Are All Male Airline Passengers Predators?
That seems to be the inferred opinion behind a policy held by two Australian airlines.
Last week two incidents were widely reported in the Australian media whereby male passengers seated next to unaccompanied minors were asked to swap seats with a female.
The first involved a Sydney firefighter who was traveling aboard a Virgin Australia flight. He was assigned a window seat next to two boys he estimated to be between eight and 10 years old, he told journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald. He took the aisle seat, though, so the boys could look out the window.
A flight attendant approached the man asking him to move shortly before the plane pushed back from the gate, according to the report. When he asked why, the flight attendant reportedly told him, "Well, you can't sit next to two unaccompanied minors." Getting looks from other passengers, the embarrassed man complied.
When the story broke, social media channels came alive with criticism over the policy, even spawning a new Twitter hashtag #VirginDiscrimination. On Facebook , users posted comments including "disgracefully discriminatory" and "stupid load of nonsense."
Virgin Australia later tweeted and posted a response on its blog saying, "We understand the concerns raised around our policy for children travelling alone, a long-standing policy initially based on customer feedback."
"In light of recent feedback, we're now reviewing this policy," the post continues. "Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way."
The second incident involved a man flying on Qantas. He, too, was asked to swap seats with a female passenger.
"After the plane had taken off, the air hostess thanked the woman that had moved but not me, which kind of hurt me or pissed me off a bit more because it appeared I was in the wrong, because it seemed I had this sign I couldn't see above my head that said 'child molester' or 'kiddie fiddler' whereas she did the gracious thing and moved to protect the greater good of the child," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
A Qantas spokesman confirmed the policy with the newspaper further clarifying, "Qantas's policy is consistent with other airlines around the world and is designed to minimize risk."
What About U.S. Airlines?
CNBC.com reached out to several airlines in the U.S. to see if a similar policy applied to passengers seated next to children traveling alone.
American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle told CNBC.com in an email, "We have no such policy."
Andrew Christie, spokesman for US Airways , sent a reply saying, "US Airways does not have a formal policy on whom to, or not to, seat next to unaccompanied minors, rather we defer to the expertise of our trained gate agents and crew members who are tasked with ensuring the safety and security of all our passengers. We also intentionally do not announce the boarding of unaccompanied minors so as not to draw unwanted attention to children traveling alone."
"We do not have any rules regarding seat mates for unaccompanied minors aboard Virgin America," said spokeswoman Jennifer Thomas.
Requests for more information were not immediately returned from Delta or United .
Protecting children from predators — male or female — is paramount in any society. But is an overt policy necessary onboard an airliner filled with passengers? Tell us what you think.