Passengers Offended With ‘Stranger Danger’ Seating Policy


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Passengers Offended With ‘Stranger Danger’ Seating Policy

Mike Mitchell

September 19, 2010 - Three airlines, British Airways, Qantas and Air New Zealand, had attracted criticism for controversial seating policies which discriminate against adult male passengers on the basis of their gender. British Airways ended its discriminatory policy in August, 2010 following a court case. 

In March 2001, it was revealed that British Airways had a policy of not seating adult male passengers next to unaccompanied children, even if the child's parents are elsewhere on the plane.  This led to accusations that the airline considers all men to be potential pedophiles and women to be incapable of such abuse. The issue was first raised when a business executive had moved seats to be closer to two of his colleagues.


A flight attendant then asked him to move because he was then sitting next to two unaccompanied children which was a breach of British Airways company policy. The executive, a head hunter, said he felt humiliated as a result, stating "I felt I was being singled out and that I was being accused of something." British Airways admitted that flight attendants were under instructions to keep men away from unaccompanied children whenever possible because of the dangers of male pedophiles. Air France also made the headlines recently when unions claimed their seating policy, similar to that of BAs, could put children’s safety at risk in the event of an accident. 

Skyscanner surveyed over 500 users on the sensitive issue and found that more than two thirds would feel insulted if asked to move away from a child. The overwhelming majority (86%) of respondents also said that they would be happy for their own child to sit next to a stranger, if the child was flying unaccompanied. Of these, 40% said they would actually prefer their child to be seated next to an adult in case they needed help in an emergency. Only 14% said that they didn’t like the idea of their child sitting next to a stranger, however 28% of parents did say they would prefer their child to be seated next to a female rather than a male. 

“It’s a very delicate area for airlines and it is important that they strike the right balance. Airlines are obviously responsible for any unaccompanied minors that they carry so must do everything they can to ensure the safety and comfort of that child during the flight; this includes the threat that other passengers may pose as well as ensuring safety should oxygen masks be required. It is important that airlines tread carefully and communicate their policies clearly” said Barry Smith, Business Director commented of Skyscanner’s

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