[This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on 14th August 2012].
It seems almost silly to ask the question: who can sit next to children on flights? Obviously, parents would be desirable but sometimes that can’t happen. It may be that a child or children are flying
‘Sir we are going have to ask you to move’‘Why’, I said.‘Well, because you are male, you can’t be seated next to two unaccompanied minors’.Shocked, I replied, ‘ Isn’t this sexist and discriminatory?’She replied, ‘I am sorry, but that is our policy’.
There we were, waiting for take-off, and I had just been having a quick zizz. It was a long flight ahead, all the way to India, and I had two children on my left. Already they were toughing each other up and sticking their fingers up each other’s nose, and now — salvation!Hovering above me was a silk-clad British Airways stewardess with an angelic smile, and she seemed to want me to move. “Please come with me, sir” said the oriental vision.
At once, I got her drift. She desired to upgrade me. In my mind’s eye, I saw the first-class cabin, the spiral staircase to the head massage, the Champagne, the hot towels.
“You betcha!” I said, and began to unbuckle. At which point, the children set up a yammering. Oi, they said to me, where do you think you are going? I was explaining that the captain had probably spotted me come on board, don’t you know. Doubtless he had decided that it was outrageous for me to fly steerage, sound chap that he was. I’d make sure to come back now and then, hmmm?
At which the stewardess gave a gentle cough. Actually, she said, she was proposing to move me to row 52, and that was because — she lowered her voice — “We have very strict rules”.
For unaccompanied children, I suspect the risk of any criminal behavior befalling them is might less than say, them being misplaced by an airline. On that score, this recent United Airlines experience may given parents far more cause for concern.