Here's what I wrote, as comment, beneath the linked-to article...
The airlines's policy is reasonable; however, in this case, it executed said policy very clumsily.
In a world wherein volunteers for youth groups, Sunday school teachers, and all manner of others who interact with children are routinely background checked and screened in other ways in order to protect them, it is completely reasonable that an airline would not want to place any adult male, about whom it knew nothing, next to a 10-year-old child -- a little girl, no less -- for the duration of a flight. It is, in light of the sad reality of the world of all manner of adult sexual abuse of children, it is perfectly reasonable for the airline to exercise an abundance of caution and place next to the little a woman instead of a man.
What's sad is that the airline did it quite that way. As commenter "FSC" correctly said, it all should have been sorted out before anyone even boarded the plane. Shame on Qantas for such ham-handedness.
That said, McCluskie, it seems to me, is reading a lot into things which may or may not be reasonable... including and especially the man in front of him whom he assumed was thinking of him as a pedophile or something. McCluskie's quote about that included a mention of his paranoia. I posit that that's exactly what it was.
That he even had such paranoia; that it hit him just exactly what was going on, and how it might look to people, and that the very notion of anyone thinking McCluskie might be a man unworthy (perhaps because he's a pedophile or something) of sitting next to a child... all of that flitting through McCluskie's mind, and how it made him feel: That, actually, is the worst part of this story.
Years ago, in the mid-1980s, not nearly long enough after my divorce (I now believe that no one should date anyone until at least three years after they divorce; this was only weeks after my divorce, and only months after the separation... so it was too soon... but I digress... sorry), I was dating a lovely woman about whom I sometimes wonder, as I think back on it, if she was sexually abused by some trusted adult in her life. Some of the comments she made at times, in retrospect, now that I've had some formal training in how to recognize it, seemed telling. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had only recently, at that time, been founded, and was still both small and not-well-known.
One morning as we were sitting at the table, having our breakfast cereal, I mentioned the poor kid whose face was plastered on the milk carton. Such plasterings were new then, and I was only really beginning to notice it. She then launched -- although, granted, only casually... but also with a lament -- into a bit of a homily about the likely reality of missing later-found-murdered children in America; about how it's nearly always at the hand of a parent or other trusted family member; and about how much more of it -- how unbelievably much more, she made it a point of emphasis -- goes on than anyone realizes.
Turns out she was right, we now, in our 20/20-visioned hindsight, know. The upside of the campaign of awareness that has occurred in America since has been the rooting out of all manner of molesters, the exposure of all the pedophile priests, and a raft of policies and procedures in nearly all things related to children which are designed to protect them. And all of that is good; and Qantas's policy is nothing but that. Kudos to Qantas.
The downside, though, is that this world has now bred a generation persons who think, maybe, that pretty much anyone -- certainly any male -- could be a pedophile... an abuser... someone not to be trusted around children. Most churches, now, so screen even their male pastors that many such pastors worry about ever being alone with at least very young children, and possibly children, at all... making it difficult, indeed, to teach a confirmation class, for example. Those wearing the collar should be the most trusted of all, but, sadly, at least SOME of those (and, seriously, folks, it's a tiny, tiny minority) wearing the collar in the Roman Catholic church have kinda' ruined it for everyone.
Living in a world of fear -- and the sometimes irrational overabundance of caution that often accompanies it -- makes for a very unpleasant world, indeed. While I'm glad the the result is that fewer children will, in the future, become adults with horrific memories of abuse at the hands of trusted adults in their childhood lives, it makes me sad that the price we're payingg for it is that the first imaginings of the likes of McCluskie were as he imagined; or that anyone else in that anyone else in the plane might have so imagined, as well. While I'm certain that nowhere NEAR as many as McCluskie believed actually even gave it a second thought, there's no doubt in my mind that at least someone else on that plane did. Sadly, such as that may just have to be the way things are for the foreseeable future.
To commenter "dotkhan": Of course, what I've just written is a commentary -- a sad one, perhaps -- on exactly what you're saying; though I must say that you're wrong that its "perveted thinking" or "irrational fear" or "caving in." In light of what we now know -- in light of how right that old girlfriend of mine ended-up being -- what Qantas did, seriously, was reasonable. Of course you're right that even the most depraved molester would likely not touch the child inappropriately during the flight, remember that molestation is as much about the grooming and arranging for things to happen later as it is about the actual acts. What a pedophile could have said to the little girl during however long is the flight could be as harmful, in the longrun, as if he had touched her. I invite you to take the time to actually learn what it's all about. What's obvious is only a part of it.
Nice sardonicism, though, with the "...the policy should be all children should travel with a stranger." Though you were only kidding -- going for the ridiculous to make your point -- thank goodness no one would ever actually consider such a thing.
To "raptorcat," who wrote, "What's most disturbing is that women can be pedophiles, too. To simply assume that a man traveling alone is a bigger threat to the child than a woman traveling alone is sexist": While it's absolutely true that, technically, females may be pedophiles, too, their percentage of all who are is so infinitesimally small that your argument, I'm afraid, is rendered functionally and practicably meritless. Moreover, though, if you'll take my advice, you need to be careful about making such arguments, in light of the hightened awareness about which I've earlier herein written, because in that context, it comes across almost like a bit of apologia from the local pedophile's club. I know (or at least hope) you didn't mean it that way, but I'm just saying how it can come across, in light of what we all now know about the sexual abuse of children by trusted adults in their lives.
To "sporg0," who wrote, "Just more ridiculous paranoia about all men being bad. A ten year old has no business traveling alone": Again, knowing what we now know, you're simply wrong about it being ridiculous paranoia. And while you may be correct that the child had no business flying alone, it is a very common practice. Parents sign papers, and airlines promise its staff will act in loco parentis during the flight for the child's protection; and then refuse to release the child to anyone at the other end unless it's the person specified by the parent, who can prove who s/he is. If you stop and think about it, all that Qantas's staff was doing was watching over the child, as it had promised her parent it would do. That it did it badly simply means that someone should better train staff how to do it better. But it was, nevertheless, a perfectly understandable thing for it to have done.
To commenter "cityboy" (and to "animals don't have rights" who agreed with him: Again, I seriously doubt that "everyone watching" thought that McCluskie was or could be a pedophile. Remember that the story is about McCluskie's thinking... his worry... his paranoia. And I've herein explained why people sometimes think that way because of the world's heightened awareness, now, of the problem. But in reality, it's very likely that most passengers never even noticed what happened, or, if they did, that McCluskie was potentially harmful to the little girl was the last thing that any of them thought. McCluskie, I assure you, is reading far, far too much into it. Other passengers didn't even know who were the players; didn't even know if McCluskie and the woman knew one another, or if they had decided to swap. Many of them, in fact, could probably not even see that there was a little girl sitting there because of the height of the seats. People who are traveling have other things on their minds. McCluskie, I suspect, is over-thinking it all. And, while you're right that maybe it was the child, and not McCluskie who should have been moved, it's even MORE right what "FSC" wrote, that it should all have been arranged before anyone even boarded the plane. That's part of where Qantas's ham-handedness came in.
This whole thing is not really the story that everyone's apparently thinking it is. I'll bet dollars to donuts that most other passengers didn't even give it a second thought. People move around on planes, either just before take-off, or sometime after. They do it because they ask if they can, or because they're asked to; and no one else in the plane usually knows why, or even wonders about it, truth be known.
Or, especially, cares.