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Virgin Australia reviews minor policy after major embarrassment

Johnny McGirr says Virgin Australia moved him away from boys because he's a man.
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Dannii Minogue poses with Virgin flight crew during the launch of a partnership between Virgin Australia's frequent flyer program and Westfield on line at Westfield Sydney on November 29, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

After an Australian fireman recounted his embarrassing flight aboard Virgin Airways, the airline said today it will review a policy that asks men to change seats away from unaccompanied minors.

On a flight to Brisbane in April, a flight attendant asked 33-year-old Johnny McGirr to change seats.

When he asked why, the attendant said Virgin policy moves men away from unaccompanied minors. McGirr had been seated on the aisle next to two boys about ages 8 and 10.

“I said, ‘Well, that's pretty sexist and discriminatory. You can’t just say because I’m a man I can’t sit there,’ and she just apologized and said that was the policy,” McGirr told The Age.

McGirr said people had started to watch them and the attendant didn’t explain why he was moving.

She asked a female passenger, “Can you please sit in this seat because he is not allowed to sit next to minors,” McGirr told The Age.

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After public outcry, Virgin said through Twitter it would review the policy.

“We understand the concerns raised around our policy for children travelling alone, a long standing policy initially based on customer feedback,” the statement said. “In light of recent feedback, we’re now reviewing this policy. Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way.”

Virgin said the policy is shared by other airlines, including Qantas and Air New Zealand, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Critics said that while the policy might be well intentioned, it “strips away all the good that any male does,” McGirr told the Herald.

“'The only thing that will make a child safer on a plane is how much supervision the staff offer,” Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci said.

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