My blog Discrimination, Plane and Simple appeared on the Independent this morning, and this afternoon I was invited to discuss it on BBC Radio 5Live. Almost immediately after I received this email from a listener. He provided me with full name and contact details but I won’t share them. I reproduce his email here with permission.
I am a 46 year old male company director with a four year old a daughter.
Around 10 years ago I was returning from LA on a Virgin Atlantic flight alone and I was put into a seat next to a boy of around 10. Once I had sat down the boy proceeded to enthusiastically tell me about his new games console and game- I politely showed interest.
After about 10 minutes a stewardess came over and said: “we have found another seat for you, you shouldn’t be sitting here”. I asked why and she said that there had been a mix up in seat allocations (and frankly she was quite rude). In truth I was not too bothered because I was hoping to get some sleep rather than discuss computer games for 10 hours- so I moved!
However, once I had sat in my new seat I started to feel that I had been treated very strangely and wondered what other passengers had thought- it was humiliating and it only began to strike me once I had had a chance to reflect on the situation. The stewardess had been so rude and uncaring about any thought or opinion I had on the matter. It was more a kind of : “Come on! come on! Hurry up! Move!” so I did not think about the implications of what happened until afterwards.
The reason I write this is that I agree with what you have said in the article and the things you said on the radio. Moreover, if you are contacted by Virgin or have any further dealings with them on the matter, please pass on that it put me off flying with them again and that when I have the choice I always go with BA (and have since joined BA’s Executive Club!).
This is significant, as it is the first I’ve heard of the policy being applied on a Virgin Atlantic flight – albeit about ten years ago.
I was also very taken by this comment on the Independent, from Richard Blacklock
“This brings back a flight I took a few years ago from Rio de Janeiro to Toronto, it was something like 18 hours with a stop in Sao Paolo. I sat next to a young boy of perhaps 10, who was travelling alone. He was a wonderful kid, and we had a great flight together. As a father of two, I basically looked after him like I would my own children. Right near the end of the flight, the head flight attendant came up to me and asked me if I had been sitting next to him the whole time, and told me that they had made a mistake, and that I wasn’t allowed to sit next to him. It was absolutely ridiculous, and I certainly felt discriminated against.”
I’ve left a message for Richard asking if he can recall which airline he was on at the time, and will update you if there’s any news.
In the meantime, if anything similar has happened to you, do please let me know in a comment or contact me through the contact page