Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kids on a Plane

I've been reading news stories about an airline policy that forbids men from sitting next to unaccompanied kids on flights. A couple of times, men have been asked to swap seats with women because their neighbor is a child (or two) traveling alone. One story here, another here.

One of the men (a nurse, the other was a fireman) says the experience was humiliating because the whole cabin was watching, no doubt wondering why this chap was being asked to move away from a child.

Now, I have kids and I'm usually in the "better safe than sorry" camp. But this is a bridge too far. As the fireman put it later:

"[The attitude of the airline] is 'we respect you but as soon as you board a Virgin airline you are a potential paedophile', and that strips away all the good that any male does regardless of his standing in society, his profession or his moral attitudes," he said. Remember, fireman. Saves kids from burning buildings.

I like London mayor Boris Johnson's remarks on the issue: "Even as I write, I can imagine the lip-pursing of some of my lovely high-minded readers. How would you like it, they will say, if some weird chap was plonked next to your kids? And they are right that I would worry about some strange adult sitting next to my children, chiefly because I wouldn't want the poor fellow to come to any harm."

(My wife and I were on a plane with my three kids, getting them to stay seated was like Whack-a-mole. A nightmare for those around us, I'm betting.)

Anyway, how likely is molestation on a plane? According to this 2009 story it does happen, but the examples it gives involve men asking to switch seats so they can be next to kids. How about we just ban that practice? In fact, if a single guy asks to be seated next to an unaccompanied kid, just chuck him off the plane.

"Here's a parachute, now get lost."
"Well, at least I get a parachute. One, two, three... wheeee!"
"Sucker. It' was a backpack, not a parachute."

What do you think?


  1. I agree on both counts. First, it is absolutely ridiculous to think that a child is going to find him/herself next to a pedophile who can't control himself in a public place (and just because it could happen or has happened somewhere sometime doesn't justify the policy). Second, I agree that the man who gets moved away from any child on any flight is very fortunate indeed.

    A former colleague who used to live and work abroad had a child with severe ADHD. He said that the trans-Atlantic flights with the child were sheer torture for everyone involved.

    Our three children, on the other hand, were models of good behavior. :)

  2. Jamison, thanks. You know, as our kids have grown things have changed. They can't ride to school without fighting but when we went to France last year they didn't complain or whine or fight once in the 12 hours of travel. Likewise on our drive to the beach, six hours in the car, nary a complaint. Anyway, back to pedophiles. I imagine, like foreign-born terrorists, there are fewer of them crouching under rocks and bushes then people suspect.

  3. Since the vast majority pedophiles and molesters are related to or friends with the children, then children would actually be safer sitting next to a stranger.

    Our media has done a good job skewing things by reporting all-the-time coverage of freak (as in rare) events and making it seem like they happen ALL the time. Like the abducted little white girls, it seems like it happens all the time because people can recite their names-- except we can only recite the names because there are so few.

    As the mother of a (still young) son, I find it appalling that once my son comes of a certain age, he will automatically be discriminated against merely because of his genitalia.

  4. Clair, that's a great point. You are absolutely right that the vast majority of kids molested suffer at the hands of people they know. And, in my opinion, you are right that this is untenable discrimination.

  5. I think that is a bit ridiculous. I think it is pretty short-sighted to basically assume that women do not sexually abuse children as well. If they're that concerned then unaccompanied children should be seated in the flight attendant area and the flight attendant can take a regular seat. I too am a better-safe-than-sorry type but this seems a bit over the top to me.

  6. Agreed, Lisa. I'm sure more men do it, but to make that assumption and force all guys to move... seems unfair and unnecessary.

  7. Here's an idea: Don't put your kid on a plane by themselves if you're so paranoid you think a pedophile will assault them on the way. All this "stranger danger" foolishness is BS for the reasons Clair cited. The child is more at danger with their step-dad next to them.

    Sometimes a "better safe than sorry attitude" makes kids less safe when it's informed by ignorant assumptions and self-interested law enforcement PR and/or media hype, which is definitely the case with the whole stranger danger meme. FWIW, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children thinks the whole stranger-danger meme is harmful. Here they opined that, "When we tell children to 'never talk to strangers,' we have effectively eliminated a key source of help for them if they are in trouble. If they’re lost they may be surrounded by many 'strangers' who could conceivably help them if they would only ask for it."


Comments posted to this blog are NOT the opinion of the Travis County D.A.'s office, under any circumstances. They are only the personal, non-representative opinion of D.A. Confidential if posted under his name.
I welcome all comments, as long as they are expressed with politeness and respect. I will delete all comments that I deem to be personal attacks, or that are posted merely to antagonize or insult.