Child-free Travel?

[deleted account] ( 10 moms have responded )

The passengers on my flight from New York’s JFK to Istanbul thought it was a transatlantic miracle: my six-month-old angel slept for 10 hours, waking up only to eat and flirt with the man sitting next to us.

Yesterday, I wasn’t so lucky traveling with my now-17-month-old on a flight between Salt Lake City and Atlanta. It seems that she’d like to push this new mobility concept she’s discovered, even if we are 37,000 feet in the air and squished like small bugs between two generously proportioned people. I’ll put it this way: there was shrieking and attempted seat kicking.

After realizing I was in the crosshairs of one man’s particularly malevolent stink eye, I thought, “Maybe family zones on planes wouldn’t be such a bad idea.” That way, I’d be free of embarrassment when we disturb the peace, and perhaps even comforted by the presence of kids who would inevitably be louder than mine.

The topic came up again recently, when a 67-year-old American woman on a Qantas flight from Darwin to Alice Springs sued the airline after a three-year-old’s shriek apparently made her ear bleed.

Prompted by this disturbing case, Skyscanner, a travel search site that compares airline ticket prices, polled more than 2,000 people about their feelings on families-only sections. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they would prefer them. Non-parents liked the idea even more: 68 percent were in favor. And nearly a quarter childless respondents went so far as to say that they’d prefer a flight free of any children.

A survey by Tripadvisor in the UK last year revealed even greater support there: 79 percent of Britons said there should be child-free zones on planes.

Among parents, the feelings were more mixed. In Skyscanner’s survey, fewer than a third of parents were in favor of the families-only section, and this is where my own opinion differs: 45 percent of parents said they didn’t want a families-only section because they didn’t want to sit next to “other people’s horrors.” Personally, I’d rather endure a naughty kid than a non-parent angry with my naughty kid.

Naturally, there would be some logisitical issues to implementing family zones. Want to change your seat? You’d probably have little flexibility. And how would airlines handle parents with infants-in-arms (under 24 months)? They don’t even have to report they have a child until check-in.

As a mom, I’m torn: I understand why people would want family zones on planes, and I’d be ok sitting in one. On the other hand, I worry airlines might use this to find a creative new fee to charge people (for instance, those who don’t want to sit close to kids). And in general, could this kind of segregation open the travel experience up to others: would we eventually find a large-seated section for people with large seats?

Parents and non-parents, how do you stand? Are child-free zones the right thing to do?

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[deleted account]

Heck, I'd like child-free flights, too! Let's just house all the little ones in a little sidecar bubble attached to the plane. They can govern themselves like Lord of the Flies. And we parents can catch a little nap while we fly.

[deleted account]

I'd be fine with a child-free zone, or a family zone on an airplane. When I fly, I know there will always be kids/babies on board. I would never expect a perfect flight either. This summer when we flew there was a little kid behind kicking my son's seat, and my son complained. I politely turned around and told the mom, and she promptly apologized. But then I realized it was a boy my son's age, so I told my son he could stan dup on the chair and tell "his new friend" knock-knock jokes. Well, that went on for a good 30 minutes, and it's 30 minutes of entertaining a kid on a flight. Hey, now as a parent, you have to realize that when you cram in an airplane, you expect the worst and hope for the best.

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[deleted account]

I'd be ok with child free zones or even child only flights. I read something a few weeks ago on Yahoo about how one airline (don't remember which one) is getting all kinds of flack from parents because they were considering making some flights "family flights". The way I understood it, if you don't have kids, you could still opt to fly on one of the flights with children on it, but you'd be aware that it could be noisy. As long as they didn't limit the times and availability of the flights TOO MUCH, I would be fine with that. I mean, I'm pretty sure my son wouldn't do well on a flight and would probably be that kid on the plane making everyone miserable.

[deleted account]

Family zone is a good idea... I think we should get the option without having to pay an extra fee.

[deleted account]

I think it would make airfare more expensive. If they do this, they should give the option to have a child-free zone/family zone or traditional flight (for no fee). I can say that a family zone would make me less nervous about traveling with my toddler. Although, we took her to California at 11 months old and she did just fine. Now that she's more mobile and verbal...ermmm I'm not so sure how she'd do.

Sherri - posted on 10/11/2010

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I am all for family zones and kid free zones on an airplane. I think that would be so much more of an enjoyable trip for everyone involved.

Candi - posted on 10/11/2010

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My children have always been really good on flights. We used to fly from Germany to the US all the time when we were stationed there. I wouldn't want to be forced to sit with rowdy children just b/c mine were the same age. My kids used to sit still, watch the movie, read, or play their video games. Now my kids are 11, 10, and 5. Since they are the ages of pre-teens and child, would they stick us all in the family zone? Or would they allow us to sit with the "normal" people? HMMM. How would this work for a family with children of different ages? If I can teach my children who flew from the ages of 18 mos through the age of 5 how to act on a plane, then whats the big deal? I am just amazed the lack of patience some people have with trying to teach their children. We did get the opportunity to fly on some military cargo planes too. That was great. My son at the tender age of 3 or 4 would talk to the soldiers and play video games with them. The only sound they ever made on a commercial flight was when one man sitting next to my son asked his name. My son told him, then anxiously waited for a few moments and HAD to tell someone how he burned his hand! He touched a cookie pan as soon as I pulled it out of the oven! It only took 1 touch! But back to the topic, I wouldn't want to be forced to sit in a loud area just b/c I have children. After I pay that price for tickets, there's no way!

Barb - posted on 10/11/2010

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I like the idea of family zones and child free zones. My children are all grown but I now have a grandchild and if i'm ever blessed enough to take her on a trip i hope i get to sit with other children for her to play with.

After recently flying i'd have to say however, it was not the children who bothered me but the father who was constantly yelling at his pre teens for every move they made during the flight. He was sitting behind me and yelling at his child that they had a lady sitting in front of him and should be respectful, i guess that means sit still, be quiet and don't move. about halfway through the flight i reminded him he also had a lady sitting in front of him and should be respectful, if he wanted to set the example that is *insert sweet smile here*

When my child was younger i really looked forward to having other children around us who would help keep him entertained, although i always brought quiet toys, coloring books etc in case he needed some quiet distraction.

That is a good point, Meghan, I'm sure the airlines will find a way to slip some kind of charge in there. And since the Airlines are polling it means they have the idea and are working on a way to implement it, probably NOT free of charge.

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