Virgin Airlines Australia moved firefighter from seat next to boys because men can't be seated next to unaccompanied children

An Australian firefighter named Johnny McGirr was told to move seats on his Virgin Airlines because he'd been seated next to two unaccompanied boys. The airline's policy is reportedly that men may not be seated next to children traveling without adults, though women may be. McGirr believed the policy presumes that all men are presumed paedophiles, and wrote about it in a blog post called My Virgin experience as a Paedophile!, in which he publishes the Virgin policy provided to him by a company rep: "Unaccompanied children will have spare seats allocated next to them when they are flying. In the case of a full plane then a female will be sat next to the children."

Here's his account of how it happened:

The fasten seat belt sign was illuminated and we were clear for takeoff. Then the stewardess approached me again.

‘Sir we are going have to ask you to move’

‘Why’, I said.

‘Well, because you are male, you can’t be seated next to two unaccompanied minors’.

Shocked, I replied, ‘ Isn’t this sexist and discriminatory?’

She replied, ‘I am sorry, but that is our policy’.

I just hate this stuff. I've gotten the weird looks when I take my daughter to the playground, and I've found myself having minor anxiety when her friends fall down and need help or a hug. In situations where children and adults mix, men are often presumptive suspects (this goes double for any place where the Murdoch press has spent 20 years publishing innumerate stranger-danger scare stories that ignore the reality that most child abusers attack their own children or the children in their care). Here's Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy's take on it:

Man on Plane Must Change Seats — He’s Next to 2 Boys. Australians Outraged!


  1. It’s crazy.  Sometimes when I’m out in public with my boys, hugging or showing affection, goofing off within normal social boundaries, people look at us funny.  But I won’t stop loving them.  We need more strong benevolent males, and more of it on public display.  Normal shouldn’t be reserved for inside the house.  This world is run by fear, and the way to deal with it is to behave fearlessly.

  2. This is a horrible policy, but I’m finding it difficult to not sympathize with Virgin Airlines.  You can have 999 regular guys hanging out next to kids who aren’t their own, but it only takes one sicko who gropes a sleeping kid. Virgin loses tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars through blaring headlines and stern looking talking heads.

    1. Pfff… not gonna happen. Almost certainly; that kind of crap overwhelmingly occurs behind closed doors.

      Another near-certainty is making utter dicks of themselves with such a policy.

      1. There are plenty of reports of children being molested on airplanes. Try Google:

        Insisting that something that does happen can’t happen is a way of allowing it to happen.

        1. There’s nearly as many results for “brainwashed with fluoride”. Lots of google results doesn’t mean diddly-squat.

          Care to pick out some concrete examples? It’s your claims, you back them up. That’s how debate works.

          1. Right, because a news story on CNN or the Navy Times about a child being molested on a flight has exactly the same degree of credibility as a blog ranting about fluoride and brainwashing.

            So here’s one example: “Northwest Airlines and the FBI are investigating charges that a 10-year-old girl traveling alone on a flight was molested by another passenger. The girl, who is from Bay City, Michigan, was traveling as an unaccompanied minor August 4 on Northwest Flight 1186 from Kansas City, Missouri, to Detroit.”

            Here’s another: “A woman on a long haul flight to New York was molested twice after she was told by the crew she could not change seats following the first attack. The victim, who has not been identified, said she had fallen asleep and woke up to find a man groping her breast.”

            And another: “Curtis Keith Cooper, of Princeville, Hawaii, was sentenced today to 97 months in prison for molesting a minor while aboard a flight from Hawaii to California in July 2003, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Florence T. Nakakuni.”

            And: “A cursory search in Lexis Nexis, a news search engine, turns up 10 instances of child molestation cases aboard airplanes from the past couple of decades, though there have almost certainly been more. It’s likely that many other cases did not make the news, or were never reported by the children.”

            I don’t think we need many concrete examples to show that the “billions to one” argument is fatally flawed.

          2. @Bodhipaksa:disqus  – there, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

            Although I note only two of your examples actually apply here — in the second, the victim was an adult, and the fourth is a scare piece based on “a cursory search”, so no better than your original post.

          3. Actually, the 4th example is not a qualified one either;

            “The pastor — who was not in his assigned seat — says his hand only brushed over the girl.”

            Aside from that, the pastor who was the accused in the 4th example had personal ties to Pat Robertson and others, a sure-fire red-flag raiser had he disclosed that information. 

            So for all your examples only one could stand, and that airline flies 500,000 unaccompanied minors a year as of 2001, your example is from 2001. 

            Billions may have been an exaggeration, but lightning strikes on children are far more frequent than what the policy in question (does not) protect children from.

            “Analysts and airline executives put the number at less than one per cent of the 2.4 billion people who board a commercial aircraft each year, which could still be around 20 million.”

            That’s from an article that discusses, but does not conclude, that there is a significant chance that children not seated near adults are more at risk of injury and death in the case of a mid-air emergency, such as cabin depressurization, which is more common than predation on flights. The example provided is an incident wherein two children seated alone almost asphyxiated due to being unable to reach oxygen masks that dropped upon depressurization.

    2.  Yeah, that’s not the statistic. The likelihood of a) a pedophile sitting next to an unaccompanied minor and b) attempting something are in the billion-to-one against odds. There are vanishingly small numbers of grown men who engage in pedophilia in the world. Their numbers seem larger because the ones that practice their perversion (as opposed to “closeted” ones) have often worked out lengthy techniques to gain access to cultivate and abuse children.

      Of those people, an insignificant number would try something on a kid he doesn’t know.

      1. FAIL! Since you are freaking wrong you are the big winner of a whole page of rape statistics from RAINN

        Breakdown by Gender and Age


        1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1

        17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1

        9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.2

        Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race:1

        All women: 17.6%White women: 17.7%Black women: 18.8%Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%Mixed race women: 24.4%


        About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.1

        In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.22.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1


        15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3

        29% are age 12-17.44% are under age 18.380% are under age 30.312-34 are the highest risk years. Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

        7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4

        3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

        In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5

        Of these, 75% were girls.Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

        93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6

        34.2% of attackers were family members.58.7% were acquaintances.Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

        Effects of Rape

        Victims of sexual assault are:7

        3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

        6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

        13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

        26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

        4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

        Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

        In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped.8 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

        This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:

        Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.

        This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:

        Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.

        1. As you say, 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. Surely the responsible thing for Virgin Airlines to do, in order to minimize the possibility of sexual assault occurring on their flights, is make sure every child sits next to a stranger?

        2. Uh… I admit, I only read like 90% of that, but I’m not seeing relevance to the statement you’re responding to?

        3. Got any statistics on sexual assaults directly resulting from sitting next to an unknown man on an airplane?

        4. You know, irrelevant facts are still irrelevant in large numbers.

          Nothing in your post even remotely implies that Glenn’s comment was wrong, let alone “freaking wrong”.

        5.  Most of that post is irrelevant. Relevant is the fact that 93% of sexual assaults on minors are commited by people known to them. Missing is the percentage (estimated of course) of kids that are sexually assaulted. if we had that number we could get a number on the percentage of kids overall who are attacked by strangers. Then we can make further assumptions based on facts like most pedophiles are serial assaulters- meaning that for every say five assaults we have just one assaulter, and of course there’s the whole “in public” thing to remember.

          The number of pedophiles really is vanishingly small.

      2. Try Googling [molested on airplane]. There’s no shortage of results. And then consider that perhaps, somewhere along the line, you’ve made a disastrously wrong assumption.

        1. Try reading the thread before posting. Your point has already been nicely refuted. In a nutshell, using your method, you could equally well conclude that [brainwashed by flouride] is rampant.

          1. I’d suggest that you yourself try reading the thread before posting. The OP wrote: “The likelihood of a) a pedophile sitting next to an unaccompanied minor and b) attempting something are in the billion-to-one against odds.”

            The OP argues on the basis of false assumptions of the rarity of pedophiles and the unlikelihood of them ending up next to unaccompanied minors. That those assumptions are false is easily demonstrated by seeing whether such cases have in fact happened. And that can be ascertained by visiting the link I provided.  These “mile-high molestations” are not common, but they do take place and are well documented, as can be seen by news articles in CNN, etc.

            If you are arguing that the evidence of blogs ranting about fluoride and brainwashing are of the same level of validity as mainstream news articles documenting cases of sexual abuse then you, sir, have problems.

          2. @Bodhipaksa:disqus — okay, great, we’ve established that it happens. Now, can you show that it happens with odds of more than the “billion-to-one against” you’re disputing?

            Considering that there are billions of passenger-flights* every year.

            * ie passengers, but counting multiple flights by one person separately. I found the rough figure easier to find.

          3. Actually the assessment can stand if all flights and flyers are considered. 

            At 2.5 billion commercial flyers per year there must be 2.5 incidents per year wherein an attacker was assigned seating next to a minor who was assigned seating.

            Since usually in these extremely rare attacks the attacker has moved closer to the victim, to seating unassigned to the attacker, I think you will find it extremely difficult to demonstrate 2.5 incidents per year globally that fit the parameters the policy addresses.

            I think it would be easier to find examples of persons asked to move, in front of others, on the basis that they may be predator. And how many of those go unreported?

            In any case, the social costs are not tallied in that manner, much of that cost is tied up in the very existence of the policy based on false fears.

    3. Why would that be Virgin’s fault? It’s surely down to the parents who send kids out on airplanes without any guidance.

      I have also heard that airlines make it a policy not to seat male/female singles together. Hello, ever heard of homosexuality?

      And on some flights, where there is space, who is to say that single perv couldn’t move himself into a position to do something weird to a neighbour regardless of airline guidelines.

      I think it would be easier to simply tranquillise all passengers, load them into boxes and treat them as baggage. No worry about shoe bombers or perverts. And you can pack loads more people in if they don’t need legroom and a seat and table etc…

      No “fear of flying” or vomiting in bad conditions. No need to carry food/drink/toilet facilities on the plane. 

      I’m amazed Ryanair haven’t already tried it.

      1. > I have also heard that airlines make it a policy not to seat male/female singles together. Hello, ever heard of homosexuality?

        Having flown on business quite a lot, I can say I’ve never personally witnessed anybody being reseated because they were sitting next to someone of the opposite gender.  I’ve never flown Qatar, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the stewardesses check the martial status of every passenger and segregate the singles before every flight. 

        I have to admit that there are times I would prefer the Fifth Element style airline seating instead. 

    4. You have 999 regular Muslims, but you know you can’t be certain about that *one* that might be a terrorist. You see, there’s just something wrong with that whole line of thought.

      1. more like you have 99 million Muslims, but you know you can’t be certain about that *one* that might be a terrorist. 

  3. Well on the one hand, men are statistically far more likely to do something dodgy…

    But on the other, if you’re going to heed statistics, then you’d only allow strangers to sit next to kids, cause they’re far more at risk from people they know.

    Can we arrange to seize our world back from the tiny-minded wowser fuckwit corner-bevellers anytime soon, you think?

    1. Hey, Kimmo… do you like movies about gladiators?…

      …you ever been in a cockpit before?…

      …you ever seen a grown man naked?…

      …have you ever been in a… in a Turkish prison?

      just askin

  4. If they’re so worried about kids being molested on their planes, why let them fly unaccompanied in the first place?

  5. I have to object. The article states ” McGirr believed the policy presumes that all men are presumed paedophiles…” yet does not criticize that statement. The policy does NOT presume that. It presumes that the ratio of male to female pedophiles is so great as to justify the policy. Whether the research justifies the policy is the story here and the poster did not post any research regarding those stats.

    A ten second Google search returned a 10:1 male:female ratio, but I don’t have the time to look further. A blogger on BoingBoing, however, should.

    Assuming the ratio is 10:1, I assert the policy is justified.

    I am a father of two kids whom I also take to the playground and pool, etc. on my own and I, too, have felt that awkwardness of (imagined?) stares or suspicion. However, at some level of disparity between the #s of male and female pedophiles, this policy becomes justified. The question is…what level? 2:1? 10:1? 100:1?

    Put another way, when a child is molested on a plane and the airline is sued for taking custody of the child but not sufficiently protecting the child, the question will be “So you knew that the child was alone and that absent other information, men are 10 times more likely to be pedophiles than women, yet you failed to do something as simple as reassign the seats so a woman was sitting next to the child?”

    To be clear, I am not saying that the gender of the adult should be the sole factor if there are any know statistics that further help you determine similar disparities of chances of being a pedophile.

    All I am saying is that is that the poster missed the point of the policy and missed a chance to write a better piece with a little bit of research.

    1. The policy favours a presumption of protection that is not statistically offered just because there are more male offenders than female offenders. You can’t use that stat alone to claim that the policy protects without it being supported by statistical data showing how often or likely it would protect by examining the historical data of how often children fly unaccompanied, how often they are seated alone, beside or across from females or beside or across from males, and how statistically probable that the male or female would be a pedophile after those considerations.

      If the airline spent the cash to do that instead of just knee-jerking on the occasion that someone complained that a child was seated next to an adult male (a far more likely impetus for such a policy, or a liability nerd foreseeing such complaint) they would probably find that it is so statistically improbable that a pedophile wold be seated next to an unaccompanied child that no protection is offered by the policy.

      There is presumption in the person affected by the policy, by those who witness the policy being enforced, and it furthers the problem that the presumption represents, alienation of association between groups that should be free to associate in public, without suspicion, if not without scrutiny. Not only was the gentleman offended, but the boys were denied an opportunity to converse with what was likely a good role model. It cuts both ways.

      I’m a father of two boys myself, and I think they will be better protected by a society that forms it’s policies rationally instead of on reflex to the baseless fears of a few.

      1. My ex- was denied entry to an afternoon showing of “Finding Nemo” at a cinema in Southampton, UK, a decade ago on the grounds that – despite being _heavily pregnant_ – she was “not accompanied by a child”. The reasoning given by the cinema was that only a paedophile would want to watch a cartoon in the afternoon.

        This is beyond ludicrous on a number of levels.

    2.  That’s a totally irrational justification for treating males and females differently.  Let’s say that theft was a 10:1 ratio for men to women.  Should all men be searched before they leave a store just because men are more likely than women to steal?  You are presuming all men are thieves if you enact a policy like that because you are treating all men as though they have committed theft and must prove that they are not thieves before you let them leave the store.  Just because most pedophiles are men doesn’t justify treating all men like pedophiles. 

      What  if we enacted this type of policy in other places?  Forget about men being school teachers.  Heck, forget about men being firefighters, like the guy in the article is.  You can’t have a man running into a burning building to save unaccompanied children, he might be a pedophile.

    3. Statistically, a child is far more likely to be abused by a family member than by a random stranger (much higher than a 10:1 ratio here!) so perhaps the airline’s new policy should be to make you sit in a different section of the plane than your two kids.

    4. … pedophile … pedophile … pedophile … pedophile … pedophile …


      For fuck’s sake, if you’re gonna wear out a word like that, at least use the right one. A pedophile has a mental health problem that makes hir attracted to minors. A child molester actually molests children.

      Not all pedophiles are molesters, any more than all non-pedophiles are rapists — and not all molesters are pedophiles, many are just opportunist psychos, or get a kick out of a power differential.

      This sort of gross failure to distinguish between the disorder and the act undoubtedly contributes to pedophiles being too scared to seek psychological help, because they (justifiably) expect to be treated like child molesters, guilty until proven innocent. And, without the help they need to manage their urges, they’ll be more likely to act on them.

      Nice work.

    5. Also, we shouldn’t let them sit next to African Americans either, because everyone knows African Americans are 7 times more likely to have prison records. And we can’t have our children sitting next to possible criminals!

      1. Actually, this took place in Australia, which is almost entirely populated with criminals. So, the likelihood is close to 100%. :)

    6. The ratio of gender in abuse is irrelevant if the number of abusers and the potential of abuse is so slight as to make no difference. If there were a) routine abuse of unaccompanied minors or b) tens of millions of roaming child abusers then it might make sense.

    7. Children are more often abused by someone they know or a family member.
      With stats like this we should remove all children from their homes and turn them into transients …. to keep them safe.


    8. Well, no, I wouldn’t say the posted missed the point of the policy at all. How could anybody miss it? It’s simply that the premise is flawed, pace your legalism.

  6. So, what, this is violating the right of men everywhere to sit next to unaccompanied minors on airplanes? Even if the benefit is vanishingly small, the cost is smaller yet, so WHO CARES.

    1. I, for one, would care about being treated as a potential criminal, a sex offender no less, in a public place. If the concern is for the safety of the unaccompanied children, wouldn’t it make more sense to move them to a place of perceived safety, without insulting the innocent traveler? 

    2.  So, what, anytime the loss of freedom is smaller than the gain of security, we SHOULDN’T CARE?

      (Also, I do not accept your analysis of the cost/benefit ratio in the first place.  The cost is much more than simply “men can’t sit next to unaccompanied minors on airplanes” and the benefit is much smaller than… I guess you didn’t actually describe the presumed benefit.  I’ll try to infer one from your post, let’s see:  “no airline will be sued for failing to enact reasonable policies to prevent unaccompanied minors from being molested.”  My words, not yours, but the so-called benefit is even smaller than described above. )

    3. Actually, he booked that seat. Why should he give it up, just because of some irrational witch hunt? Let them find new seats for the boys. Or offer an upgrade to first class.

      1.  Upgrade to first class? When you can have a passenger wrestled off the plane by air marshals at the next available airport if the get all uppity about ‘customer service’ and ‘politeness’ and other Bolshevist nonsense like that? Good lord, no…

  7. If you’re going to quote statistics, then don’t be selective. The statistics also say that “at least 85%” of the children that are assaulted are assaulted by relatives or people they know.

    Abuse Much Closer to Home: New Study Reveals Parents May Be Misinforming Kids

    We are allowing media companies to whip us up into terrified misinformed idiots in the name of profit.

    If you don’t like the policy, at least tweet about it to the airline’s president:

      1. But in your post further up you quoted “34.2% of attackers were family members.58.7% were acquaintances.Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.” under the children category. If you’re going to throw statistics around please standardize on what portion you’re going to use. I think the 2/3rds statistic is an overall figure, perhaps.

  8. Um, I’m not feeling the outrage here.   I tend to get apprehensive whenever I see an unaccompanied child on a plane because I deal with sex offenders and I know the potential problems involved.   By allowing that child on the plane, the airline assumes all responsibility for that child’s safety.   Restrictions like this aren’t unreasonable.

    1. You’ll probably know then the rarity of children being assaulted by people they don’t know, compound that by the likeliness of a child being assaulted on a plane and bingo, you have over judicious regulations that suppose everyone is a potential criminal and curtail our rights.

    2. If you’re going to make decisions like this on the basis of something that’s such a ridiculously remote possibility, and justify it on the basis of the child’s safety, then you can’t be selective about which ridiculously unlikely risks you will protect the child from.

      Choking on food is another highly unlikely risk the airline must (“must”) consider.  Are men or women more likely to be able to competently administer the Heimlich manoeuvre?

      Infectious disease: are men or women more likely to fly despite being ill?

      The need to evacuate: are men or women more likely to be able to help an injured child off the plane?

      Injury from falling overhead luggage:  are men or women more likely to put heavy hand luggage in the overhead locker and then close it improperly?

      Exploding laptop batteries:  are men or women more likely to be unaware of, or ignore, product recalls from computer manufacturers?

      Anaphylaxis: are men or women more likely to pack a snack with peanuts in it?

      EDIT: come to think of it, the infectious disease one is actually probably not all that unlikely. If you could figure out a reliable profile for who is most likely to fly despite having an infectious illness, then avoiding seating those people next to children, the elderly, or those with immune deficiencies would probably trump all other considerations.

      Maybe they could just put anti-vaccination propaganda in the departure lounge, observe who is loudly agreeing with it, and seat them in a special plague-rat section of the plane…

      1. I thought if we passed enough laws and sued enough nothing bad would ever happen to anyone?

    3. Even if someone were a child molester, and by a large coincidence they were flying solo and got seated next to some unaccompanied children, it seems almost impossible to carry out an attack without attracting a huge amount of attention.  There will be people seated all around you, not to mention stewardesses walking the aisles and probably even an Air Marshal on the flight. 

      I mean the flight would have to be full or nearly full for this situation to arise in the first place, since if there was an empty row you would just move the person to that row and improve the flight for everybody.

      1. See, this measure is there to protect would-be child molesters from assault by their fellow passengers.

        1. so we begin to seperate man from women, next step is to to put a veil on both women and man and last is not to go out anymore while promoting freedom?

  9. I’m a scoutmaster, and yeah – the same applies, BUT – here’s the thing.  According to pretty standard “child protection” materials, he’s totally fine.  1) there were two kids (the rule of 3 applies), and 2) They are OBVIOUSLY in plain view of at least a dozen people. Even if you have to have 1-on-1 conversations with a kid, you have them where everyone can see them.  As long as the stewardess kept and eye out for the kids being uncomfortable or in obvious distress, I think it would have been totally fine.

    Granted, as an employee, not enforcing policy could have cost her her job…  and thats probably more why she did it.  In that case, Virgin needs to take a child protection class.

      1.  Yup.. I said “pretty standard” because I’ve been involved in high school education that had similar materials, and when going over materials with people involved in youth sports – it’s pretty much the same thing…  One adult, two kids minimum (one not your own kid), preferably two unrelated adults, stay in view… blah blah blah

  10. Women are far more likely to kill people with poison than men are.  That’s why, when I fly Virgin, I only accept meals and drinks from the male flight attendants.  There is absolutley nothing insulting in taking this precaution against the female flight attendants who may be trying to poison me.  It’s totally reasonable, backed up by statistics!

      1. “backed up by statistics” … sounds like bob needs more fiber in his mathematical diet!

        … I’ll see myself out.

  11. Australian Ex-flight attendant here – It’s not just Virgin airlines, this is pretty standard policy across most airlines worldwide.

    That doesn’t make it any better, just noting the fact.

    Also, not necessarily the cabin crew’s fault – it’s set-in-stone policy(though apparently under review with virgin) at this point, and therefore, the Crew member that asked him to move, while they could have handled the situation a little better, had no choice in acting on it – going against policy is generally less than beneficial to one’s continued employment in the aviation industry. Going against policy while on the job is a very big no-no. It’s just like the phone thing – our opinions of how stupid and unnecessary it is are irrelevant, we have to enforce it, because generally, we’d like to keep our jobs.

      1. BoJo’s been a source of old-fashioned buffoonery since long before Mad Men came along:

        Yes, he’s a dyed-in-the-blond-floppy-wool Tory; yes, his policies are average at best, as British politicians go; but he’s amusing, so he wins elections.

        Given the choice between boring scum and funny scum, we vote for the funny scum.

    1. HA! “but he’s our father!” 

      I would have had to consider demanding that upgrade to avoid a complaint, nah I’m kidding I would sit with my kids in compact class err, commercial class

  12. It’s really sad that all men have to carry the consequences of the rotten apples. In an era when- thankfully- more and more men are getting fully involved with child care, it’s frustrating to see such men face open discrimination. 

    However, it’s a tough situation all around: Paedophilia is such a horrific crime and it appears to be so prevalent. Yet we have to find a way to address this without launching witch hunts over it.

    That said, it’s a bit ironic that, for once, the outrage is over NOT being seated next to minors ;)

    1. it appears to be so prevalent

      “Appears” is the key word here. We can address that by encouraging people to pay the scandal rags and yellow journalists no mind.

    2. Child molestation from a “predator” is kind of like a shark attack.  Statistically it is incredibly unlikely and only affect a handful of people a year, but it makes for sensational headlines and get tons of media coverage.

  13. yeah, I’ve always felt a little awkward when we are out someplace with the kids and someone else’s kid needs help getting down from something they are climbing on and their parent isn’t around and so they ask me or I offer… doesn’t stop me from doing it, but it sucks that I have to feel that someone may think I am trying to do something to their child.

    1. I was flying by myself and got seated next to a little girl, about 8 yrs old, who was also flying unaccompanied (the flight attendant had her on a list and was checking on her).  She seemed a little nervous and lonely so I asked her her name and she said “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”  “Ok honey, that’s good.” I said. 

      Well within a few minutes after that I couldn’t get her to stop talking.  She was going to see her grandmother.  She wanted me to read to her, I was playing games with her.  I was busy with her the whole flight.  She was very sweet I must admit.

      As I was getting off the flight two woman approached me and said “You are such a good father!”.  lol!

      1. And you didn’t even molest her? Good on you.

        Look here folks, this Mark Guy didn’t molest a little girl even though he wasn’t removed from her presence during a flight! Amazing!? Right!?

        No, the commendable part is his pleasant demeanor, not the absence of felonious assault.

        Thing about that is, were dividing up people for the purpose of protecting them from unlikely aberrations to follow the track such policies seem to project, then Mark eventually becomes the exception, not the rule.

        Think about it, it’s only slightly slippery slope in an information age where you hear about every aberration and fewer and fewer standard, or what should be standard, interactions. 

        A few years ago I was visited by family (parents) from the southern US, our middle class Canadian urban neighbourhood fascinated them, all those kids running around. 2 said hi to me as I knew their parents and them, as me an family walked to the park.

        I saw them marveling at the kids especially when we were greeted by the ones that knew me, thought they were just amused to see kids enjoying themselves when in the summer where they are only the hardy have fun outdoors due to the heat. 

        Nope, they were fascinated by the fact that most were unsupervised despite being between 7 or so to teens. 

        Shit changes, especially around fear. Here, the people who had witnessed me playing outside unsupervised from 6 years on, unmolested, were shocked to see it for kids today. 

        It’s changing here too, lotta people in Canada now might tsk tsk to hear of a 7 year old allowed to run free.

        That’s fucked up, because I do not believe the actual threat level has raised.

  14. While I agree that society does tend to place too great suspicion on men who interact with kids, I’m not wholly against this policy.  I flew alone as a kid, and as a young adult, and I know that I really preferred having a strange woman sit next to me than a strange man.  I traveled across Turkey on bus as a young adult and was *very happy* that the driver would not allow any men to sit beside me (and I was placed up at the front, just behind the driver).

     Did I think that some stranger was going to rape me as I traveled?  Of course not.    But I also had a lot of experience of having to deal with men hitting on me in public, and being trapped next to someone who might make me feel very uncomfortable with his comments and (worst case scenario) unwanted bodily contact would have made travel really unpleasant. 

    As an adult I now have the self-confidence to tell off men who make unwanted passes.  When I was thirteen I didn’t.  Might a strange woman have made a pass at me?  Sure.  But it never happened and, I believe, is pretty statistically unlikely.

    1.  As a “young adult” you didn’t want men who might “hit on” you to sit next to you. How old were you when you traveled in Turkey?

      A man trying to hit on a 12 year old is a pedophile. A man trying to hit on a “young adult” of 19 or 20 is not.

      1.  I was 18 when I was in Turkey, not a little kid!  I understand the distinction you’re making but my point is that I did fly alone when I was 11, 13, 15, 16 and from the age of 12 I was routinely harassed by adult men in other situations (where I could just keep walking, or get off the subway).  I don’t know if my youth was the turn on (ie that they were pedophiles) or simply that I had boobs and an ass and was an easy target, so they took advantage.  Ultimately whether they were pedophiles or just assholes was irrelevant.   The issue was that my youth made me emotionally vulnerable. 

        I agree that our society is a bit paranoid about adults preying on kids, but kids *are* young and do need a bit more protection.  I suspect that this is more true for pubescent girls than boys or younger girls, but it is hard to see how an airline could write a fair policy that addressed stages of sexual maturation in its customers.

  15. I guess you can add a fourth carrier to the list of Commonwealth carriers who have caused controversy since 2004 with policies like this:

    BA lost a lawsuit in 2010 and subsequently changed its policy. Qantas and Air New Zealand not changed its policies.

    In fact, it’s not even new for firefighters to face this kind of discrimination! A New Zealand “fire officer” reported having this problem in 2002,

  16. I understand the reaction, although like others I don’t feel the outrage. But I wonder: why is it relevant that this guy is a firefighter? Would it be different if he was a traveling salesman? Roman Catholic priest? Goldman banker? Are firefighters somehow more virtuous?

    1. I’m pretty sure a firefighter is statistically likely to be more virtuous than a Catholic Priest, both in terms of lives saved and in terms of less little boys molested. (and certainly more virtuous in terms of “willing to put their own lives at risk to save others”, which most Priests are never called on to do)

      -abs is less certain of the viruousity of traveling salesmen, and doesn’t think he even needs to state that anyone is more moral than a banker for Goldman  (sheesh, “Goldman”, really?  setting the bar a little low there aren’t you?)

    2. We trust him to run into a burning home, where he might be alone with an unaccompined minor and HE COULD MOLEST THEM!

    3. I cannot be certain, but his job could have required that he passed the ‘working with children’ checks that are compulsory for (or very likely to be held by) certain occupations within Australia. This would have made any (specious) requirement for him to move null and void.

      Additionally, from a cultural point of view, emergency services workers are highly respected within Australia. It adds considerably to the insult from that perspective.

      Basically, they picked on the wrong person.

  17. So… is there a single recorded case of a stranger molesting a child s/he was sat next to on a flight?

    Just wondering.

      1. Hm…

        First one:

        Senyonga had changed from his assigned seat, to sit next to the girl while she was asleep.

        So, he wasn’t sat next to her by the cabin crew, he moved later — thus showing the inefficacy of the very sort of policy under discussion here.

        Second one:

        Pilot molested Dubai schoolgirl in elevator

        Not on a flight, not relevant. That’s the headline, for Christ’s sake.

        The third is actually an example of the matter in question, sure.

        And the fourth… the first word of the headline:


        Not “girl”. So, again, not relevant.

        So, you’ve got one example, and an uncited claim implying we should multiply that number by 30-odd. Well, all I asked for was a single example, so I guess you’ve managed that.

        Right! Next question’s a harder one — how many times, in the history of airliners,  has a stranger had an opportunity to molest a child s/he was sat next to on a flight?

    1. Stop expecting them to use facts, we live in the age of emotional knee jerk decision making.

  18. This isn’t really a big deal in and of itself (the guy had to switch seats, BFD), it’s just a symptom of the larger cultural problem of institutionalized sexism. How do we fight that? Lobbying the airline to change its rules is like swatting a mosquito – it does nothing unless the messages that adult men aren’t bogeymen and baseless fear results in poor decisions get out in the media… and we all know how much the media loves to assuage fear. So… how can you take this incident and do something useful with it?

  19. Conversely, if it was a full flight and I was asked to swap seats and sit next to unaccompanied kids for the duration of a flight I would decline.  If I was forced to swap I would ask for a refund.  Sorry, just because I’m a woman doe s not mean it should be expected that I’d be okay to sit next to kids.  If the Airline is assuming the risk and they feel the only way to mitigate that risk is to keep adults away then they should have a policy that NO ONE can sit in the seats next to unaccompanied children and be prepared to eat the cost of not being able to sell those seats or pass the additional cost onto the adults paying for the flight.  Sorry!  The high cost of choosing to have kids.

  20. My first take on reading this was that it was sexist, but in a different way than expressed. If I am a flight attendant and will either have to  babysit two kids or hope that the third person in the row does some of it for me, I am gambling that a woman will be better at “mothering” them than a guy will be. Opening apple juice, making sure they have napkins, etc. etc.

    Or, possibly, they think all dudes want to diddle little kids.

    1. With a name like “Virgin,” they probably already think of themselves as a magnet for pedophiles. They’re going overboard to avoid a Daily Show segment-title pun.

  21. Unless the flight was completely booked, their policy would have moved a woman as well.  And having sat next to my own kids on numerous flights, the airline is doing you a favor.

  22. So as a woman travelling alone I’m far more likely to have to help babysit two kids than a man. That’s sexist. 

    1. My point.  The policy discriminates on many levels and only serves to make several people unhappy.

      1. Including the children themselves, for I would refuse to pass anything across unless they  said  ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ each time. 

  23. You could solve this particular problem by asking the adult  if  he would like to move to a better seat without giving a reason or move the child/children.

    1. And what if my idea of a better seat is NOT next to children?  On a full flight the Attendant would have to sell that line to both parties.

      1. First off, always put unaccompanied children in the back of the plane and try to keep a seat next to the children empty but if need be offer a woman an incentive to sit next to the child.

        $50 or $100 cash would work most of the time. There are women that would move just to help out for free even without being told the reason why.

        Or make the children’s parents pay for an empty seat. There are plenty of ways for the airline to avoid the problem.

  24. If this thinking is okay with you, then why not change the TSA policies and start profiling, because that’s exactly what we are doing here.  It’s the thought process here that bothers me, plus I’d be pissed at the insinuation that I am potentially a child molester. 

    1. TSA ought to be profiling. The lack of profiling reflected in carrying out invasive searches on 75 year-old women is one of the things that pisses people  off about TSA. Profiling actually works pretty well given a large enough sample. Here it seems absurd.

      1.  You obviously don’t know anything about racial profiling. Please read some Bruce Schneier and educate yourself before spreading mis-information. The short version is racial profiling does nothing but give terrorists a protected class to draw their operatives from.

        If you meant behavioral profiling, that is a different story and you should be more specific rather than spread misinformation.

  25. If seating men next to unaccompanied minors is such an issue then why did they let him book his flight with that seat? Or why did they let the kids get their flights booked (presumably by their parents or guardians) next to another adult? Shame on Virgin or any other airline for waiting until the plane is going to take off and then accusing a passenger  of being a possible sex offender based on his gender alone.

    “Excuse me sir, since you have a penis, you might be a sex offender who likes to touch children. You are going to have to move your seat far far away from these innocent children we sat next to you, and new were going to sit next to you for at least several weeks (if not months).”

    If you tried this with a woman the lawsuits would never end; “Exscuse me miss, since you have a uterus, you might be a prostitute who will corrupt children by your mere presence. You are going to have to move your seat far far away from these innocent children….”

    Or hey, here is an idea; the flight attendants can actually do their jobs and look at the boarding passes before the kids or the gentleman sits down and redirect him else where on the plane.

      1. Sorry, that was reactionary and infantile. Ignore my post above.

        However, I don’t recall ever checking a gender box when registering for a flight and I imagine optimizing the seating for a full flight is slightly more complicated then a farmer moving a rabbit, a wolf, and a head of lettuce across a river.

  26. Virgin acted correctly. I wouldn’t want my children seated next to adult strangers on a plane.  It’s very unfortunate, but children in this world are basically punching bags and sex toys for adults. This is a good policy (assuming that it also applies to adult women) which will prevent more harm to children than it does to adults. EDIT – I just noticed that the policy seems to discriminate against men in particular. It should be ALL adults.

    1. If you don’t want your kids seated next to any strangers, buy the whole row. Or fly with them.

      And realistically, kids in general are not “basically punching bags and sex toys for adults.” A very unfortunate few are, but parenting as if the entire world is gunning for your kids strikes me as incredibly difficult and joyless.

    2. ” I wouldn’t want my children seated next to adult strangers on a plane.”

      Then why would you have them flying alone?

    3. children in this world are basically punching bags and sex toys for adults

      If you actually believe that, then holy hell, you have some deep psychological issues.

    4.  > It’s very unfortunate, but children in this world are basically punching bags and sex toys for adults.

      Are you posting from ancient Greece or something?  WTF?

      Seriously, WTF?!?

    1. Get email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, grope genitalia, threaten, cajole, beguile. 

      1. If the kid is old enough to have email you need to have covered these things with the kids. Some kids are perhaps not equipped to travel alone.

        1.  Society is all about tradeoffs of individual rights for social good.  This is a minor imposition on an adult’s seating preference in an airplane. There is no real curtailment of a person’s freedoms here so it seems a very small thing to nitpick about. The requirement to drive on the righthand side of the road is a more intrusive demand than to switch seats on an airplane. Yet we all do it. (Well, maybe not so much in my hometown. )

          1. Absurd!

            The requirement to drive on one side of the road is not imposed for a ridiculous reason, and not only on one class of person. 

            Also, there is no net social good served by stigmatizing random males as likely molesters. Quite the reverse.

          2.  You still haven’t answered the ‘Then why would you have them flying alone?’ question. What’s the answer PLZ?

        2. And the fact is that children of all ages, backgrounds and intellectual ability can be preyed upon, because they are children. You must certainly inform your children, but that doesn’t mean your lessons are going to take.

          1. Don’t let them fly alone then. Or be out on public alone.

            I know very well that it is possible (common) to tell a child something Very Important about a million times and have them ignore it in the moment of truth. All parents know that. However, parenting is, in part, making the judgment of when your kids will do that and on what topics.

            Just to reiterate, but the whole row, or fly with them.

  27. I would pay good money to be moved away from kids on planes. Is there a way to ensure it applies to accompanied kids as well?

  28. Isn’t it pretty clear that this is a “Protect the Airline from Getting Sued” policy rather than a “Protect the Children from Pedophiles” policy? 

    1. You missed a line… the get pats on the back for being for proactive  in protecting the children from a hysterical society who thinks a penis makes your a molester.

    2. a “Protect the Airline from Getting Sued” policy…

      If that’s what it is, and it may well be, then it will fail on that ground.

      Statistically, the airlines are going to get more suits (and lose them) from men offended by the policy than from parents whose children have been molested.

      The first will happen (it happened to BA, who lost and then changed the stupid policy) again and again until the sexist policy disappears.

      The second won’t happen because the feared event is too vanishingly unlikely.

  29. In a world where no matter what happens, some group is always screaming: “Why didn’t somebody do something before this happened!?” this is somebody doing something. End of story.

  30.  Pretty standard?

    So standard that British Air abandoned the same stupid policy over a year ago!

    Yes, they had to be sued, and lose the case, to prompt them to change the idiotic, indefensible policy.

    The gentleman who sued them donated the proceeds to a child-protective services charity.

  31. I think people are missing the point.

    As a male who flies alone often, I can say without a doubt that I do not WANT to sit next to your unaccompanied snot nosed rugrat.

    Even better if said policy grants me first shot of 1st class upgrade.

    As much as I find the policy repugnant in an intellectual sense as it does presume pedo no matter how you want to slice it, practically I have no problem with it, as I would probably rather swtich seats than sit on a 4 hour flight next to an unaccompanied child anyway.

    1. No upgrade shot, you would merely be exchanged for a female flying on the same class as you are. 

      True practicality has you requesting your seat change for your benefit, which is allowed, rather than accepting a policy you acknowledge as repugnant. 

      Then again, what are the odds it will be applied to you that you could stand up to it personally? Practically nil IMO. So valuing a coherent society, just saying you do not support such policy and living to your values as best ye may is pretty much all that most of us can do beyond twittering Richard Branson, who is an interesting character, bit of a poop star, bit of a showman, but mostly just rich. Poop is not a typo.

  32. Let’s get some things straight:

    1. Hardly ever does everyone show up for a flight, even with the flight companies selling more seats then available, there is a high likely hood one or two seats will be empty. 

    2. The flight company Virgin has stated that it has had problems with men (and not women) interfering with the children. Note that this might not even mean sexual harassment, but maybe also getting angry at the children when they are too loud or something.

    3. If someone is presumed a predator, he will be jailed and haunted, not moved a seat just in case.

    I think the policy is correct and responsible to make sure al passengers have a (somewhat) pleasant and save flight. The stewards however should not have waited to the last moment with moving the men, but should have interfered during boarding.

    The attitude of society at men interacting with children is bad. He might be ashamed, but if that’s all there is to it, it is not the end of the world, and more horrible things happen. I think this is one of the few instances where men are treated worse then women, hopefully it is an eye-opener.

  33. Back to the comments at the beginning of this thread, I am reminded of the story of the elderly Episcopal priest at a church social who invited a young boy to sit on his knee to talk with him.  The priest was horrified and profoundly sad that the people in the room treated his offer as though it was a public molestation (if all you can think of are Catholic priest jokes, you missed the point).  His world had  changed so much that public expressions of pastoral, “fatherly” love to a child were no longer acceptable.

    We should never be ashamed of being genuinely kind to a child.  As a parent, I have always thought I should help keep other people’s children safe as well.  Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and saw a four year-ish old girl climbing a store case to get to an item (her mother had just gone around the corner).  I didn’t hesitate to say, “Young lady, get down from there!” and put my hands out to catch her if she fell on the way.  I didn’t think about how it would look if the mother came back around the corner and saw me (a man) reaching for her daughter, I was solely focused on keeping a child from getting hurt.  Although, when the girl asked me to get that item that I had just overheard her mother saying no to, I said she needed to ask her mother.  I’m not going to help her THAT much!

    I used to get upset about crying babies and young children running up and down the aisle of a plane, but then I had kids.  My last plane trip, there was a 6-ish month old baby behind me making that loud “AahAHH AahAHH!” noise (not crying) over and over.  I looked back, and the  mother immediately started apologizing.  I said, “I don’t mind.  He’s just doing that because he likes the sound.  He’ll get bored with it soon.”  I can certainly understand when people don’t want to sit next to that kind of noise or a talkative child.  I am just saying it doesn’t bother me as much any more.

      1. LMAO!  You may have just figured out why parents love their kids -traumatic bonding!  Quick, call the New England Journal of Medicine…

        Or, were you suggesting locking all the people who avoid infants and children on planes into a big plane full of crying babies until they start to love it?  That seems a little harsh. :)

  34. @aj After cramming my wide American behind into a Virgin Air seat last week, I would gladly trade hostile, suspicious, discriminatory treatment for an empty seat next to me. I’m a crazed fondler! Make room!

    1. Looking at their homepage… jesus, they’ve got a weird obsession with trauma and children. Must be Freudians:

      View and download articles free from The Journal of Psychohistory:
            “The History of Child Abuse” by Lloyd deMause
            “The Political Consequences of Child Abuse” by Alice Miller
            “The Universality of Incest” by Lloyd deMause
            “On Writing Childhood History” by Lloyd deMause
            “The Childhood Origins of the Holocaust” by Lloyd deMause

      Also, they seem to completely fail to acknowledge the possibility that what constitutes “abuse” may be at least in part a social construct; for instance, it’s pretty well recorded that Victorian nursemaids masturbated crying children to calm them — was that abuse, despite there being no abusive intent, nor evidence of harm? I’m not convinced.

  35. They did the guy a favor! He was more in danger than the kids were. I never get close enough to unaccompanied children that I could be accused of anything. Even a ridiculous unprovable accusation, later dismissed, can ruin a guy’s life. I’ve worked in schools and have always been very careful to avoid any possible misunderstanding – never even drove my kids’ friends home alone when they were younger. Anybody can lie. Do we not remember the nationwide series of “organized molestation ring” panics in the 80s and 90s?

      1. It wouldn’t even have to be the kids. Suppose a man helped a small kid with his seatbelt and someone else saw it differently. One concerned word to a flight attendant and now he’s got air marshals up his ass, police meeting him at the gate, a 24-hour national story, and his life has gone to hell. It’s an accusation that gets stronger with every denial. He should be thanking the airline.

  36. There would have been a simple, effective and classy way to deal with this that would raise no objections:

    “Sir, we’d like to offer you a complementary upgrade to first class.”

    Problem fucking solved.

  37. A French appeals court today overturned the conviction of six people accused of participating in a pedophilia ring in northern France five years ago, unraveling one of the most mismanaged cases in French judicial history and leaving the nation asking how the court system could have gone so awry.
    they even made a film about the justice beeing wrong and the all witch hunt around, wich was not allow to be seen in the city it has happen, i am verry careful about taboes that are not and while i do not agree with it most of the pedophils are people in power,now you go slave en enjoy your so call freedom, because you are beeing rape everday without regard for your sex, age religion or culture 

    those people accuse are now in deep problems….think 

  38. When I was a Deputy Sheriff, the Dept. offered me the positions of School Resource Officer and Explorer Scout Advisor.

    I turned them both down, explaining that I didn’t want the risk involved, that the accusation was the equivalent of conviction on that topic.

    Both the Deputies who took those positions got accused, I know not if rightly or wrongly.  It ended their careers and marriages within the week.

    Not so much as a chance to defend themselves.

    Both were finally acquitted in court.  Fat lot of good that did them.  With the accusations eternally hanging over their heads, never another job in Law Enforcement.  Child custody?  Don’t make me laugh.  They got supervised visits only with their own kids.

    It really drove home to me “discretion is the better part of valor”.  At the time, it seemed a bit cowardly to me.  Looking back, it was wise.

    1. yes wise choice,it was,i work with disabled folks in the netherlands, on of my collegue got accused of sexual abuse while helping one of them, reason was, he help withunder the shouwer, but all do it, only it was one of the manager who push the patient to say it, because she(the manager) didn’t like the way he was questioning the way she manage the location and thus the patients, scores? he leave the jobe and will never help people again, and the manager is manager in an other location……what is wrong with this fuck up world?

  39. “Unaccompanied children will have spare seats allocated next to them when they are flying. In the case of a full plane then a female will be sat next to the children.”

    You’d have to have a serious chip on your shoulder to read this and presume all men are presumed paedophiles. 

    Maybe they are assuming kids react better to strange women then men. When there is a lost kid in our store we have one of the female employees sit with them because the children are usually more comfortable that way not for any fear of molestation.

    Or further, maybe they are making the discriminatory assumption that a majority of women would have more patience then men, or more comfortable stuck in a seat next to a couple of kids.

  40. the airline can assume that i might be a child molester all they want as long as they reseat me in 1st class, or at least the front row of coach with all that luxurious leg room, a cocktail might be nice too

  41. look if was him i would had said “what? do you think when the plane gone crash i will abuse them  , while you all play marylin monroe? take that for granted lady i will not masturbate, that is a promise”

  42. so say one man do this against a women in transportation ,shall we then forbid mix transportation? and not mix cultures or religion because after all soon we will have signs telling us where to sit in a plane or a bus?,of am i crazy?……Déja vue?

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