Sexual Intelligence: Airline Makes Prejudice Part of its Policy

A recent incident on British Airways has illustrated that sometimes efforts to prevent sexual abuse, although well-intentioned, can reach absurd heights.

Mirko Fischer, a 33-year-old businessman, discovered while flying on the airline that the transportation giant has a policy of prohibiting men from sitting next to children to whom they aren’t related. Fischer was flying with his wife, who was six months pregnant and had booked a window seat. Fischer took the middle seat, between her and a 12-year-old boy. When all passengers were seated and buckled in, a flight attendant asked Fischer to change his seat. When he refused–explaining that he was traveling with his pregnant wife–the flight attendant raised his voice, warning that the plane could not take off unless Fischer obeyed. Apparently British Airways crew stalk the aisles of every plane before take-off, demanding that men sitting next to kids move.

Fischer has sued over the humiliation of the ordeal.

BA’s failure to grasp the most simple dynamics of human interaction is breathtaking.

Molest a kid on a plane? There isn’t enough room in coach to move that much. Besides, most molestations are done by someone the victim knows. The more reasonable policy would be to prevent kids from sitting with their parents, not with strangers. Thus, the problem with BA’s policy isn’t only that it’s discriminatory, it’s that it doesn’t make sense. But because their discriminatory policy is based on sexuality (imagined or real), people tolerate it.

Some will inevitably protest, “Some men do molest kids.” And of course that’s true. But imagine justifying discriminatory laws against blacks, women and the handicapped by pointing to actions perpetrated or qualities held by small percentages of those populations.

As public policy, we don’t withhold rights from a group because of the behavior or characteristics of a few of its members. And this should be equally true regarding sexuality-related issues.

Meanwhile, if BA doesn’t trust me enough to let me fly next to a kid, I’ll take my business to some other bankrupt airline. United apparently trusts me much more–much to my dismay, they love to sit me next to kids.

© Marty Klein, Ph.D. (