The policy that several airlines have of refusing to allow men to sit next to unaccompanied children is absurd, discriminatory and totally unacceptable.

There have been two recent incidents. One involved a male nurse on a Qantas flight from Wagga Wagga to Sydney, and the other a firefighter on a Virgin Australia flight.

In both cases the men were seated - through the airline booking system - next to children travelling alone and both times the men were asked to move once they had boarded the flight.

They were left humiliated and feeling as though they had the mark of the beast on them.


They're calling for airlines to review the rule which prevents men from sitting next to unaccompanied children.

We've had problems here, too.

The talkback lines went mad in 2005 when men travelling on Qantas and Air New Zealand flights were asked to move because they were sitting next to children.

British Airways has also come in for (justifiable) flak. Two years ago, a European man flying BA was asked to change seats, separating him from his pregnant wife.

He was outraged and sued the airline, and was successful in winning a small amount of compensation, which he donated to child-protection charities, after BA admitted it had been discriminatory.

The most high-profile victim of this absurd policy is Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. BA staff tried to separate him from his own children, prompting Johnson to describe the policy as "loony hysteria".

Which it is.

Some organisations have defended the policy, saying it's one way airlines can diminish the risk of children travelling alone.


But where's the risk? Give me the stats. How many times have children been interfered with on a plane?

And for those airlines that think they're getting around their loopy policy by claiming they're actually protecting men from false claims of assault, how many times have there been complaints made against men by children travelling alone?

I've done some limited research (Googled the subject) and there's nothing. Nada. Not one story.

Surely there is more risk of the child dying in a fiery plane crash than there is of them being molested by a male passenger?

Airlines need to stop treating all men as rapists.

It's an insult to the many, many decent sons, brothers, uncles and fathers.

Shameful loss of dignity

Wow. Talk about 'roid rage. Belarusian shotputter Nadzeya Ostapchuk is frothing at the mouth after news broke this week that she had tested positive for the banned anabolic agent metenolone.

She was symbolically stripped of her gold medal and it will be awarded to New Zealand's Val Adams.

I don't think the news was a huge surprise to many people - and certainly not to the Adams camp.

It makes sense of her coach's cryptic comments the day after Val failed to win gold. It certainly accounts for Val's disappointment.

Nobody minds being beaten fair and square, but if you think you've lost to a dirty cheat, it makes the loss hard to bear.

Ostapchuk's reaction has been remarkable. She first protested her innocence, claiming there had been a mistake. Then she said there was an Olympic conspiracy behind her four failed results.

Next on her hit list came her coach, the Belarusian officials and finally she hit out at Valerie, claiming she was also a drug-taker. These are the ravings of a mad woman.

Though TV presenter Eric Young's tweet may have been intemperate - he used profane language to slam Ostapchuk and demand the gold medal back - it was understandable. He was simply expressing in the strongest possible terms the sentiment many New Zealanders felt.

Ostapchuk needs to take the big iron balls she used to throw and stick them in her mouth.

Let's face it, she won't be using them in international competition for a while and they may prevent her making more ill-advised comments.

Ferry magic opens eyes

Fifty years ago this week the Aramoana sailed between Wellington and Picton, launching the first roll-on roll-off ferry service between the North and South islands.

The inter-island ferry introduced me to the mystique of travel. There was the joy of meeting other kids from all over the country and forming instant alliances for the duration of the trip.

I'll never forget the thrill of going to bed in Wellington and waking up in Lyttelton. Nor will I forget the purser bringing in a cup of Milo and a RoundWine biscuit as part of the wakeup call.

And hearing Dad utter a really rude word as our taxi pulled up to the ferry terminal in Christchurch, just in time to see the ferry sail away from the dock, was unbearably exciting.

Happy birthday to the Interislander.