Airlines' ban on men sitting with children 'may be unlawful'

Airlines which do not allow men to sit next to unaccompanied children - apparently over fears of abuse – could be guilty of unlawful discrimination, New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission said today.

The policy of Air New Zealand and Australia’s Qantas Airways came to light when Auckland father-of-two Mark Worsley said he was asked to move on a Qantas flight when an unaccompanied child was seated next to him.

Acting Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres said the airlines could be in breach of the Human Rights Act for what he termed unlawful discrimination.

Complaints have been received from four men in the past 24 hours, commission spokesman Kallon Basham said today.

“While I am unable to reveal the details of those complaints, I can confirm that we will be entering into a dispute resolution process” between the airlines and the men, Basham said.

Air New Zealand spokesman David Jamieson said the airline had no intention of reviewing its policy, which had been in place for many years. There was no immediate comment from Qantas.

Specialist in boys’ education Michael Irwin said the ban sent a signal to children and the wider community that men “could not be trusted”.

Irwin, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s College of Education, said the policy adopted by the two carriers sent a “misleading message”.

“I believe it sends a signal to children: ‘Don’t trust a man’,” he said.

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