is the only surviving Hinayana school, so tends to take the limelight. The distinction was first made in the Perfection of Wisdom (prajnaparamita) sutras where the Bhodisattva Path doctrine was developed, roughly speaking in Hinayana the ideal is the arhat, someone who seeks to attain personal enlightenment; in Mahayana the idea of the bodhisatva is extended as a being who can attain enlightenment but works instead for the enlightenment of all sentient beings. In practice this is similar to the difference between Protestant Christianity (a personal relation to God) and Catholicism (God mediated through intersessionary saints and the Holy See)

      • somer
        Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the clarification – and illumination!

  18. Billy Bl.
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I guess these monks haven’t attained nirvana yet. What in the heck are Buddhist monks doing flying anyway? I think these guys are just wannabes.

  19. Gabrielle
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    There is a move by the Orange County (California) Board of Supervisors to have a serious discussion with United Airlines over this case of discrimination against the passenger . The county owns the airport that the passenger flew into, and United is in negotiations with the county to increase the number of flights out of this airport. Hence, the county has some leverage with the airline. As always, when money and government oversight are involved, a business will sit up and take notice.

    You can read about this update here in the Orange County Register newspaper.

    If I were the passenger, I would also file a complaint with the FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration).

  20. Gabrielle
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    As it turns out, the US Dept. of Transportation has a form that a passenger can fill out to file a complaint of discrimination based on gender, race, etc., due to the actions of an airline.

  21. Filippo
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what the monks’ position is on transgendered folks? Or a male transvestite or drag queen? Would they have to offer up their “junk” for inspection by the monks?

    Can one insist to United that he doesn’t have to sit by the monks for religious reasons? Philosophical reasons?

  22. somer
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Disturbing that this happens – particularly on an American airline

    • somer
      Posted October 6, 2016 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      surely they don’t need to fire the gate agent – just make policies explicit that this sort of thing is unacceptable and next time there are consequences

      • Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        Certainly not.

        The gate agents are (almost) the bottom of the food chain at airlines. They have a really tough job loading and unloading whoever from humanity might show up on a given day, including drunks and assholes. With most US airlines these days, flight attendants double as CSAs and gate agents at remote stations.

        Their job (along with the flight attendants) is to get everyone from Point A to Point B safely and with as little fuss as possible. They are always going to choose the simplest, quickest path to that goal (mitigated by company policy).

        Although I disagree with accommodating these religious nuts, I sympathize with the employees. (I almost always agree to change seats if asked — usually it is so small children can sit near their parents.)

        What needs to change is company policy.

        In any case, as has been noted by others, the onus should be on the complainers to move, not Ms. Campos.

        • somer
          Posted October 6, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

          Yes staff should not have to bear the brunt of unacceptable passenger behaviour

  23. Paul Manson
    Posted October 6, 2016 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    Disgraceful. I agree with the comments above that question why Ms Campos had to be moved – she wasn’t the one with the problem.

    She should have gone to her old seat and spoken to the monks, asked them if they were comfortable, made sure they were happy, anything to wind them up. I bet if they had then complained to United the CEO would have been quick to respond.

    More seriously, their cultural beliefs “prevent them .. communicating with females.” The attendants are there primarily for safety – what if they needed to pass on something important & urgent? Would the monks act on it?Do they wait for a male attendant to become free?

    • Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      “prevent them .. communicating with females.”

      This is a serious question. You are obligated to follow the directions of the FAs in all events but especially during emergencies.

      This could be grounds for denying them access to US flights.

      The main reason (maybe the only reason — they’d probably install vending machines otherwise) the airlines employ FAs is due to safety requirements from the regulators. (And be very glad that they are required!)

  24. dabertini
    Posted October 6, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    “You go, Ms. Campos!”

    Damn right!!

  25. Posted October 6, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink


    Also, it illustrates why the adage “the customer is always right” is impossible to fulfill in general.

  26. Posted October 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    You make me want to write in my vote for Jerry Coyne for President!

  27. Craw
    Posted October 6, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I am not with you. I think the first demand wrong.
    It is wrong in several ways. First it elevates a group above individuals, as if the affront was to the group. It implies only women were upset by this discrimination.
    It refuses to accept that some women might support the monks. I would think any such women wrong headed but how can it be right to refuse to respect their opinion? While protesting a failure to treat a person as an individual?

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