An Australian airline’s policy prohibiting male passengers from sitting next to kids traveling alone has fueled a social media firestorm and caused the company to review the rule.
“I am an emergency service worker when I’m off that plane, but as soon as I boarded it I was a presumed pedophile,” firefighter Johnny McGirr told CNN Australian affiliate Network Ten.
While on a Virgin Australia flight earlier this year, he was seated next to two young boys traveling alone until he says a flight attendant asked him to trade seats with a woman.
“It was interesting, like I had done something wrong. Really embarrassed,” said McGirr. He was on a flight from Brisbane to his home in Sydney.
Virgin Australia said its long-standing policy, initially based on customer feedback, allowed for unaccompanied children to sit next to women or an empty seat.
“In light of recent feedback, we’re now reviewing this policy,” it said on its blog. “Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way”…
“Airlines are acting as custodians of unaccompanied minors, and therefore have the ability to move them to a different seat if they believe that is in their best interest,” a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman told CNN. “However, DOT has statutes prohibiting airlines from having discriminatory seating policies, including on the basis of gender or age. … Therefore, airlines cannot have policies forcing a man to move if seated next to an unaccompanied minor, but they can, if they choose, have policies requiring an unaccompanied minor to be moved if he/she is originally seated next to an adult male.”
Leave it to bureaucrats to figure out some way to be on both sides of a silly question.