Man Offers First Class Seat To Child In Coach, American Airlines Suspects He’s A Predator

An American Airlines ConciergeKey passenger, one of the carrier’s top customers, shared to social media that they were flying from Portland to Dallas on Tuesday’s flight 2655 and wound up suspected of being a child predator – because they tried to do a good deed, giving up their first class seat for an unaccompanied minor seated in coach.

They were heading to Dallas to connect to a British Airways flight to London. Pre-boarding (since ConciergeKey members board ahead of first class, even), they noticed “a very young unaccompanied minor” and let a flight attendant in first class know they’d be happy to swap their first class seat with the child and sit in coach. This didn’t seem like a big deal.

  • A regular frequent flyer may find domestic first class, especially for less than four hours, to be not all that much better than coach.

  • Meanwhile, an infrequent flyer might value the extra space and prestige tremendously.

The passenger explained, “I know how hard it is to fly alone at that age and I figured it would make the staff’s job easier with regards to keeping an eye on him” and noted that the flight attendant offered thanks and “said she’d ask.” However,

Once we took off and the seatbelt light clicked off, on her next pass she mentioned she hadn’t heard back from the rear [flight attendant] and she would later; I offered to ask myself if it would save time and she told me to go ahead.

I walked back and asked the [flight attendant] and was taken aback by her response.

Offering the flight attendant at the back of the cabin that they’d switch seats, the response was jarring: ”Why would you want to do that? Do you know him? Why do you want to separate him from his group?”

The passenger thought they were traveling alone (an unaccompanied minor), were offering to switch seats not to sit next to children, and apologized for interrupting her service. She had “a visible look of disgust.”

But it didn’t end there. An American Airlines employee met the flight and flagged down the ConciergeKey first class passenger, asking to speak about the incident. In a hurry to their next flight, the passenger offered to discuss the matter on the way to the airport’s D terminal. Here’s what happened next,

[I]t was an interrogation on whether I felt it was appropriate to try and talk to children on planes and if I had approached this boy at [Portland airport]. I felt very much that I was on the verge of being accused of a crime or being a pervert or some kind.

The [American Airlines] agent asked me if I could stick around for a moment (at this point I was at the escalator for the sky train). I told her no and suggested that unless something was urgent enough that I needed to delay my outbound to London that I would be hopping on the next sky train. As I headed up the steps, she promised someone would be “in touch” to discuss the concerns raised about my conduct.

Now this customer is worried they need to ‘clear their name’. Feeling no good deed goes unpunished, wanting simply to “help someone out who might be having a stressful flight,” (and never even having spoken to the child, according to the passenger) now they’re concerned about some sort of ‘permanent record’ they’ve been tagged with.

Why am I reminded of the movie Airplane! here? (“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”)

I don’t think they have anything to worry about. Odds on the matter will be dropped and they’ll never hear about it again. However if it does resurface, they need a lawyer.

Airline and hotel employees are taught to use their prejudices to spot and report human trafficking, and this often works out badly. Flight attendants are told they need to be on the lookout, and you have to sympathize with the position that puts them in. Imagine if they didn’t say something when they could have stopped a bad situation? That would haunt them. So better to raise the accusation or flag innocent people for law enforcement to sort out. And that gives you situations like,

Hotel staff are trained by the Department of Homeland Security to report guests with too many used condoms in the trash, as well as:

  • frequent use of the “Do Not Disturb” sign (you’re tired and don’t want to be bothered)
  • guests who avert their eyes or don’t make eye contact (you’re tired and don’t want to be bothered)
  • people with “lower quality clothing than companions” (no one ever accused me of fashion)
  • people who have “suspicious tattoos” (you’re from Austin or Portland)
  • having multiple computers, cell phones, and other technology (you’re a blogger)
  • “presence of photography equipment” (you’re a blogger)
  • refusal of cleaning services for multiple days (you ‘made a green choice’ or assume hotels no longer offer it)
  • rooms paid for with cash or a rechargeable credit card (you have to unload your gift card purchases somehow)
  • guests with few personal possessions (you refuse to check a bag because you’re a frequent traveler)

See something, say something, when you’re encouraging amateurs to do it, leads to so many false positives that real cases of sex trafficking seem likely to get less attention. Employees think they are ‘trained’ when they’re really using their prejudices.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @PHX gal: You’re just a troll, but you gave me a good reason to never go to Phoenix again (like I really needed one).

    I feel sorry for your emasculated son.

  2. One of the commenters above suggested, with no evidence, that this comment section is “full of middle-aged predatory men.” And she claims, again with no evidence, that the author of this piece is also a pedophile.

    Godwin’s Law posits that the longer online discussions go on, the greater the likelihood that someone will invoke Hitler. Perhaps in light of the ongoing moral panic about pedophilia, we ought to also start recognizing “PHX gal’s Law”: the longer online discussions go on, the greater the likelihood that one or more of its participants will be called pedophiles. Or middle-aged.

    Seriously though, I thought this comment board was moderated. Whoever approved such defamatory nonsense made a serious error of judgment.

  3. Even in reading the entire article, and not looking for another source for more detailed information, an unaccompanied, minor will always be handed off to a flight attendant, who will generally seat them near where they are accessible to the flight attendant. I can’t say what the gentleman’s motives were for making the offer, good deed, or not, he said himself up to be judged. Oh, and if he is a seasoned flyer, he would know that an unaccompanied minor would be in the charge of an airline employee. The parents couldn’t even purchase the ticket without making that known so where he got that from I have no clue but it doesn’t look good. As a mother who has allowed her children to fly unaccompanied, they were always handed off from gate to gate. They were never allowed to go anywhere out of the employee site until they were either in my hands or the person on the other end, picking them up with ID.

    Chivalry is not dead, wisdom is clearly.

  4. As a senior FA, I would have been impressed with the CK’s offer. It allows the unaccompanied minor to be better monitored and have the “thrill” of sitting up front, receiving the extras FC offers.
    Where are all these unsupported comments about a “group” coming from? .UNACCOMPANIED MINORS travel ALONE (and sometimes with a sibling). Otherwise, they would not be “unaccompanied”! We often try to have unaccompanied minors sit together for their safety and so they have others to talk with.
    The CK would have been sitting in the rear of the aircraft (where we put minors to be closer to the monitoring flight attendants to be easily supervised) and the minor at the front of the aircraft. How is that a predatory act?
    Sounds like the FA in back was one of our Sky Nazi Karen types. Jumping to conclusions.
    It’s not uncommon for FC passengers to offer their seats to members of the military. Does that mean that they have ulterior nefarious motives too?
    Had it been my flight that day, the unaccompanied minor would have been in FC, leaving with a story to tell his family and friends, and the CK would have been in coach and none of us would be reading about this and seeing all the comments making unsupported assertions.

    E Hansen

  5. On what basis are you making this statement? Do you have any stats on the number of crimes assisted by aircrew or hotel staff? Did you reach out and make any inquiry to any of the airlines or the FBI about such stats?

    Author: “See something, say something, when you’re encouraging amateurs to do it, leads to so many false positives that real cases of sex trafficking seem likely to get less attention. Employees think they are ‘trained’ when they’re really using their prejudices.”

    If not… This is an uniformed opinion at best. Doesn’t seem quite right to presume you know the benefit analysis here.

    In today’s world we watch as fewer and fewer people are willing to use their best judgement and expect “someone else’ to handle these problems.

    While it might not be pleasant to be falsely suspect of something, Id rather we all be vilogant and encouraging of people using best judgement in a position to help than to act gunshy and sheepishly… That is the environment that breads predators… That let’s them know they have far reaching cover under the disguise of lack of “prejudice”.

    As a father, I’d rather be uncomfortably questioned and know someone is looking out for my little ones, than to image something bad happening and a person ignoring their feeling that something MIGHT be off and saying nothing out of fear of getting it wrong.

    This article stokes that fear and I find that to be a poor outcome for this article and I hope not what the author intended.

  6. Late night flight. Thirty percent capacity. Kid was traveling with a mother. They sat in front of me. It was his birthday. I bought him the kids meal/snack box basically because he was being so well behaved and it was his birthday. We all (FAs included) sang happy birthday to him. I would have never thought that could have gotten totally sideways for this white male traveling alone. Scary…

  7. Jeez…I was on a LAS-LAX flight and had a bulkhead aisle seat. One row right behind me was Milton Berle. Out of respect, I offered to swap seats with him, and he accepted most graciously. He and I ended up chatting throughout the short flight, until, when coming into L.A., the FA offered to let him make the landing announcement! He cracked up everyone, and the FA finished off with the safety info.
    I have been seated in FC next to a unaccompanied minor on his first flight, and he was much more comfortable with some friendly (non-threatening!) conversation. I would say kudos to the FC passenger for the offer. My first flight was at 17, and I would have been thrilled at the chance to ride “up front”!

  8. How does “PHX gal” know whether the seat swap-offering person was even male? While the CK customer ranks seem to be way more male than the population at large in the country, people should check their sexism and consider that there are also female CKs in the rank.

    Too many people have a kind of neurotic psychological pathology that makes them make mountains not just out of molehills but even just out of air. And the threat evaluation capability of people seems to have gotten especially worse since 9/11, for a variety of reasons including more extreme media-audience captivating dynamics, social media use dynamics and internet use in general. Unfortunately, they don’t get the mental help they need in order to not be part of the problem and psychological screening is inadequate in hiring problems as is mental health care for such people.

  9. The reasoning for switching seats with the child is completely ridiculous, it simply makes no sense. An unaccompanied minor won’t be “safer” and “get more attention” in the first class. This is exactly what it looks like: a creep trying to offer an expensive gift to a vulnerable child in exchange for something else. No one who pays for first class just gives their seat up for random children they don’t know. The fact this creep is “non-binary” just makes it even more obvious that he’s a degenerate. Someone should check his hard drive.

  10. It’s simply a bi-product of our country’s newest phase in the war on crime. Once upon a time it was terrorists, now it’s human trafficking. The me too movement and the government pushes forward a “suspicious is guilty” way of thinking to the public, and doesn’t bat an eye when good people get hurt by it. They are more than happy to destroy a hundred good people’s lives to catch one bad person!

    I’ll even give an example.

    I am a retired Marine. I work extensively with the Toys For Tots program. Every year at distribution, I bring my two little girls to help. Several years ago, my oldest, Sasha; who was four at the time, decided she had to pee. Long story short, the police were dispatched for a “possible kidnapping in progress” to a toys for tots distribution event because some lady saw “a man suddenly sweep up a little girl from the crowd and carry her off to the back” and decided she needed to immediately call 911. (Fun fact, two uniformed police officers were in attendance that year. She plainly stated she didn’t trust them because they were men.) Thank God that the our lovely Toys For Tots coordinator was such a wiz at de escalation.

  11. My rule is to NEVER help a minor with anything, I would rather attend their funeral than be seen as a pedo. So if you are on fire, hurt, or drowning, don’t look at me, because l will just keep on walking.

  12. I am the white father of a mixed race daughter,, she looks more black than mixed. I have stopped by multiple law enforcement, do-gooders not minding their own business. The most egregious was two cops in the grocery store. My daughter is hugging and kissing me from the child seat in the cart. Anyone “watching” for even a brief moment would have seen this affection, not to mention her calling me daddy. The cops stopped me in the check out line to demand who I was and the child. There was another cop blocking my car in the lot. I was a victim of over zealous racist cops no doubt. A few seconds of watching us would have given evidence of no foul play. Don’t jump to conclusions based on your racist thoughts.

  13. I do not fly and I would never trust any of these clowns with my child. The entire airline industry needs grounded permanantly and no government bailouts . They are the biggest polluters of the ozone and have had enough tax payer bailouts . Restaffing and training and electric jets and until then no air travel .

  14. Flight attendants are not taught to use their prejudice to be on the look out for human trafficking! This person is an idiot, giving false information. Pay no mind to this article and I wouldn’t read anything else this moron Gary Jeff writes.

  15. I flew tons as a kid all over unaccompanied w/fishing pole & a tackle box – only thing a flight attendent ever said was don’t take the 12 inch long Fish Filet knife out or the Fish hook remover- plus my tackle box was literally full of pointed barbed hooked objects & my fishing pole itself ? If I whipped ya with it it’d leave a nasty welt or take out an eye
    Idk I guess it was a different time for 9 & 10 yr old boys back in the 1970s
    Now ya can’t do a good deed without being called a predator.
    In the 90s I saw some kids playing on my jogging trail behind my house INSTANTLY turned around no WAY was I getting anywhere near kids alone & its the same with women.
    Never date them alone in the U.S. since My family has a “little bit” of wealth and they’re like piranas swarming in for the kill with a Zombie like Radar for $$.
    They love to weave their Spider web of Lies.
    Moved to Europe 20+yrs ago where that U.S. BULLSHIT HYSTERIA isn’t tolerated or ALLOWED by the courts.
    Good luck your gonna need it.

  16. People READ the article. The guy offered to SWITCH seats NOT sit with the child! So if they had switched there would have been 20+ rows between them!
    How is this nefarious???? The cild would have been better monitored and alone in the front, away from the status passenger.
    Clearly the flight attendant is an idiot.

  17. The top pined coments is full of pedo panic. its conservitives m.o. they think someone a day older is a groomer by default. Why would you ever do somthing with out an alternative motive .its almost like there trying to distract.from what there realy doing

  18. Was offered a $10 upgrade on a flight from SJC-LIM. Had a child flying alone and asked Flight Attendant to upgrade him for the experience. No problems he sat across the Isle from me. Spent flight talking about airplanes. FA thanked me for keeping him happy with the flight. Don’t remember the name but year was around 1980 or 1982 on the old Reno Air. Wish the WOKE culture never go out of bed..

  19. Let’s discuss the English language. When I taught it, the male passenger would be referred to by the pronoun he not they. They is reserved for referring to more than one. Of course the same is true for the boy. He is referred to by the pronoun He.

  20. People that conclude some one is a weirdo are the ones with that weirdo mentality son that would make them the weirdos,they go about life thinking how and what a weirdo would do to a kid that’s sick ain’t it,?

  21. I really don’t sense the first class passenger in this article was a pedophile, but they are definitely out there. About four years ago while I was traveling with my group of high school students on a university campus tour, a man from outside our student/staff group was sitting next to one of our travelers while we were at the gate waiting for our flight. Feigning interest in our group, he engaged conversation with one of my students, inappropriately touching her on her leg (it was summer, and she was wearing shorts). Immediately, another student pulled her away and came to notify me and another staffer. The man tried to go to another gate and blend in with other travelers. Turns out he wasn’t on our flight but another. He had come over to our gate, intentionally to sit next to the student. The police were called and they issued a citation for him to appear in court. I objected and felt more should’ve been done and became agitated. A cop stayed in the area to make sure I didn’t confront the guy as I had alluded in my heated encounter with one of the officers. Not blackening that guy’s eye is one of my biggest regrets. Then, he’d have to explain to others what had happened and how he had a court date in another city. Statements were given, the girl’s parents were given the responding officers’ cards and who to call to follow through with at the courthouse. Personal prejudice aside, it’s important to be vigilant.

  22. Offering to switch seats sounds like something I’d do, i wouldn’t care how much i paid for the seat. But now.. after reading this and especially the comments, I’ll just hold off on the acts of kindness now.

  23. The moral of this story is to never offer your seat. In fact, don’t give up your seat if someone begs for it. Tell them to foff.

  24. Joe allen this is not the woke culture, it is the q culture who thinks that every man, democrat is a child molester. Type the words politicians and sex crimes and see who is there. Yes there are democrats but the sickest ones are the republicans who do things to their own daughters.

  25. > Let’s discuss the English language. When I taught it, the male passenger would be referred to by the pronoun he not they. They is reserved for referring to more than one. Of course the same is true for the boy. He is referred to by the pronoun He.

    English has always had a singular “they”. It’s typically used when the speaker doesn’t know if the person in question is male or female.

  26. The problem is obvious: no one should American Airlines. Their service stinks, and they are surly to boot.

    I dumped ’em in 2003 and never looked back.

  27. Less than !% of all sex crimes against children are committed by a stranger, and yet the ‘Pedo’ hysteria continues to spread to the point than no one can even speak to a child anymore without being suspected of being a predator.
    The old saying is true, ‘The lie will travel half-way around the world before the truth can get 10 feet.’
    Don’t go near anyone else’s children for any reason, even to do good, or you might be the next on the predator suspect list.

  28. The comments in thread are hilarious. I must say rhis is why people don’t help each other because of nonsense like this. A pedophile is a predator who will not call attention to themselves. If anything he would of tried to get the child alone. Plus even if the child took the seat, the adult would be in another section of the plane.

    I did not detect pedophile from the man offering his seat, it’s obvious he did not know the child was traveling with someone and didn’t know the rules of engagement of how child travelers are monitored.

  29. Clearly this was an overreaction from a flight attendant. End story. I used to travel every week for business and one time I had a strange reaction and story when I asked to give up my 1st class domestic seat for a soldier in uniform who was traveling in coach. The flight attendant refused to let me do that.

  30. How you were brought is instilled in one’s DNA. Just today, 3/3/22, PBI to BDL, I asked the lead FA to ask an elderly couple, (I’m 80), to swap their coach seats for my row 1D,( (aisle), with adjoining empty seats 1E, 1F, leaving them alone together.
    Political correctness bolstered by WOKE awareness, need to consider a dab of old fashioned common sense, using values true to you.
    There always were perps, and always will be.
    May our society continue guarding our vulnerable. Overthinking every situation, immediately alerting authorities, in my view, is over the edge.

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