By Bonny Ibhawoh,
Here is one of those human rights “grey area” stories that one encounters every now and again. Apparently, some airlines will not let men sit with unaccompanied minors they do not know. While I understand the obligation of airlines to protect children placed in their care, asking a man to leave his seat for the only reason that he is a man, goes beyond the bounds of prudent action. Move the kid if you must but the implicit suggestion that all men are potential abusers and perverts clearly raises serious ethical and human rights concerns.
By David Parker Brown, on July 1st, 2010 at 8:55 am
Making sure children flying under the care of an airline are not preyed upon is extremely important. So is making sure that a person’s individual rights are not taken away from them and made to feel like a criminal.
Recently, passenger Mirko Fischer took British Airways to court for forcing him to move seats because he was sitting next to a young child.
Fischer originally had the window seat, but switched with his pregnant wife, so she could see out the window (what a gentleman). This changed caused him to be sitting next to a young unaccompanied minor and the flight crew made him change his seat. The airline told him that they ban male passengers from sitting next to children they do not know.
The passenger did not feel this treatment was right and left him feeling, “embarrassed, humiliated and angry.” He took British Airways to court for “loss of damage and injury to his feelings.”
“This policy is branding all men as perverts for no reason,” Fischer said. “They accuse you of being some kind of child molester just because you are sitting next to someone.”
Fischer won his case and was paid $3712.00 in costs and $1288.00 in damages. He didn’t pocket the money however. He donated his payout and $3865.00 of his own money to two different child protection charities.
British Airways is currently reviewing the policy, but still states the rule is not discriminatory.
Parents put their children into care of an airline to make sure they are kept safe during their flight. But is it ok to keep all men away from children because of this? I say no.
If the flight crew has any reason to assume that a passenger is not acting appropriately, then yes, it is their duty to move the child. However, it is not ok to discriminate against a passenger just because of a fear of inappropriate behavior. Would it be ok to not sit a child next to someone of a particular race or religion because they are more likely to molest a child?
I have heard of other airlines having similar policies. The concept of these policies is to keep children safe, which is very important, but not at the expense of discriminating against other passengers.