Virgin was criticised yesterday after a Sydney fireman reported his experience of being asked to swap seats because he was seated beside two unaccompanied boys.

Virgin was criticised yesterday after a Sydney fireman reported his experience of being asked to swap seats because he was seated beside two unaccompanied boys. Photo: Glenn Hunt

A PUBLIC backlash has prompted Virgin Australia to announce it will review its policy barring men from sitting beside unaccompanied children on flights.

The company was criticised yesterday after a Sydney fireman reported his experience of being asked to swap seats because he was seated beside two unaccompanied boys.

In a backflip the airline said: ''We understand the concerns raised around our policy for children travelling alone, a long-standing policy initially based on customer feedback.

''In light of recent feedback, we're now reviewing this policy. Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way.''

Fairfax Media reported the story of Johnny McGirr, 33, who said he was flying home from Brisbane in April when he took his seat next to two boys he estimated to be aged between eight and 10. He was assigned the window seat but sat in the aisle seat so the two boys could look out the window.

A flight attendant asked him to move. Mr McGirr said when he asked why, he was told, ''Well you can't sit next to two unaccompanied minors.''

''She said it was the policy and 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 apologised and said that was the policy. By this stage everyone around me had started looking.''

Mr McGirr said the attendant then asked a fellow female passenger, ''Can you please sit in this seat because he is not allowed to sit next to minors.''

''After that I got really embarrassed because she didn't even explain … And that was it. I pretty much sat through the flight getting angrier.''

Mr McGirr said he works as a fireman in Newtown, Sydney, and was trusted in his job to look out for children.