Mar 16, 2011

Airline Sex Discrimination Policy Controversy

      Some airlines like British Airways, Qantas and Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airlines have attracted criticism for controversial seating policies which discriminate against adult male passengers on the basis of their gender.

       In March 2001, it was revealed that British Airways had a policy of not seating adult male passengers next to unaccompanied children, even if the child's parents are elsewhere on the plane. This led to accusations that the airline considered all men to be potential pedophiles and women to be incapable of such abuse. The issue was first raised when a business executive had moved seats to be closer to two of his colleagues. A flight attendant then asked him to move because he was then sitting next to two unaccompanied children which was a breach of BA company policy. The executive, a head hunter, said he felt humiliated as a result, stating "I felt I was being singled out and that I was being accused of something." British Airways admitted that staff were under instructions to keep men away from unaccompanied children whenever possible because of the dangers of male pedophiles.

    This issue again came to prominence in 2005 following complaints by Michael Kemp who had been instructed to swap seats with his wife when on a GB Airways flight. The flight attendant informed him that for an adult male stranger to be sitting next to a child was a breach of the airline's child welfare regulations. This case was arguably even more notable than other cases as the girl's parents were in fact on board the flight but such a policy still applied. Michele Elliot, director of the children's charity Kidscape stated that the rule "is utterly absurd. It brands all men as potential sex offenders."
The most high profile victim of the policy was politician (and now London Mayor) Boris Johnson, who criticized the company after they mistakenly attempted to separate him from his own children on a flight. He stated that those who create or defend such policies "fail to understand the terrible damage that is done by this system of presuming guilt in the entire male population just because of the tendencies of a tiny minority," linking such discrimination to the reduced number of male teachers and therefore lower achievement in schools. Like others, Johnson also raised the policy's flaw in ignoring female abusers and branded airlines with such policies as "cowardly" for giving in to "loony hysteria."

In January 2010 businessman Mirko Fischer from Luxembourg sued the airline for sex discrimination following an incident where he was forced to change seats as a result of the policy, thus separating him from his pregnant wife. Fischer stated "I was made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers. It was totally humiliating."On 24 June 2010, Mr Fischer was successful in winning compensation from British Airways with the company admitting sex discrimination in Mr Fischer's case. BA paid £2,161 in costs and £750 in damages which Fischer donated to child protection charities. BA said that the "policy was now under review".
In August 2010, British Airways changed its policy and began seating unaccompanied minors in a nondiscriminatory manner near the cabin crew.

Japan's All Nippon Airways introduces women-only bathrooms on its planes

     Ever since 2006, Nippon Airways did a one month awareness campaign each year in which it asks domestic fliers to visit the bathroom before boarding to reduce their body weight and therefore cut the plane’s carbon dioxide emissions. The airline is also planning to install “washlets” in its planes. These are electric toilet seats with water sprays for washing. It is a very common sight in Japan and generally a source of amusement for first time visitors and users.

    The NCFM has respectfully asks that ANA not employ women-only bathrooms on flights to and from California airports. All passengers, male and female, should be treated equally, said the National Coalition For Men (NCFM).

"Men will be denied a lavatory because they are men though when necessary men will be allowed to ask permission from a flight attendant to use the women-only lavatory, which is gender-based discrimination, unequal treatment, and in violation of California law". Said Harry A. Crouch President NCFM.

     Advertising and providing women-only bathrooms, while denying male passengers equal men-only bathrooms, is as illegal and repugnant as providing only men-only bathrooms on ANA’s flights while denying female passengers women-only bathrooms. So is advertising and providing Caucasian-only bathrooms, but denying the same discount to customers of color. Or advertising and providing heterosexual- or Christian-only bathrooms. Simply put, it is against the law for a business in California – especially a business licensed by the State of California – to discriminate against consumers based on protected personal characteristics such as sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.  

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