Australian airlines’ policies that keep unaccompanied children seated away from men have come under fire for being sexist, sparking claims of discrimination.
The Australian airlines’ policies came to international attention last week when two separate incidents brought to light the Australian airlines’ policies, CNBC reported. The cases, which were reported in Australian media, involved men who were sitting next to unaccompanied minors were asked to change seats with a female.
One of those passengers, a Sydney firefighter, was on a Virgin Australia flight when he was asked to leave his window seat that was next to two boys, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. He offered to change to the aisle so the boys could look out the window, but, just before taking off, a flight attendant told him he would have to move entirely because he couldn’t sit next to the minors.
The Australian airline’s policies garnered international headlines and even led to a new Twitter hashtag, #VirginDiscrimination. Shortly after the man’s story was told, another passenger came forward to share a similar story about flying on Qantas. This man was also forced to switch seats with a female rather than sit next to unaccompanied minors.
Virgin Australia responded to its incident using the company blog, stating that the rule forbidding men to sit next to unaccompanied minors is “a long-standing policy initially based on customer feedback.” The company added that it did not intend to discriminate and is now reviewing the policy.
Though Virgin Australia tried to take back the claims, the Australian airlines’ policies have already unleashed a torrent of PR damage to the two companies. The incidents have spawned protests against the companies and even led The Atlantic to say that, to Virgin Australia and Qantas, all men are potential pedophiles.