Johnny McGirr discovered a curious Virgin Airlines policy the hard way while on a flight from Sydney to Brisbane.
He was asked to switch seats with a woman after two unaccompanied, young boys were seated next to him.
When he asked the flight attendant why he had to move she replied:
“Well, because you are male, you can?t be seated next to two unaccompanied minors.”
She went on to explain it was company policy not to seat unaccompanied minors next to men. A spokeswoman for Virgin Airlines confirmed this saying that it is not meant to be discriminatory or offensive to men but that the company only has the well-being of the child in mind.
Virgin isn’t the only airline with this policy. British Airways has a similar policy to prevent any opportunist pedophiles that might be aboard.
When traveling unaccompanied minors are the responsibility of the airline but realistically are they any safer being seated next to a woman than they are a man?
In a blog post titled, “My Virgin experience as a Paedophile!” McGirr recounted the experience by writing:
As I collected my things from the seat pocket I could see people looking at me and wondering why I was being moved. I was red from embarrassment. I felt like I was being judged and found guilty of a crime I hadn?t committed. It was an uncomfortable situation and I felt ashamed which was a weird feeling because I hadn?t done anything wrong.
Sex offenders are males by a large margin. But does that excuse sex-profiling? How hard would it be for airlines to run people boarding flights through a sex offender registry? And though the probability is low, what if the woman who was slotted in next to the minors was a sex-offender? Their policy would be putting the children in direct danger.
Though I do respect what airlines’ intentions for the policy as surrogate parents, discrimination is not a viable solution.
I want to know what you think.
Is it reasonable for Virgin to maintain this policy? Is Johnny McGirr overreacting? Could this be the beginning of segregating men from society? Could the fear of the pedophile replace the fear of the terrorist as the symbol of all evil in Western culture?
All opinions are welcome in the comments.