Muslim women don’t have to remove burqas on plane despite nationwide ban, airline rules
- Lawyers say controversial law can only be enforced on the ground
- Pilots have 'no issue' with women wearing burqas during flights
French cabin crews have no right to tell Muslim women to remove their burqa aboard Air France flights - despite a nationwide ban on full face veils, the airline has ruled.
Islamic passengers can be ordered to remove the garment while waiting in French airports to board the plane at the gate.
But once on board, they are free to put their burqa back on, according to an internal memo to staff from Air France's legal department.
'The law can only be enforced by police and other public officials on the ground.'
But pilots said they had 'no issue' with women wearing burqas during flights - as long as they had been through security checks before the flight.
One told French daily Le Figaro: 'As long as burqa-wearers have been checked before getting on board, then I can't see the problem.
'Security on board a plane does not have much to do with whether one's face is visible or not.
'Besides, on long-haul flights a lot of passengers hide their face with eye masks when they go to sleep.'
This includes streets, shops, restaurants and behind the wheel of a car on a public road.
Women can be fined £35 for a first offence for wearing a burqa, while men who force their wives to wear the garb can be fined up to £25,000.
Repeat offenders who refuse to pay up can be sent to prison.
France was the first country in Europe to outlaw Muslim headwear that hides the face.
Similar laws have since being passed in Belgium and the Netherlands.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa as a 'sign of debasement'.
His immigration minister Eric Besson called it 'a walking coffin'.
Leaders of Al-Qaeda's North African network have vowed to seek 'dreadful revenge' if the law is ever enforced.
They wrote on an Islamic extremist website: 'We will seek dreadful revenge on France by all means at our disposal, for the honour of our daughters and sisters.'