The Walkerville Weekly Reader

National Desk: Hard-hitting journalism from your completely un-biased (pinky swear!) reporters in Walkerville, VA.

Walkerville, VA
Monday, November 20, 2017
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

Airlines ban female teachers from sitting near children

Australian airline Qantas and Air New Zealand have banned female teachers from sitting next to children on airlines, sparking accusations of political correctness run amok.

Air New Zealand and Qantas have banned female teachers from sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights. The airlines have come under fire for the policy that critics say is political correctness gone mad after a woman revealed she was ordered to change seats during a Qantas flight because she was sitting next to a thirteen-year-old boy travelling alone.

Auckland teacher Debra Kay Hines says an air steward approached her after take-off and told her to change seats with a man sitting two rows in front. The steward said it was the airline’s policy that only men or non-teachers were allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children.

“At the time I was so gobsmacked that I moved,” said Hines. “I was so embarrassed and just stewed on it for the entire flight. Pinky promise, I was just so, ewww, I have a very difficult time articulating exactly how I felt that day.”

The 29-year-old high school teacher, who moonlights as a model, followed the incident up with the airline and was told Qantas wanted to err on the side of caution.

“It was, like, totally discriminatory,” said Hines.

A Qantas spokesman confirmed that the Australian airline does not allow unaccompanied children to sit next to female teachers. Air New Zealand spokeswoman Mary Fualaau said the airline had a similar policy.

Ms. Fualaau said Air New Zealand tried to seat children near a crew area so crew could keep an eye on them and, when possible, children were seated next to an empty seat.

“Sometimes this isn’t possible, so the preference is to seat female teachers only next to an unaccompanied pilot or other professional adult male."

When asked if the airline considered female teachers to be dangerous to children, Ms. Fualaau replied, “That’s not what I said.” According to Fualaau, “this is just as much to protect teachers from potential allegations as it is to protect children from predatory female teachers.”

Fualauu noted that “we pack them [passengers] in so tightly, sexual assault allegations are unavoidable.”

Children’s Commissioner Jennifer Lafave said she commended the airlines for putting thought into the policy and for endeavouring to keep children safe. “Separating children from teachers on public transportation is a preventative measure that has been long overdue,” said Dr. Lafave. Lafave did not believe that it was “in any way intended to be a slur against teachers or women.”

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