Sheikh delays plane over seating

MILAN Fri Jul 27, 2007 2:30pm EDT

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MILAN (Reuters) - A Qatar sheikh held up a British Airways flight at Milan's Linate airport for nearly three hours after discovering three of his female relatives had been seated next to men they did not know.

When none of the other business class passengers agreed to swap seats, the sheikh, a member of Qatar's ruling family, went to the pilot, who had already started the engine, to complain, an airport official said.

But the pilot ordered him and his traveling companions, the three women, two men, a cook and a servant, off the plane.

The London-bound flight took off nearly three hours behind schedule Thursday evening and around 50 of the 115 passengers missed connecting flights.

Traditions in the conservative Gulf Arab region bar women from mixing with unrelated men.

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