I too had this problem when I flew to the USA on British Airways in 2008, but I have never delayed a plane for this problem. Actually, it was my monastic friend who was travelling with me who was put next to a woman. Unfortunately, although I made sure a note about seating was inside our reservations, the reservation notes do not get sent up to the plane. I am not sure why special reservation instructions do not get sent to the plane, but that is the policy, and take heed if you are a monk or you send your kid on a plane with fatal food allergies.
I remember being accused of not arranging this before hand. Luckily, I was able to say, "I did and we double checked twice before coming here." Later, I learned that reservation notes do not get sent up to the plane and I arrange things now at the gate.
The airlines are accommodating for this request, but sometimes, on the spot problems can still happen. My last trip to the UK in 2013 gave me a problem at the transfer desk at Malaysia. The lady at the desk was a little "smart" with me, but I was able to fix things at the gate instead. I quoted what transfer desk lady said to me via email to Malaysia Airlines Customer Service but did not reveal her name. Unfortunately for her, they were able to still track her down and told me she was cautioned and it was a breach of their customer service standard.
Thai Airways is of course the best, at least for Theravada monks. One flight attendant happily said to me in 2006 after I politely refused my dinner, "I knew it! But we have to ask." And then he pulled an Ajahn Mun picture from his pocket and showed it to us. Monks are not supposed to eat after high Noon and he was happy that I followed the rules. Another monk on the same plane was eating dinner that night. In the morning, we got a huge meal…over the top, literally, as it was a heaping mound of food on a plate.
Thai airways does not allow monks to sit in the isle seats let alone next to a woman. They put us in the window seats, usually with an empty spot next to us. This is because Thai ladies are afraid to touch monks as they walk through the isles. We are also very careful too when we walk through the isles. I was once told to sit in business class before I even made it to economy class since it was a full flight.
A very heavy but recoverable offence is when a monk intentionally touches a woman. Sitting next to a woman puts the monk in an awkward position since touching naturally occurs. It is not treating the woman lower. Instead it is putting the monk in a lower position.. Or higher depending on how you look at it. There is no intention to morally degrade women or put them down. Nuns who choose to follow the same rules as monks would need to do the same avoidance with men all the same.
An international Delta Airlines flight was reportedly delayed for roughly half an hour when several ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to female passengers.
Israel Radio first reported that Delta Flight 468, bound for Tel Aviv’s Ben Gur…