by LANA HIRSCHOWITZ
There are three very different types of flyers.
There are those who don’t think about the journey at all, they just need to get from point A to B. Then there are the people who quite like being on a plane, they either understand aeronautics or don’t think about it.
Then there are people like me who are so scared that all they can do is pray. And drink. And sob.
People like me don’t make very good companions on a flight. But people like my husband – who understands how planes stay in the air – make excellent companions. He is calm, friendly and reassuring. He also loves children so he would be the perfect person to sit next to a child on a flight.
The problem is that he is a man and according to the policies of some airlines – that makes him a potential paedophile.
Statistics bear this out: the vast majority of people who sexually abuse children are male.
In April this year, a 33 year old fireman named Johnny McGirr boarded a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane, where he sat next to two unaccompanied minors (who he has estimated were aged between eight and ten).
I am not sure what kind of flyer Johnny was but that seemed to be irrelevant. He was a man and so he was asked by the staff to move away from the boys. Seriously. Just because he was a man.
A flight attendant asked him to move. Mr McGirr said when he asked why, he was told, ”Well you can’t sit next to two unaccompanied minors.”
”She said it was the policy and I said, ‘Well, that’s pretty sexist and discriminatory. You can’t just say because I’m a man I can’t sit there’, and she just apologised and said that was the policy. By this stage everyone around me had started looking.”
Mr McGirr said the attendant then asked a fellow female passenger, ”Can you please sit in this seat because he is not allowed to sit next to minors.”
”After that I got really embarrassed because she didn’t even explain … And that was it. I pretty much sat through the flight getting angrier.”
It turns out that Mr McGirr was not the first man to complain about having his seat changed and being treated like a potential child abuser. More and more similar stories are emerging. And Virgin Australia is not alone in implementing such a policy. The BBC reports that Qantas and Air New Zealand had a similar policy prior to 2005, after a businessman successfully sued British Airways on the grounds of sex discrimination after he was moved away from an unaccompanied child on a flight.
There are so many issues that get me about this policy.