Manama: A man was questioned by the Saudi police after he delayed the departure of a plane for two hours by insisting that all women travelling without male companions should disembark.

Preparations for Flight 1108 between the western coastal city of Jeddah and the eastern city of Dammam were proceeding normally on the plane when a passenger stunned the air hostess explaining the safety instructions by telling her that she should not be without a male companion.

“Why are you on the plane without a mahram [companion]?”, the passenger asked in a loud voice, local Arabic daily Okaz reported.

The passenger, who was not identified, insisted that the plane should not take off until all the unaccompanied women passengers disembarked.

Efforts by the plane crew to calm the passenger failed and the captain called the airport security to offload the passenger and his son who was accompanying him.

An investigation into the incident has been launched.

Conservatives in Saudi Arabia insist that women should not be allowed to travel without a male companion “to ensure their physical and mental well-being”.

However, the tendency is being resisted by reformers championing what they see as fair treatment of women.

The passenger’s attitude was widely condemned as “terribly negative and inappropriate” in the comments posted on the Saudi daily website.

Women were in January allowed to become members of the Shura Council, the national advisory council.

The bold breakthrough for women in the conservative country allowed them to have 30 of the 150 seats and comes two years before they are allowed to run and vote in the municipal elections in a landmark achievement.