Kids free flights: a demand but not yet a trend

Who hasn’t complained about that unbearable kid who kept kicking the back of your seat, or the one whose crying kept you awake on a long overnight flight? No one. Not even parents who are quick to make excuses for their own offspring, nor the biggest fans of the little ones.

Children on planes: anything but a pleasure (even for them)

Confined travel space by definition, suitable for long journeys airplanes are not necessarily the best choice for young children And it’s not for nothing that many airlines pay special attention to them and provide them with something to keep them busy, sometimes all year round, sometimes through special vacation schemes.

By its very nature, flying exacerbates all the irritants of travel. Confined, noisy space, inability to change seats, little personal space. All the attitudes that bother us on the ground are even worse there. It’s bad enough having to put up with a new-born baby bawling at home or in a restaurant (especially when it’s not your own), but putting up with a rambunctious teenager is no better, and on a plane it’s a real ordeal.

But criticism is easy and if children can be a source of discomfort on planes, it’s rarely their fault. Noise, lack of space, turbulence, having to sit in a seat for hours are all things that will create discomfort for the little ones and impatience for the older ones. And I’m not even talking about behavioral and educational problems, which, if they’re not inherent to children, are more easily noticed and blamed on them.

If they cause discomfort and are a problem for some passengers, they often didn’t ask to be there and experience the situation just as badly.

Some passengers no longer want to have kids around

As some passengers are less tolerant than others, there is a real demand for child-free flights, or at least child-free spaces on aircraft.

In 2017, a survey by the AirFareWatchDog website revealed that more than half of respondents were in favour of families with young children being confined to a reserved area of the cabin and on specialized forums, many people ask for such devices, and some are even prepared to pay more for this added tranquility.

In the meantime this article from the BBC reports that a survey by shows that 53% of respondents are in favor of child-free flights and that, according to a TripAdvisor survey, more than a third of Britons are ready to pay more to avoid the presence of children.

According to a survey by booking website, 70% of passengers would be in favor of child-free zones.

It’s a demand that seems very real, but which is not at all reflected in airline policies.

Which airlines offer child-free zones?

Today, very few airlines offer to separate children or families with children from other passengers.

AirAsia X launched its “quiet zone” in 2013. It comprises the first 7 rows after the premium cabin, and only passengers over 10 years of age are allowed in it. Access is subject to a surcharge.

In addition, the Asian low-cost airline limits the number of children on board its flights, although it is not known exactly how many.

Indigo, an Indian low-cost carrier, launched its quiet zone in 2016. It comprises rows 1 to 4 and 11 to 14.

Malaysia Airlines has banned infants in first class on its B747s, and children under 12 are not allowed in the economy class section on the upper deck of jumbos. This policy only applies to the small economy section of the A380’s upper deck.

Scoot, another low-cost airline, forbids 33 seats in business and economy to children under 12.

Virgin Atlantic wanted to experiment with a different approach, with part of the cabin reserved for children, but they were forbidden to do so. Indeed, in the event of an incident, this would have posed major safety problems for the evacuation.

Finally, Japan Airlines lets you know when you book your seat whether there are any babies nearby.

It’s amusing to note that the “quiet zone” seems to be most popular with low-cost carriers, even though families with children make up a significant proportion of their clientele. Or maybe it’s precisely because they have so many children on board…

Child-free zones: between gadget and mission impossible?

We totally agree with the idea of trying as far as possible to limit “noisy” areas to one part of the aircraft, but the options implemented don’t seem realistic to us.

Screaming and crying are like smoke in the age of smoking flights: if you’re in a child-free zone on row 4 and a child is crying on row 6, it’s not better at all.

The best option would be to make entire cabin segments child-free, but given the number of seats this represents, it seems unrealistic.

As for banning children from certain classes like business or first, we don’t believe in it either. Having traveled alongside children in business class, I can tell you that I found them infinitely quiter than in economy. Which is to say that the problem isn’t so much the child as the conditions in which they travel: in business class with a real bed and more space around them, everything’s fine! And in these classes, the ticket price logically limits the presence of young children.

As for Malaysia, its “no kids policy” only applies to double-decker aircraft, which isn’t stupid. But the Malaysian airline is unlikely to be flying these aircraft again any time soon, should it ever resume operating them.

And we’re not talking about the impact this would have in terms of communication. If many people are in favor of child-free zones, it doesn’t seem that they’re enough to justify a measure that would be poorly accepted by a large proportion of families.

And given the current situation, airlines won’t be able to afford to be picky while planes are far from being full.

A quiet flight without children? Everybody’s in favor of it, but nobody has yet found the right solution to do it effectively without offending anyone, and realistically in terms of revenue and cabin occupancy.

Image : child on plane by FamVeld via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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