By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
November 29, 2005
(CNSNews.com) - Two airlines "down
under" are under fire after acknowledging
their policy of not allowing an unaccompanied
child passenger to sit next to a man.
The policy emerged when a New Zealand
man said he was asked by airline staff
to move because an unaccompanied minor
had been assigned the seat next to
Mark Worsley was told to swap seats
with a woman sitting nearby, who then
moved into the seat next to the boy,
about eight years old, for the 80-minute
"I was pretty shocked -- I think
most people would be," the 37-year-old
shipping manager and father of two
"I complied straight away and
moved seats. But as I sat on the plane
during the flight I got more and more
angry about it."
Part of the problem, Worsley said,
was that the plane was full. When
the flight attendant arranged the
seat swap, "certainly there was
enough disruption that people in the
immediate vicinity would have heard
what was going on. I felt totally
He had later confronted the airline
staff, who confirmed the company policy.
Worsley said someone asked him after
the event why he had not simply refused
to move. "But these days you
can't really do that. With [fears
of] terrorism, if you cause any fuss
on the plane you're out walking."
"Most males in the world, I'm
sure, are perfectly law-abiding, good
parents, good fathers, brothers, whatever,"
he said. "They're basically accusing
half the population of the world of
being a potential pedophile."
Worsley had been traveling on a flight
operated by Qantas, the Australian
national carrier. Both Qantas and
Air New Zealand have now confirmed
that they would not seat a child traveling
alone next to an adult male passenger.
Worsley came forward following the
recent decision by New Zealand's opposition
National Party to name one of its
lawmakers, Wayne Mapp, as a spokesman
on eradicating "political correctness."
Mapp, whose appointment to the post
drew ridicule from the left, has invited
New Zealanders to come forward with
information about practices they perceive
to be "PC," primarily those
carried out by the Labor government.
Worsley was one of those who had approached
Mapp said the airline policy implied
that children were not safe sitting
next to men.
He found rare common ground with a
left-leaning lawmaker, Keith Locke
of the Green Party, who said Tuesday
that airlines should recognize that
"men are people too."
Decrying what he called "the
moral panic about men being a potential
threat to children," Locke said
it was "prejudicial to presume
that men can't be trusted to have
contact with children unless they
are related to them or are specially
He said the incident clearly is a
breach of New Zealand's Human Rights
Act -- which prohibits discrimination
on the grounds of gender -- and he
asked a government human rights commissioner
Some of the Green Party's policies
occasionally have been labeled "politically
correct" by conservative critics.
Locke said he was glad the National
Party's "PC eradicator"
had come out against the airline policy,
but he argued that it was wrong to
call it political correctness.
"The anti-PC brigade usually
criticize what they see as an overemphasis
on equal rights, including between
the genders. The Greens are sometimes
the target of their attacks, so I'm
glad to see them supporting equal
rights in this case," he said.
The airlines did win support from
one quarter. Children's Commissioner
Cindy Kiro, a government appointee,
commended Qantas and Air New Zealand
for their efforts to keep child passengers
Kiro said she doubted the policy was
meant as a slur against men.
But her intervention drew a strong
response from the Men's Coalition,
whose spokesman Kerry Bevin said Tuesday
the commissioner was not fit for her
post and should resign.
"Kiro is telling our children
that men are dangerous to children,"
Bevin charged. He also called for
the airlines to make a public apology.
For Worsley, the incident was part
of a far broader problem, which seemed
to affect Western countries in general,
"Men are being demonized in the
media for a long time now. I think
probably this is just society's reaction
-- they think, 'We'd better start
tightening up on everything.' It's
getting to the stage when all men
are viewed with distrust," he
"They've already chased men out
of the teaching profession, especially
for young children. I wouldn't want
to be a Scoutmaster now. I wouldn't
want to be a Catholic priest ..."