Here’s an update on a case I reported on last year (BBC, 6/22/10).
Luxembourg citizen Mirko Fisher and his wife were passengers on a British Airways flight. Fisher was sitting by the window and his wife was in the seat beside him. At one point she asked him to switch seats with her. When he did, that put him beside an unaccompanied minor, just as his wife had been up to then. It also put him in violation of BA’s policy that prohibits men from sitting beside unaccompanied minors. An apparently civil discussion ensued between Fisher and BA cabin personnel in which they informed him of the airline’s policy.
He said: “I felt humiliated and outraged. They accuse you of being some kind of child molester just because you are sitting next to someone.”
I disagree. In fact they treat you like a child molester because you’re a man.
Remarkably enough, BA claimed its policy wasn’t discriminatory. Hmm. I wonder how they figure that. It treats men and women differently based solely on their sex. It assumes that men, but not women, pose a danger to children. It humiliates men like Fisher by holding them up to public denigration, not because they’ve done anything wrong, but because of who they are. That’s discrimination; they should look it up.
Now BA has admitted the obvious – that its policy constitutes discrimination based on sex and that applying it causes damage to men’s reputations, feelings, personal integrity, etc. They paid Fisher about £2,900 to settle the case, all of which he’s giving to charity, plus a like amount from his own funds. What seems more important to Fisher is the policy itself.
He said: “It is sex discrimination. I want this policy to be substantially changed as it is a matter of principle. Women are not treated like this.”
Amazingly enough, BA still maintains the policy although it is said to be “under review.” But an airline spokesperson proved the company still doesn’t get it.
A BA spokesman said: “We had 75,000 children fly with us last year and it is an issue we take very seriously. We look after these children as we have been given this responsibility by their parents.”
Good. We’re all glad that BA wants kids to be safe. The point is that discriminating against men, holding them up to humiliation doesn’t help keep kids safe. That’s because men don’t uniquely pose a threat to children. Maybe BA could ask the question “How many child molestations by men were there on our planes before we instituted this policy?” My guess is that the answer would be somewhere in the vicinity of zero.
Maybe someone could explain to BA that its policy is ineffective, morally repugnant, illegal and personally offensive. But of course they should have been able to figure all that out for themselves long ago.
Maybe if it pays a few more men like Fisher, British Airways will stop its disgraceful behavior.
Thanks to Malcolm for the heads-up.