Outrage of the Week Reversed! Maybe All Men AREN’T Pervs, Airline Realizes

Hey Readers! Good news! You’ll recall that British Airways had a rule that forbid any adult male from sitting next to any minor who was not his own child. Blogged about it here. The (unstated) reason for the rule? ALL MEN ARE PERVERTS…until proven otherwise. And since there’s really no way TO  “prove otherwise,” they airline simply assumed the worst.

British Airways didn’t move women, it only moved men, perhaps believing that guys routinely use this time in a public space,  surrounded by lots of other passengers, and people walking through the aisles, and flight attendants, to prey upon young folks. It’s a lovely view of the world, and males in particular. But Mirko Fischer took exception. Here’s the story, from the BBC:

Last year he was on a flight from London back to his home in Luxembourg when his pregnant wife Stefanie asked him to swap seats so she could sit next to the window.

He took her middle seat but cabin crew, who mistakenly believed he was alone, told him to move back to his original seat as he had ended up sitting next to a boy he did not know.

In June Mr Fischer told the BBC: “I felt humiliated and outraged. They accuse you of being some kind of child molester just because you are sitting next to someone.”

Fischer sued the airline for sex discrimination — and won. Though the airline admitted sex discrimination only in this one case, it has changed its seating procedure and will now group unaccompanied kids together. (Avoid sitting in front of that row!)  Unlike many American litigants, Fischer didn’t sue for a lot of money and, in any event, he’s giving the damages he received plus about $5000 of his own money to charities that protect children.

Protect them from real dangers, that is: abuse, neglect, hunger. Not from the vast majority of men who — surprise! — have zero interest in having sex with young kids. — Lenore

36 Responses

  1. Indeed…a victory for “common sense”. However this still shows the ignorance and single mindedness of some people. With all the cases of Priests, Teachers, Coaches, Babysitters molesting children under their care, who’s to say these Flight Attendants aren’t guilty of doing the same thing. But now, with the change of BA’s policy, these children are now being segregated to a separate area of the plane. Away from watchful eyes of the other passengers. Who knows what the flight attendants are doing. I don’t believe that of course, but I was just illustrating that you can put a spin on different things to make it look bad.

    My take, you don’t treat the child any different, he/she sits where he/she sits. If it’s beside a lone man (or woman), so be it. They are in open space for all to see, one would have to be insanely stupid to try anything to harm the child, which includes the flight crew. This not only protects the child (mentally, emotional and physically), but it also prevents from cases like this from happening. Keeping airlines out of the courts.

    COMMON SENSE. How are hard is that to grasp. We all have it, it doesn’t cost a thing, and is easily accessible and deployed. People just need to use it more.

  2. The new policy, while an improvement over the old, falls into a particular pet peeve of mine: segregating people based on age. Thanks to school, sports, Scouts, and other activities, kids spend most of their time in the company of people their own age. They need more time, not less, with people who are younger and older than they are.

  3. Congratulations on the victory & the man for standing up for himself. Rather than taking it & accepting the mistreatment he made a case out of it as he should have. One of the few times I’d actually agree with a lawsuit & even advocate for it.

  4. A half victory for common sense. It’s vastly better that they’re not making adult males into pariahs, but there’s no sound reason to segregate the kids instead of distributing them through the plane, and I can think of a few good “common sense” reasons not to. So, no “common sense” at all in that aspect of the solution.

  5. Personally I like this solution. If there are several kids on the flight, they can entertain each other. I made cross-country and cross-ocean flights alone as a young teen, and HATED sitting next to some adult that ignored me the whole way. I would much rather have had another kid to talk to or play cards with.

  6. So if there are multiple children, then there are ONLY children? What IF (and I know it’s rare, but…) there’s a flight emergency – who’s going to take care of the kids?

    Right now, if people sit in the emergency exit row, they need to agree and be able to assist if there’s an emergency. Who’s going to assist these children? the flight attendants who are assisting everyone else, or another adult ‘tasked’ with it just like the emergency exit people?

  7. I agree, a partial victory. I also dislike the idea of segregating people by age. I would rather treat children like they’re just normal passengers.

  8. Wouldn’t buying a ticket on an airline be an awfully expensive way for perverts to prey upon children?

    I’m glad Mr. Fischer prevailed in this case, but what about the thousands of other instances where unaccompanied adult men (that is, unaccompanied by women or children) are thought to be dangerous just because of their status?

    I can only imagine all the complaints passengers will make about the rowdy children on the British Airways flights. Can anyone say “Lord of the Flies”?

  9. British Airways must announce they have abolished the original policy of moving men from their seats or there is no victory here.

  10. I haven’t flown BA (Bloody Awful) for a good 20 years for their dirty tricks and bad service. Seems nothing has improved in 20 years so I will continue to avoid them, its no surprise they lost the status of “British Flag Carrier” to Virgin.

  11. Laura, I’m pretty sure nobody would seat three children all together in an exit row.

  12. I wasn’t talking about an exit row. I mean, if they’re all in the front row, who’s going to help them if there’s no adult to turn to? Because the adult MIGHT be a perv.

  13. I am a man an I flew next to two unattended children recently. I wished they would have moved me. One trashed my iPad while I slept and the other girl spilled her juice on my lap. Intentionally.

    Is it only brats who fly alone?

  14. I’ve hunted for a way to email you but instead I’ll share my story here.

    When my son was 2, I lived in the Seattle area in an apartment. Each day, my son napped at the time my daughter was dropped at the bus stop. I would walk up 5 stairs and wait on the landing for her(sometimes I’d go an additional 10 steps away to the mail room to grab the mail. All while he was in his bed, asleep, with the front door locked.

    A neighbor called CPS on me reporting me for negligence.

    CPS showed up to investigate and told me I had to have “eyes on my child at all times” including taking him into the bathroom when I had to pee or shower. I asked her when I was supposed to sleep since I couldn’t take my eyes off him, she said she didn’t care for my sarcasm regarding my child’s welfare.
    Fortunately it was ultimately marked as “unfounded” but it was dicey for a while.

    Now every time I allow my children(now 4 and 9) to play outside while I clean house, I worry that I’ll have CPS showing up again because some busy body helicopter parent doesn’t approve. Here in our area, they take first and question later. How do I allow my children to be free range when other people are calling the authorities on me?!

    This same parent called the police on me when I grabbed my then 6 year old daughters arm when she mouthed off and started to walk away from me. I grabbed her arm and dragged her back. I didn’t jerk her off my feet, but I did physically restrain her. Thankfully THAT officer was more realistic(and shared he had 3 girls of his own) about parenting.

    The world isn’t just scared for their kids, they’re scared for your and willing to go to almost any length to enforce their “right” way. I’m more scared of other parents when my children play on their own than the boogeyman who MIGHT jump from the bushes.

  15. I wasn’t talking about an exit row. I mean, if they’re all in the front row, who’s going to help them if there’s no adult to turn to? Because the adult MIGHT be a perv.

    It’s my understanding that unaccompanied minors are in the care of a flight attendant, who would presumably make sure they were unbuckled just as other flight attendants would make sure children with parents weren’t left alone if their parents were incapacitated.

  16. I find the idea of not letting kids sit next to any adult to be just as absurd as not letting them sit next to men *if* it’s done because of a belief they are at risk from the adults. Assuming all adults are evil predators just waiting to hurt children is only better than assuming all men are evil in that it isn’t sexist, but it’s still a vile and ultimately dangerous view of humanity.

    I suspect though that they want to put them together for other reasons. For instance, so that when there is an issue, one flight attendant can go and sort out the unaccompanied kids rather than having to send several to all the places the kids are scattered throughout the plane. Which makes me wonder if their previous policy was based in part on the (also sexist) expectation that if a kid was sat next to a women she would look after the kid while a man – not so much.

    As an unaccompanied kid I would *probably* have preferred to sit next to other kids most of the time.

  17. Forgot to check the notify box.

  18. I’m surprised by the negative reaction to the idea of sitting unaccompanied children together. This is a great idea!

    Our friends children (11 &12) made a long distance flight this summer without their parents. They had a great time on the way back because they were sitting next to some other kids traveling alone. They spent the time swapping DS games and watching movies.

    In many instances, these children are required to be taken on and off the plane by staff so it would only make sense that they be grouped together. Also, I think it would make it easier for the attendants to keep an eye on them in case of problems (with plane or kids!).

    Not all children traveling alone are brats, not all children traveling with their parents are angels. Just like everybody else, some are better travelers than others.

  19. “Though the airline admitted sex discrimination only in this one case, it has changed its seating procedure and will now group unaccompanied kids together.” Grouping kids together sounds like a great way to keep them occupied during a flight, but I’m not seeing the common sense yet. Sure, the admitted to one case of discrimination, but they probably did it more often and they still don’t seem to think it’s a good idea to seat a kid next to a male passenger they don’t know.

    What are they going to do if a man needs a seat and the only empty ones are near the seats of the unaccompanied minors… My guess, they’ll shuffle passengers around until they’ve found a woman to take that spot.

  20. “What IF (and I know it’s rare, but…) there’s a flight emergency – who’s going to take care of the kids?”

    Most kids flying alone can take care of themselves. I don’t know many kids who are not experienced fliers who are put on a plane by themselves. Yes, they are probably not strong enough to get an emergency door open but I believe that the exit row people are already tasked with that job. And it’s not like they are allowed to fly alone as toddlers. They are able to put seatbelts on and off themselves and can follow flow of adults around them to get out of a plane. And really, if you are on a plane, are you really expecting the flight attendants to get you out of there in an emergency? I’m not.

    I flew unaccompanied many times a year as a child – totally easily 100 times in my childhood. I would have MUCH MUCH MUCH (there is not enough space on this blog to type all the muches) preferred to sit with other kids than with boring adults. This is a very much wanted (by the children) segregation by age. I may take issue with the reasons but certainly not the result.

  21. The thing is that airline policies are usually designed around facilitating safety procedures in case of an emergency — things that actually can and do go wrong on airline flights. So it’s disturbing that they’d make an exception to this — even though Donna’s probably right that most kids seated together could take care of themselves, it is still less reliably safe than having an adult nearby — based on an IMAGINARY danger.

    And I have to think that even if the kids are happier, it does make life harder for the flight attendants when you get a gaggle of kids together with no adults. If you have a family with several kids, they have parents. If you have several unaccompanied kids together, the likelihood is that they will need some (ahem) “attention” from the flight attendants that they would otherwise not need. I’m not thinking about the convenience of the attendants here, but of the requirements of the other paying passengers. So that would be one possible reason why it’s not “common sense” to put them together, though we could certainly argue all day long about the merits of it. Still, if reasonable people can disagree over it, then it’s probably not a matter of mere “common sense.”

  22. “So it’s disturbing that they’d make an exception to this — even though Donna’s probably right that most kids seated together could take care of themselves, it is still less reliably safe than having an adult nearby — based on an IMAGINARY danger.”

    It’s also based on the IMAGINARY adult who WILL help a child traveling alone if there is some danger. Some will and some won’t. Much will depend on the leadership qualities of the adult sitting directly around the child. Those who take over in times of crisis will help the child. Those who are panicked themselves and have no idea what they are doing are not going to take on another burden – although they may very well help a child in an emergency in which they feel more comfortable and in control.

    Actually, I think having the kids all together is best for safety. While some random adult sitting in the same row as the child MAY help, the only people that the kids can definitely count on are the flight attendants, whose responsibilty they are. If the kids are spread out all over the plane, the flight attendants may not be able to round them all up to make sure they all get off safely. If they are all in one place, the flight attendant in charge need only go to one area.

  23. And let’s be reasonable, I’ve never been on a plane that had a whole gaggle of kids flying alone. You may get one or two small families (4-5 kids max) but certainly not anything that would be considered a gaggle.

  24. Fair enough, Donna.

  25. When I flew alone they grouped us together and they gave us and the escort one kids paid for took us all to our next flight after our layover. (turned out we were all going to the same summer camp) Most of the time there aren’t that many UA minors on a single flight though so It doesn’t seem like it will really affect anything.

  26. Sad that it took a lawsuit.

  27. @Jessi. I can’t offer any advice except, maybe, to move. We’ve moved to the boonies so that it would take something very exceptional for any involvement to occur. We’re working on fencing in our yard so that they can play outdoors all they want even without us watching (although we MIGHT be inclined to put up cameras).

    I don’t know what else to say, except this, and I hope Lenore approves: anyone who would bother you by sicking CPS on you just because they don’t approve of your parenting, I can’t even begin to say how I feel about such people. We are not supposed to wish harm on anyone, but let’s face it–we all have people whom we dislike so much we all but wish that they’d go the way of the dinosaur. For me, it’s such people like this: and not just the ones whom I think would call me, but would call ANYBODY. The contempt I have for them is almost immeasurable. I don’t wish to get along with them, I wish to run them out of town on a rail.

    This I will say: parent how YOU think your children should be parented. Don’t parent from a defensive stance: that is, only concerning yourself with preventing CPS from coming around even if it means parenting what is, for you, the wrong way. If it’s legal to leave a child outdoors in a fenced-in area while you clean, do it. Stand up for yourself. Otherwise, the meddlers win. (At times it feels like they have won, though, doesn’t it?)

    That’s how I look at it anyway: either I can parent however I please 100%, or I don’t want to parent any at all. It’s not that I don’t love my children, but I take very seriously the idea that part of the core of being a parent to start with is being the leader in your home, and NOT by committee. If I can’t do it that way in the absolute (granting the exception for such things as molestation or beating with a wood plank, obviously), I’d just assume not do it at all.

  28. I am saddened by amount of venom that is spilled in comments in this article.
    For more than a century american families traveled as they like it, and now suddenly in 2010 we must feel like pariahs on the plane and hoarded into some “family compartment” like we are in Saudi Arabia or something.

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2010-08-25-familyflying26_ST_N.htm#uslPageReturn

  29. Trying to reach out to you on a personal matter.
    (My friend who is an editor loves your work).
    If you could write back it would be great.

  30. That is so crazy!!! My husband travels alot for work and he will feel so sad if they were to move a kid away from him because he is a male!!! so sad.

    Question? I have prapared my little guy to start Kindergarten, he is a very independent kid, but he is crying everyday when he gets on the bus. Any advice on how to help him get over this?

    You can read more about it on my blog too…
    http://www.mudpiesformommy.com

  31. In over 100 flights (most of them long-haul) in my lifetime, I have never seen unaccompanied kids cause even half the headaches for flight crews as some labour-intensive adults. In 2002 I was on a flight full of sports teams aged 13-14. Should have been a recipe for mayhem. It was: the “businessman” who had decided to fly economy rang the crew-summoning buzzer every time the kids made so much as a peep, and got drunker and more belligerent as the flight progressed.

    Babies on planes are a pain because they cry, but that’s not their fault. Kids on planes are almost invariably well-behaved–especially if they’re unaccompanied. Adults on planes display some of the most brazen, spoiled, bad behaviour I’ve seen in any setting.

  32. @PJ, if that’s the attitude you showed to the “brats” you were seated with, maybe that explains the juice spill.

    Seriously, I hate it when people generalize about any group of people–kids, teens, parents, or the elderly–based on one experience. I freely admit that before my kids were born, I thought all babies cried continuously on airplanes. It was only after I flew with babies of my own that I realized in the past, I’d only *noticed* them when they were crying.

    A couple of years ago, I sat (on a Southwest flight, so no preassigned seats) with two unaccompanied kids of about 10. (They didn’t know each other.) I introduced myself in a friendly way and then promised not to bother them. We eventually wound up having a really nice conversation anyway. Both kids were as pleasant and well-mannered as any I’ve ever met. So, no, not only “brats” fly by themselves.

  33. Bravo for him for taking them to court.

  34. Best flight I EVER had was as a UM from Canada to England (8 hrs). It was in the days of WardAir, and Mr. Ward’s grandson was also travelling UM.

    We were all grouped together, as was the airline’s policy, but because Mr. Ward’s grandson was on board, we were all grouped together into first class! It was GREAT, lol.

    That said, I have mixed feelings about this new policy, because it does smell of “well, if we can’t keep them away from those terrible molesters (men) without being called sexists, we will have to keep them away from women too just to make sure that none of those sick pervs can get them”

    Not a win because of the thought process behind the policy, not because of the policy itself (which I rather agree with).

  35. Flights within and to and from US may only have a few UMs, but when I was a kid, living in africa and going to boarding school in UK, our flights at the beginning and end of vacation were packed with UMs; sometimes up to half the passengers were UMs. We were usually grouped together, for multiple reasons: so that we could all be supervised by just one or two flight attendants, so that we could entertain each other, and so that we didn’t annoy the other passengers (because the last thing most of us wanted to do was sleep).

    I really don’t think any random adult passenger should be expected to help out the UM sitting next to them – some people are just not kid-friendly, or competent. We have to pay the airline extra for a UM, over and above the adult fare, so the flight attendants should be doing something for that extra fare!

  36. As a young kid, I flew unaccompanied quite often. I remember one incident in particular that always comes to mind when I hear about people pre-judging others. I was about twelve, and had been seated next to a huge black man with multilple facial piercings. The poor guy was so big he was kind of wedged into the sesat sideways.

    Anyway, to twelve-year-old me, he looked kind of alarming, but I decided that was just jumping to conclusions and that I should mind my business and quietly read my book.

    I had a big bag of candy for the trip, which I had been casually munching for some time. I noticed the guy next to me was watching me more and more intently. I started to get more and more nervous, until he finally said “Kid, I’ll give you a dollar for some of your candy.”

    Boy, did I feel silly then. We ended up sharing the bag (for free – I’d packed tons of candy), and talking casually the rest of the trip.

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