A national airline has announced it will start offering female-only rows on its flights.

However the reason isn’t to allow gal pals to guarantee a spot together – it’s to combat a rise in assault cases taking place at 36,000 feet.

From Wednesday, Air India will give female passengers the option of booking a spot in the new reserved section of its flights, according to the Press Trust of India.

Six economy seats per flight will be set aside for women in a bid to reassure travellers – especially those flying solo – of their safety.

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The seats come at no extra cost, and travellers can also request a female-only seat during check-in, if there are some still available.

The move comes after reports of two women – a female passenger and an air stewardess – being groped aboard separate Air India flights in the last few weeks.

The airline were quick to respond, saying they now carry plastic handcuffs on flights to restrain disruptive passengers, as well as offering the gendered seating.

“We feel, as national carriers, it is our responsibility to enhance comfort level to female passengers,” Meenakshi Malik, a general manager at Air India, told The Hindu newspaper.

“There are a lot of female passengers who travel alone with us and we will be blocking a few seats for them.”

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However the initiative has been met with both criticism and praise, with former Air India executive director Jitendra Bhargava telling The Hindu it was a “misplaced priority”.

“In case of unruly behaviour, the airline crew are authorised to take action as per the law.”

Social media users have also accused the airline of sexism by forcing women to move to deter potential crimes against themselves, though many have commended Air India for taking action.

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