You’re sending your daughter to go visit your ex-partner for the long weekend. You live in different states and the most practical thing for everyone involved is for her to fly down.
But she’s only nine years old and you’re worried about her flying alone. Whether she’ll get lost in the airport. Whether she’ll get scared on the flight. What kind of person she might be sitting next to.
The question of how to best protect our children from ‘stranger danger’ is one that is increasingly on the minds of all parents – and it’s understandable. You can open a newspaper on almost any day of the week and read stories about children being attacked. Or assaulted. Or snatched.
Columnist Tracey Spicer wrote a piece for Fairfax this weekend about when she has to let her kids fly alone – and it’s an opinion that some have labelled sexist. In fact, even Spicer herself acknowledges that it is:
I know it’s sexist. But I don’t want my kids sitting next to a man on a plane.
Maybe you find that statement offensive. Or maybe, on some level, you completely understand where Tracey Spicer is coming from.
There have been incidences of children being assaulted by strangers on aeroplanes in the past. Back in 2001, an American airline paid a family half a million dollars after their 10-year-old daughter was allegedly molested by a man seated next to her on a flight.
And it’s with these kinds of stories in mind that Spicer has made the controversial call about who can and can’t sit next to her kids on planes.
It’s because of parental concerns that many airlines have policies in place to protect children as best as they can. The Qantas flight policy states: “Unaccompanied minors are allocated seats next to adult female customers. Where possible, Qantas aims to seat children near crew areas or next to an empty seat. This policy reflects parents’ concerns and the need to maximise the child’s safety and well-being.”
Virgin’s policy on unaccompanied minors explains: “On a space available basis, we will allocate a spare seat next to the child. In some instances, flight passenger loads may prevent this and a female or male passenger will be seated in the vacant seat.”
Both airlines have copped criticism in the past for moving male passengers when they were seated next to unaccompanied children.