The decision by Air New Zealand and Quantas not to seat men next to unaccompanied children is sending an anti-male message, Massey University experts say.
Massey University Centre for Public Policy Evaluation director Stuart Birks says the airlines' seating policies are "pointless and ridiculous".
"I find it highly offensive. As a responsible man, the idea that I might be seen as a threat is bizarre."
The policy has labelled half the population as unsuitable, Mr Birks said. "I was a youth leader and worked closely with kids as an adult. Now they're saying I'm not to be trusted."
Mr Birks, of Palmerston North, says the policy is an odd idea.
"What really puzzles me is what led to them thinking it up."
The policy makes as much sense as discriminating against passengers on the grounds of race, religious beliefs or appearance, he said.
"Can they identify a real need for this or are they just trying to identify all men as potential dangers to children? Would they have a policy of not seating children next to Maori passengers, or skinheads or
Muslims - or only male Maori, skinheads or Muslims?"
The airlines seem to be saying men are people to look out for, yet when he was young he was told, if ever needing help, ask an adult.
"Now they are saying the opposite."
Massey University College of Education senior lecturer and former school principal Michael Irwin says the policy sends a signal to children that men can't be trusted.
"It's sending a very misleading message into society that men are not caring, loving, concerned individuals when it comes to young children.
"It's saying to society that it's not a man's role to be involved with their children or any children, and that's ridiculous."
The messages are harmful not only to men, who could be made to feel alienated from parts of society focused on children, such as schools, childcare centres and nursing, but to children.