A Letter to Air New Zealand Group Executive

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To the Air New Zealand Group Executive

Chief Executive Officer

Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Chief Financial Officer & Group General Manager Corporate

Group General Manager International Airline

Group General Manager Shorthaul Airlines

Group General Manager People

General Manager, Airline Operations and Safety

General Manager Marketing and Communications

General Manager – Strategy


I recently had the first time pleasure of visiting New Zealand from the United States, and also had the pleasure of flying Air New Zealand to get there.

From the ticketing process to my interactions with your flight crew, to the in-flight food and entertainment, to disembarking, my experience with your organization was nothing short of impressive. It is clear that Air New Zealand is run professionally from the top down, and that showed in every aspect of my journey with you.

I think that it makes it all the more important then, to write and tell you why it is highly unlikely that I will ever fly with Air New Zealand again.

Not too long after I had purchased tickets for the trip, I was made aware that Air New Zealand has a policy of disallowing unaccompanied children to be seated next to male customers, as though males, as an identified group, carry with them an increased risk of child molestation and/or other aberrant behavior.

Quite frankly, I find this type of policy to be offensive and shockingly sexist, and it prompted me to ask myself why I would ever again patronize a business that sees me personally, purely based on my sex, as a potential threat to young children.

And I am, in part, writing to ask you that very question.

While I understand the development of policies and procedures to protect the well being of unescorted children, as your competition Qantas does by segregating them from all unfamiliar adults, the policy you have in place targeting males is clearly discriminatory.

As I am sure you are aware, British Airways was involved in recent litigation over a similar policy and was compelled, quite reasonably so, to change that policy so that it did not discriminate on the basis of sex.

That being said, however, it is not your legal vulnerabilities or even my personal offense to being regarded as a potential child molester that causes me the most concern. It is, quite frankly, what message your policy sends to the children it was supposedly designed to protect. You are teaching those children that men, as a class, are potentially dangerous, and that women, as a class, are to be trusted without scrutiny.

Neither message is truthful, informed, or in the interest of those children.

And given that the vast majority of men do not molest or otherwise harm children, and that there is a small percentage of women who do, your policy is based on a completely false set of beliefs.

You are breeding unnecessary fear on one hand, and thoughtless vulnerability on the other. It is the quite expectable and understandable outcome of any policy based on such unabashed bigotry.

I could not help but notice that the Air New Zealand Executive Group, the group that is the addressee of this missive,  is comprised of eight men and one woman. So according to your own policy, it would appear that your Group General Manager Vanessa Stoddart is the only one of you that would be deemed safe for contact with children.

Your policy also raises questions about male flight crew members, including your pilots. If the four flights I traveled on were any indication, the great majority of those pilots are male.

So please allow me to ask, who is protecting the children from your male employees? Or do you have some sort of testing instrument to weed out practicing pedophiles?

I found your country to be a fantastic place to take vacation, and will undoubtedly be returning over the years to come. But I will be doing so by taking my business to airlines whose standard operating procedure does not involve  the assumption that I am suspect around children, and who will not be teaching the children on their planes that I am to be viewed as a potential threat, simply because I am male.

I cannot abide by that type of child abuse, even if under the guise of protecting them.

I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to learn from the examples of Qantas and British Airways, and to abandon this unfortunate and ill conceived policy.

Kind regards,
Paul Elam
Houston, Texas

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