I recently sent a letter of complaint by email to Air New Zealand about their policy of treating all male passengers as potential child molesters, and seating them away from unescorted minors. True to the promise of their auto responder, I have received a more personal response. Rather I should say that they have responded with a non response. Following is their email to me and then my response back to them.
Dear Mr Elam
Thank you for your email regarding your recent flights with us.
It was a pleasure to read your comments regarding the excellent standard of service which you received on your flights with us, and that you had an enjoyable stay in New Zealand. It is certainly always encouraging to receive feedback such as yours as it is proof to us that the high standards which we aim to provide are being maintained.
However, I am sorry to read of your disappointment in an aspect of our Unaccompanied Minor policy, namely in regards to not seating minors next to male passengers. By way of explanation, Air New Zealand ’s internal procedures relating to the seating of unaccompanied minors and young persons travelling alone are as follows:
- For Crew surveillance reasons, unaccompanied minors and young persons travelling alone are normally seated together in the rear of the aircraft and next to the crew galley.
- Where possible, a spare seat is kept empty next to unaccompanied minors and young persons travelling alone to be used by the crew where special attention is required.
- Where a flight is full, we will endeavour to seat a female passenger next to unaccompanied minors and young persons travelling alone.
These procedures reflect the approach adopted by leading airlines around the world and have been in place for some time.
Mr Elam, thank you once again for taking the time to write in to us. I trust that I have been able to address some of your concerns, and that we may have the opportunity of welcoming you and your wife onboard our flights again in the future.
Customer Support Specialist
Dear Ms McLister,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions, and in such a prompt manner. However, your response would have been much more satisfying had you actually answered my questions rather than just tell me what I already knew, namely that it is Air New Zealand’s official policy to practice gender profiling against male passengers, regarding them all as threats from which the children on your planes need to be protected.
I sought in my query to find out why that was happening, Ms. McLister, not to get a non responsive reiteration of what I was obviously complaining about in the first place.
So I am here, asking you again.
What determinants did your airline use to arrive at such a policy? How do you respond to my concerns that the policy is discriminatory and fostering inaccurate and negative stereotypes of fully half of your clients?
I am quite sorry, Ms. McLister, but your statement of “These procedures reflect the approach adopted by leading airlines around the world and have been in place for some time,” has the ring of a child excusing their poor judgment by saying “ Well, everyone else was doing it.”
First of all, not everyone else is doing it. As I indicated in my original communication, Qantas, who appears to be your primary competitor among the USA to NZ air service providers, does not do it. And, as I also reminded you, British Airways was recently sued over the policy, and was compelled to change it because there was no demonstrable reason to have it in the first place.
Your response to me, as courteous and professionally worded as it was, was simply avoidant of these points and the quite reasonable questions raised about your practices.
Would you kindly answer those questions, or am I to understand that you are going to defend a sexist policy by avoiding any meaningful discussion with a customer?
Lastly, Ms.McLister, I am not married, and so was not traveling with my wife. It appears you just made that assumption when seeing I was traveling with a female. Given the other assumptions you made about me, and all men boarding your flights, I should not, I suppose, be surprised.
It seems to be policy on all levels at Air New Zealand.
But I would nonetheless really appreciate either a straight answer from you regarding my inquiry, or the courtesy of forwarding these questions to someone who will provide as much.
Claire McLister’s email address: