Choose Your Own Worst Parental Fears: Airlines Industry Debates Whether It’s Better to Risk Children Being Injured or Molested

Rarely has the New York Times’ patented, evasive “Raises Questions” headline construction been more apt: airline policy makers are trying to decide whether unaccompanied children should be seated next to unfamiliar adults, who might molest them, or should be put next to empty seats, where they will be left alone and helpless in an emergency.

Really, which (very statistically unlikely) risk would you rather sign your child up for? This:

In one startling case, two children on a domestic Air France flight in February were unable to reach their oxygen masks that deployed when the plane abruptly lost cabin pressure.

The sobbing children — a boy and a girl aged 8 and 10 — were seated in separate window seats of the Embraer ERJ-145, with the aisle seats left empty. A flight attendant eventually helped them with their masks and the plane landed safely in Paris 30 minutes later.

Or this?

Mr. Tate said his most recent case, filed in state court in Fulton County, Georgia, involved a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly molested by a male passenger on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Salt Lake City, Utah, last March. The girl, who is not identified in the lawsuit, said she fell asleep during the flight and awoke with the man’s hands inside her pants. A suspect was apprehended by the F.B.I. and was being prosecuted, Mr. Tate said.

All the people who wrote in and told Dear Prudence that a mother can’t leave the house for 20 minutes while an infant is sleeping will presumably say that you would have to be criminally reckless to put your child on an airplane alone at all. Given that this is the airline industry, they might not be wrong:

“I had never anticipated that children would be out of sight, several rows away” from flight attendants, said Caroline Bourke, 45, whose 11-year-old son regularly flies alone on Air France.

Really? You think the flight attendants are watching the children? In five years, the flight attendants will be coin-operated snack dispensers. Everyone’s on his or her own up there.