QANTAS has defended its policy of moving male passengers who are seated next to unaccompanied children, after a nurse said he was made to feel as if he had a sign that read ''kiddie fiddler'' over his head when he was moved away from a young girl.
Daniel McCluskie, a senior nurse with the local health service in Wagga Wagga, was flying to Sydney in June. He said he was humiliated by the cabin crew.
Mr McCluskie, 31, was seated in the second-last row of the aircraft, next to a girl whom he estimated to be 10. After the safety demonstration, a flight attendant asked a woman on the opposite side of the aisle to swap seats with Mr McCluskie. When he asked why he had been moved, Mr McCluskie was told it was Qantas's policy not to have men sitting next to unaccompanied children.
''There were people that looked during the actual move,'' he said. ''After the plane had taken off, the air hostess thanked the woman that had moved but not me, which kind of hurt me … because it appeared I was in the wrong. It seemed I had this sign I couldn't see above my head that said 'child molester' or 'kiddie fiddler', whereas she [the female passenger] did the gracious thing and moved to protect the greater good of the child.''
Mr McCluskie asked to speak to a manager at Sydney Airport and when told there was no one available he filled out a customer care card.
A Qantas spokesman confirmed the company's policy, but said it was rare that a passenger was asked to swap seats after boarding the aircraft.
When a male was moved from next to an unaccompanied child, the airline needed to act ''discreetly and respectfully'', he said.