Industry CEO complains to Qantas and Virgin

Outraged by the discrimination shown to men when  travelling with Virgin and Qantas  that removes them from sitting next to unaccompanied minors has prompted this letter.

SYDNEY: 29 August 2012

  Dear Mr Joyce,

I appreciate you are a busy man and have many complex issues to balance in what is clearly a challenging business environment at this time to be running an airline.

I too have some significant challenges in the current economic environment as I am the CEO of an industry-based association in the building products industry and it is also a particularly difficult legal and business environment for our sector at present.

That said I would appreciate you giving some consideration to my views, as I deal with legal/IR/OHS/discrimination issues on a daily basis on behalf of employers and have my own staff (albeit not in the staff numbers of Qantas) so therefore have some qualification to comment on this matter.

The reason for the letter is to express to you my concern and opposition to the policy that has received considerable recent public exposure relating to the policy of Qantas intentionally not seating male passengers next to unaccompanied minors on flights as a “safety first precaution”.

However, as expressed by many men and women in recent public comments, the damage this Qantas policy does in terms of negating the good that many men do in society as a role model or otherwise is enormous (i.e. as expressed by male nurse or firemen involved in these recent airline incidents). It really is damaging beyond belief.

The Qantas policy appears to promote a message that men cannot be trusted when children are involved and your organisation from its public response seems ambivalent to the notion that there is this clear link in this concept. The perception from outside is that the company has merely applied some damage control to the issue in the hope that it may just go away.

The policy by inference dictates that fathers of children cannot be trusted when travelling without their own siblings or grandfathers cannot be trusted unless the children sitting in the seat next to them are their own grandchildren. I have a son JXXX that has just turned 18 and is a youth who heading in the right direction. He performs non-paid work for Mission Australia in their IT section in WXXXXXXXXXX on his days off while studying at TAFE, yet your policy dictates he cannot be trusted to sit next to an unaccompanied minor on an aircraft and will be forced to move seats by your staff.

At this point, I will continue to fly with Qantas in the immediate future in anticipation that your organisation will review this policy. In fact, I was on a return flight from Sydney to Melbourne yesterday for business and flew Qantas. That said, if this doesn’t change in the near future, I would review my own personal travel associations and that of my organisation as I find such a policy ultimately indefensible. Indeed, if myself or any members of my staff were forced to alter seating arrangements on a Qantas flight as a consequence of your policy, we would have to consider our legal position.  For Qantas to simply state that some other airlines are following this policy that treat men in a similar manner so therefore by inference Qantas can justify its actions is in my view very misguided.  You would be aware British Airways changed their policy after a similar incident occurred. It would make sense to me to be proactive about this issue and deal with it now rather than wait for another incident with possible ramifications for the airline to occur.

In my experience the employers I talk to when this issue is raised in conversation also express significant reservations about the nature of this Qantas policy. 

Mr Joyce, many people including myself strongly supported your position when Qantas was being harshly treated by trade unions in the recent protracted dispute. In that instance, you showed guts, character and determination together with judgment based on what was the right course of action for your passengers and the business.

I encourage you to again show some courage and determination and do the right thing and review and alter this policy that appears to unfairly typecast at least half of your loyal passengers.   

I would appreciate a written reply from you indicating whether you as Chief Executive Officer intend to implement a review of the unaccompanied minor policy in the immediate future. I can be contacted on my mobile on 00000000 if you wish to discuss this matter further.

 Regards BBxxx

Mr Alan Joyce
Qantas Pty Ltd
Level 3 – Building A
203 Coward St
Mascot NSW 202