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Aug 11, 2012

Airline separates men from children

In fairness to Virgin, this is in the case of unaccompanied children, sitting with strangers.

Image: From The Brisbane Times.

Generally Virgin Australia is a great airline to fly with but in the following case their handling of an airline policy issue really sucks. A male passenger on a Brisbane/Sydney flight was made to move to another seat owing to having been placed beside two unaccompanied minors:
Fairfax Media reported the story of Johnny McGirr, 33, who said he was flying home from Brisbane in April when he took his seat next to two boys he estimated to be aged between eight and 10. He was assigned the window seat but sat in the aisle seat so the two boys could look out the window.

However, a flight attendant approached him just as passengers were asked to put on their seatbelts, asking 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.”
From the appearance of that statement, most of those within earshot of the incident could not be blamed for assuming that Mr McGirr was a registered sex offender. It’s hard to imagine a way to do this in a more ham-fisted manner.

The policy itself is ridiculous in that it assumes that all sex offenders are male, something that is not correct. The female passenger mentioned was an unknown person who was therefore just as big a risk. In any case it is unlikely that had the passenger been a pedophile, he would risk attempting anything on a flight in full view of anyone who cared to look.

And for heavens sake, in this day of modern technology and computer bookings, is it all that hard to ensure that the policy is carried out at the booking desk rather than on the plane afterwards. It’s not rocket science to bookmark unaccompanied minors and make sure that those excluded by company policy are not seated next to them.

In this modern litigatious age though, a company can’t be too careful.

Back in the early 80s I was on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney and shortly after takeoff realized that the 9/10-year-old girl next to me was becoming quite distressed. After talking to her I discovered that on finding out her holiday plans, her school friends had told her of ‘all of those crashes, mangled bodies’ and such like and she was terrified. I managed to talk her through it and as I felt the power drop off as the plane started its descent, talked her through what she could expect, hoping all the while we didn’t hit any up draughts or the opposite.

We arrived at the airport with her clinging to me, (would have been great if she had been 19/20 instead) and was thanked by her parents who were a couple of rows away. Today, I wouldn’t dare.

In an update to the story, Virgin is reviewing its policy in the wake of the flack it has received.

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