Dan McCluskie, a nurse from Wagga Wagga, Australia (yes, it is a real place, I Googled it) was on a flight to Sydney this June when airline staff accused him of being a child molester.
Not in so many words, mind you – but by a Qantas stewardess who made him swap seats with a female passenger.
Dan was seated next to a 10-year-old girl, who was traveling without her parents. In keeping with Qantas policy, the stewardess swapped the 31-year old with a female passenger – in a way that drew considerable attention to the process.
“There were people that looked during the actual move,” Dan explained to the Brisbane Times. “People looked at me or looked around because there was a bit of a ruckus at the back of the plane.”
“It was as if I had this sign I couldn't see above my head that said 'child molester' or 'kiddie fiddler', whereas the female passenger who moved did the gracious thing and moved to protect the greater good of the child."
This comes just weeks after another passenger – a firefighter – was moved away from two unaccompanied young passengers on a Virgin flight, in an action a Sydney law professor claimed: “effectively places all men in the category of potential offender.”
In the sex positive sphere, perhaps this isn’t an entirely revolutionary concept – after all, tropes like “all men are potential rapists” still get carted out with alarming regularity. But in the “real world” is this policy sexist and discriminatory? Most would argue that it is.
“I think it absolutely sucks; it's totally and utterly discriminatory in my mind,” explains Dan McCluskie.
In addition to being deeply embarrassing and humiliating for those men forced to move to meet this policy, questions are also raised about how effective this strategy is in protecting kids.
“The only thing that will make a child safer on a plane,” Joe Tucci, chief executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation, “is how much supervision the staff offer.”
“If a child is going to be harmed or hurt it's probably going to be by someone closer to them than a stranger on a flight,” echoes Dan.
But Qantas, and other airlines, argue that their policy of preventing minors from sitting next to men stems largely from the requests of the parents who let their children fly unaccompanied.
“The policy reflects parents' concerns,” explained a Qantas spokesperson.
So what do you think of this policy? Is it discriminatory and sexist, or reasonable given the circumstances? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.