By Sophie Borland
Last updated at 4:32 PM on 16th January 2010
A businessman is suing British Airways over a policy that bans male passengers from sitting next to children they don't know - even if the child's parents are on the same flight.
Mirko Fischer has accused the airline of branding all men as potential sex offenders and says innocent travellers are being publicly humiliated.
In line with the policy, BA cabin crew patrol the aisles before take-off checking that youngsters travelling on their own or in a different row from their parents are not next to a male stranger.
If they find a man next to a child or teenager they will ask him to move to a different seat. The aircraft will not take off unless the passenger obeys.
Mr Fischer, a 33-year-old hedge fund manager, became aware of the policy while he was flying from Gatwick with his wife Stephanie, 30.
His wife, who was six months pregnant, had booked a window seat which she thought would be more spacious. Mr Fischer was in the middle seat between her and a 12-year-old boy.
Shortly after all passengers had sat down, having stowed their bags in the overhead lockers, a male steward asked Mr Fischer to change his seat.
Mr Fischer refused, explaining that his wife was pregnant, at which point the steward raised his voice, causing several passengers to turn round in alarm. He warned that the aircraft could not take off unless Mr Fischer obeyed.
Mr Fischer eventually moved seats but felt so humiliated by his treatment that he is taking the airline to court on the grounds of sex discrimination-He is paying all his own legal
If he wins at the hearing next month at Slough County Court, BA will have to change its policy.
He has promised to donate any compensation to the NSPCC.
Mr Fischer, who lives in Luxembourg with his wife and their daughter Sophia, said: 'This policy is branding all men as perverts for no reason. The policy and the treatment of male passengers is absolutely outrageous.
'A plane is a public place - cabin crew regularly walk down the aisles and passengers are sat so close to each other. The risk of any abuse is virtually zero.
'Furthermore statistically children are far more likely to be abused by a member of their family. Does that mean that BA are going to ban children sitting next to their own parents?'
'I was made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers. It was totally humiliating. Neither myself or my wife dared to speak to the boy in case the cabin crew forced us from our seats. The poor child must have thought we were extremely rude and unfriendly.'
Claude Knights, of the children's charity Kidscape said: 'The airline should have procedures in place to avoid this sort of situation.
'If the airline is that concerned they should sit unaccompanied children with cabin crew who have no doubt been thoroughly vetted.'
A BA spokesman said: 'As this is case is subject to court proceedings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.'
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