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Are Child-Free Cabins an Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Are Child-Free Cabins an Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Squalling children are a fact of travel life. Or at least they have been until recently.

Malaysia Airlines, which became a member of the oneworld alliance on February 1, last year imposed an outright ban on infants in some of its first-class cabins.

And last week, Asian discount carrier AirAsia began offering customers the option of choosing a seat in a child-free “quiet zone” on its A330-300 flights within the Asia-Pacific region.

For the privilege of sitting in the quiet zone, which also features special mood lighting and separate lavatories, flyers will pay between $11 and $36, the surcharges the airline normally imposes to choose a specific seat or book a seat with extra legroom.

Could this be the beginning of an industry-wide trend?

With planes flying fuller than ever — average load factors top 80 percent year-round for most airlines — the claustrophobia quotient is sky high. Which means that many flyers likely would be more than willing to spend a bit more to avoid at least one inflight irritant.

The economics are compelling as well. Designating a special kid-free zone and charging extra for access to it aligns perfectly with the airlines’ relentless search for new sources of revenue.

If the surcharge is a reasonable one, such quiet zones would appear to be a win-win.

Reader Reality Check

Is it fair and reasonable to charge travelers more to sit apart from children?

Would you pay more for the extra peace and quiet?

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  • jfp51

    YES PLEASE!!! Have had so many loud kids (or useless parents) in business class cabins that I would love the option of neither of us disturbing each other (parent vs. childless)

  • Nuala

    Yes, absolutely. This can’t happen soon enough.

  • BigSix

    Children should stay at home until the age of 6, and travel only at that age if they are disiplined.

  • joeybagadoughnutz

    my children always behave, or suffer the consequences

  • Ralphie5

    Long over-due.

  • Ralphie5

    Of course, it’s always the “others”.

  • C-DC

    yet another instance of the airlines’ basic business model: Create a problem (overcrowding; insufficient overhead space; etc.) and then charge your customers extra to avoid it.

  • Renee

    My daughter has traveled with us in 1st class and internationally since she was 14 months old (she is now 11). People would scowl at us when we boarded; then remark how quiet she was and that they forgot she was there. I guess it was a compliment but it didn’t really feel like one. She behaved as we expected. We lived out of the country for several years and “leaving kids under 6 at home” as suggested by BigSix was not an option. And I’m not about to travel 24 hours in coach. It is just like most things, some people are rude and inconsiderate and some aren’t. The most disruptive passengers I’ve had the displeasure of sitting near have always been intoxicated business men.

  • Don Bit

    start charging for every body on the plane, children and babies included.

  • Mike Henderson

    Hats off to Malaysia Air. The value of a premium cabin — already dubious, at least sometimes, given many airlines’ cutbacks in customer amenities — is shattered by the disruptions infants and toddlers can create, even when under the care of the most attentive and aware parents or guardians. I don’t even bother to upgrade domestically anymore if I have to pay for it.

  • Sasha Crow

    What a dilemma – it’s unavoidable that children must travel and most (not all) infants and toddlers cry and get fidgety during long flights. That’s how they communicate discomfort, hunger and boredom. They, and their parents, are not evil beings dead set on making our trip miserable.

    I know from experience, how miserable it is to be sitting near a fussy or wailing baby during a long-haul flight when you’re trying to sleep or just relax and enjoy the ride so I am totally sympathetic to the idea of separation.

    However, since the majority of flyers are adults who do not disrupt others’ flight, why charge them extra to escape the noise? Instead perhaps airlines can develop a movable (to accommodate different number of parent/small child passenger numbers) and sound-proof barrier that would create a “children’s section” where those with children under 5 must sit, separating them from the rest of the passengers – at least on flights over 5 hours.

    And I think it’s parents with infants/small children should be the ones paying the extra fee, not the rest of us.

  • SpinachInquisition

    Can I pay more to avoid drunk morons and smelly people? How about belligerent jerks? People who hog the armrest? How about fat people… we can corral them into a separate section near the bathrooms, right?

    God forbid you should have to travel somewhere with your entire family, including your infant, with a flight full of contemptuous people. Let’s lock those kids in a closet until they’re teenagers.

  • Andy Tilley
  • Edgar Numrich

    With 60+ years of commercial flying under wing, all air travel has gotten pretty old, and where the “game” is only to get the best deal for the buck. Objections by those “paying up” for business or first (been there, done that) only to suffer squalling kids (or adults) really shows they overpaid in the first place (and we in the back appreciate that you did) . . .

  • ChrisCooke

    Great idea! Now people who can’t afford noise-cancelling headphones, or empathize with people traveling with young children, can have their own section. Now if we can only segregate all those obnoxious people with peanut allergies…

  • ChrisCooke


  • ChrisCooke


  • ChrisCooke

    Give me a break! Malaysia Air’s move is nothing more that another crazy revenue generating scheme.

  • VT

    Amen to the “intoxicated business men”! I’ve never had kids, but come on, give the parents a break – didn’t most of you have kids with you on trips?

  • Erin

    Yes! I would GLADLY pay to be seperated from the screamers. Small price for my own sanity.

  • James

    Assuming that we are talking about situations where the US laws apply, what this proposes borders on “age” discrimination. If I am paying first-class fare for my son, then he has the same right to the same accommodation as other first-class passengers. When you propose the segregation of a group of people based on race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, etc, and yes, AGE, you are practicing discrimination. My son has flown more miles than most people each year since he was born, yet he has not once created a disturbance. But, that is not the point.

    I don’t even know if the airlines could get away with creating small sections for each class that are baby-free (like smoke-free zones), unless they can argue successfully in court that young children are hazardous to other passengers’ health. No pun intended.

    Malaysian Airlines can do what they want within the constraints of their national laws (and culture), but I bet that they will need to make changes on their flights to the US. If they can get away with charge a small fee to sit separately from children, they may get away with creating different sections for men and women as well.

  • James

    Some “adults” are less mature than a 6-year old child.

  • James

    I guess that you are not blind to the fact that the same culture separates men from women also.

  • James

    I agree. All lap babies should be in their own child safety seats in the first place..

  • Ethan Allen

    Two things….

    #1 – I have seen MANY adults on flights act like big whiny babies, even in first class, that annoyed me more than any child ever did. Get rid of these people, then maybe I’ll understand the “no children” policy. But adults are an equal part of my problem here.

    #2 – If there is no rule on a specific airline, I could care less what people think. When my children were young (like 1 years old) I would take them in First Class and I didn’t give a shit what others thought, and neither should you if you have kids. Especially when I pay $500-$1000/ticket in Full Fare FC, you can go screw yourself with your complaints about my child. I probably paid more than YOU to be there.

    Don’t like my kids? Fine. Take a car or a boat. But I’m taking the plane and I’ll pay full fare FC if I have to, whether you big-baby adults like it or not.

  • kestie

    Agreed. Our daughter (now 14) has traveled internationally since she was 7. Never cried.

  • kestie

    you haven’t a clue

  • kestie

    I’m with you. My kid always behaved. Spent plenty of time in first class or business and never made a fuss. It’s the older adults who drink and put their feet up all over the place who think they have somehow bought a ticket to entitlement.

  • Jamesteroh

    I agree. If an infant is travelling in first they should have to have a paid seat

  • Jamesteroh

    The airlines should start charging infants for a seat. Why should I have to put up with a screaming infant that is sitting in first class for free?

  • StarAllianceGold

    Free at last, free at last! It took decades for airlines to first create non-smoking sections on aircraft, then finally ALL flights being non-smoking. I don’t think children should be banned from flights, but child free zones is a GREAT idea, as well as creating family zones so that the children can look and scream at one another.

    Looking forward to the first US carrier that has the common sense to just have a children free zone – every business traveler will be buying up those seats ASAP!

  • StarAllianceGold

    A sound proof barrier – that’s a great idea, just like those glass enclosed smoking rooms I have seen in CLT and ATL I believe!

  • StarAllianceGold

    So true – if I have to pay extra for a checked bag, they should be charging for these parents bringing an infant on that is SUPPOSED to be on e parents lap but ends up taking the seat next to them the majority of the time – a seat is a seat, if someone is in it, they pay for it, period!

  • StarAllianceGold

    You are right, I a sure the ACLU is already waiting to sue the first US carrier that even attempts to make air travel more tolerable – but they won’t be able to touch the foreign carriers thankfully, who I have been traveling on exclusively for the last 10+ years for intl flights because the domestic carriers service is a joke. Looks like more US carriers will lose on on even more intl tickets.

  • StarAllianceGold

    I have dreamed of the day of having a child in the seat in front of me so that I could kick the back of their seat and push it forward whenever they recline back.

  • StarAllianceGold

    At least give the child a sleeping pill just before boarding, much like they give to some animals checked under the plane to relax them (I am not saying put the kids in with the checked baggage, so don’t get all your panties in a bunch)!

  • StarAllianceGold

    Andy – that is awesome! And so true!!

  • Dross

    I’ve been on flights where once settled, parents let their children run wild on the plane. Children of similar ages will get together and run in packs around the plane like wild dogs. And somehow, these parents thinks it’s ok. Hello? I paid for a SANE flight home, and I don’t appreciate having your kids disrupting my flight! I also have been on flights where parents have screaming babies, or worse yet, one screaming baby sets off another screaming baby, and they go back and forth the entire flight. It is a nightmare. First, if you are traveling with an infant, you should be paying for the seat. Infants take up a seat, so why should they get a break! Second, there should be a family section on the plane- maybe reserve the back 20% of the plane for families flying, and limit them to staying within those barriers. Give them a little extra space to change nappies and let the kids roam. This would give those of us who choose to not have kids to have the sane flight we also paid for.

    Mind you, I’m referring to my international flights. I don’t travel much domestically, so I have no comments on that. And- for those who board with well-behaved children, I appreciate it, as do other passengers- but I think youre the exception, not the rule.

  • Anthony Edelen

    Last week I flew with my two year old from TPA to ATL then onto OMA. The flight from TPA to ATL was fine but my little munchkin didn’t take the ATL to OMA flight to kindly. I profusely apologized to the people around me before the flight left (there could be a chance it may be a bad flight) then once we landed as my little guy’s ears couldn’t release the pressure as we decended and all he could do was scream for the last 25 min of the flight. Everyone around me, other than the older woman in front of my seat, understood what my child was going thru and that I was doing the best I could have done at the time to comfort my child.

    What I don’t understand is why DL or any other carrier for that matter just put parent(s) with young children in the back of the plane automatically. There can be no upgrade to economy comfort or first class. If you have a child under 4 or 5 this is where you sit. If you don’t like the rule then either bring along a nanny or spouse so that he or she can sit with your child or fly without your child and you can have your pick where you would like to sit.

    To me being in the back of the plane when I have my child is a whole lot less stressful as there are normally other parents in the same predicament.

  • StarAllianceGold

    That is very kind as a parent to say that, that’s where I always requested to be seated the few times I travel by air with my children – plus it doesn’t hurt to be close to the bathrooms!

    But the “back of the bus” concept is a bad and offensive idea considering the past (Rosa Parks) if you know what I mean.

  • EarlVanDorn

    When I was a kid our small-town movie theater actually had a “crying room,” which was indeed a glass enclosed room with speakers that mothers with crying babies could use to watch the movie without disturbing others. Ah, for the good old days.

  • nbongo

    I would pay for one in a heartbeat.

  • James Bywater

    Our daughter is 11 months old and has done 5 long haul trips in business class with another 4 coming up this month (we live in India with family in the uk and Australia). Likewise she generally doesn’t make much noise and we have had compliments on every trip.

    For those who say you should leave kids at home until they are 6 – should this apply to trains too? Buses? I think families have a right to travel just as much as single businessmen, whether or not they consider themselves more important. They have to pay for a ticket (even for the child) after all. Having said that, the parents have a responsibility too – if the kid is making noise they should try to do something about it.

  • James Bywater

    They do charge…

  • Anthony Edelen

    Then I would have no problem being put in the very front of the plane while everyone else can sit in the rear and middle. Either way with airplanes being so much more crowded with business flyers and families it is just going to get worse and worse. I do like the back of the plane idea (or front of the plane or for that matter middle of the plane) but inevidtably we all have to fly and if I can get from point A to point B in 5 hours and it would take me 24 hours to drive it what do you think I am going to do?
    I had another horrible flight with my little guy (wife was at home being a school teach) from PBI to ATL then onto OMA. This flight someone stole my diaper bag from our rental car which included my son’s diapers, cream, clairitan, etc. Not only did my son have a ear infection in both ears but he had a yeast infection. He was miserable the entire flight. I was lucky that when I bought the ticket I had upgraded to EC and the middle seat was free and the aisle had a very nice mature woman who had four kids in her life and did her best to comfort my poor little guy. The entire flight my poor little guy, Oscar, was a horrible mess. People directly were telling me I am bad father, he should never fly again, turn the plane around, put them in the bathroom, and so on. My only saving grace was a incredible FA who got on the horn and told everyone that was upset with my sick child to “sit down and deal with it as this parent is doing the best he can given the circumstances”. She gave me her business card but I can’t seem to find it. I wish I could remember her name as she is what has kept me flying Delta.

  • MrTimothy

    All airlines should do this – but I would ask why any one would take children in any class but cattle class. As Mrs Moneypenny once wrote in the FT – ‘if you can afford to pay for your children to fly in First you can afford to pay someone to fly with them at the back’.

    taking children into premium classes on aircraft gives them expectations meaning that they will be disappointed in later life.

  • Linda Nelson

    Sounds like they’re taking lessons from the medical industry….give a drug….then another one for the side effects….then another one for the side effects to the one treating the side effects from the first one…then…..well, you get the idea!!!

  • kiwirower

    Long overdue. I once caught an overnight flight from LHR to SIN, and a child a row away from me who was at least 18 months old – not a baby and definitely old enough to be told what to do – screamed at the top of his lungs for approximately 10 hours. I would say that at least 140 people who would have expected to sleep on that flight would not have managed a wink of sleep.

    At the launch of the A380 I figured that one of the best uses of the space available would be to create a soundproof room for screaming kids, and their parents, if they desired to remain with their offspring.

    On a long-haul, overnight flight, I would happily pay an extra £50 to cover the cost of such a separate provision for any passengers (child or adult) who can’t be made to keep quiet.

  • John Frykman

    I don’t see how allowing people to choose a seat somewhere other than your bawling child infringes on your rights. I suppose that since the brat is yours, and you have to suffer through its tantrums it is only fair that everyone else has a chance to suffer along with you. Drunks and morons are not necessarily the same people. I doubt that you will find any morons unaccompanied on a plane, and I doubt they will be intoxicated. Drunks are already denied seats. Other than the occasional misguiided female who douses herself with cheap fragences, in all my flying career (I am 70) I’ve never sat next to a smelly person. “Hog” the armrest? If you sit in a center seat how do you avoid it?

    It does not make a person contemptuous simply because they want some peace and quite while jammed into an overcrowded cabin. I usually travel first class to get some measure of peace and quiet. I don’t care all that much about the other amenities. Does that make me contemptuous? How so?

  • Dave Jones

    Last week I was on a Dulles to Istanbul 11 hour flight next to parents with an infant who slept and was managed by the parents to the point where we didn’t know the baby was aboard. Kudos to them. It was clear the parents had prepared both themselves and their infant for this long haul flight. I was also on a 9 hour international flight where the 6 year old behind me kept kicking my seat despite my protests to his parents. I finally told him in no uncertain terms the flight attendents would open the door and toss him out if he continued. His kicking stopped. In both cases this was an issue for the parents, not the child, to manage. There is no right answer here in my opinion. If a seating area without children makes good business sense, it certainly will occur. Given the great range of parenting skills and abilities to manage their children aboard aircraft and the uncertainty of getting a unmanagable child accompanied by an untrained adult, I might choose to upgrade to a childless cabin

  • fredandgingermad

    In all these circumstances people are blaming the infant/child for the circumstances, i’ve been flying with my daughter since she was 6 months old (she’s now 6 years) and only on one flight (HKG-DOH) have i ever had issues with her and even then because I was doing everything in my power as a parent to comfort her and to settle her people around me couldn’t have been more helpful and undertanding. Infants cry its a fact of life, its parents who don’t make any effort to comfort said infant or can’t be bothered to entertain (or discipline) the child who is kicking your seat who is almost certainly old enough to know better that you actually have the issue with

  • naoma

    We flew with our child since she was about a year old — she was well-behaved and not a problem. Went to London from Pittsburgh. Kids pretty much behave the way they do at home. She is an adult now and really traveled quite a lot in planes.

  • naoma

    I do not like dogs (allergies) but on a flight to Paris (first class) one woman left her “toy” dog run around the plane. I told the flight attendant and she had the woman put it back into its “cage.” I was given dirty looks throughout that long flight.

  • Katie Tierney

    I want a plane ride where I don’t have a jerk next to me who falls asleep and keeps “falling over” into my lap. I want a flight where I don’t have a jerk in front of me who slams his seat back into my laptop while I’m trying to work. I want a flight where I don’t have a jerk complaining about the poor infant in coach whose little ears are in agony because they can’t handle the pressurization.

    Can AirAsia give me that? Because I’m willing to pay to avoid the jerks.

  • Julie G

    That’s hilarious! I was about to make a comment along the lines of, just put the drunks and the toddlers in the back together and let them sort it out, but the cartoon is much funnier.

  • Julie G

    Amen. I don’t have a problem with crying infants, oddly enough. I think it’s because they just can’t help it, poor things. But the kids who are old enough to behave & refuse to, and the parents who let them act like feral cats in an alley – those are the ones that drive me nuts. And the drunks.

  • WilsonJr

    Reading the comments and suggestions of all the individuals that praised placing small children on “separated sections” or even banning them on flight until age “x”, I feel very sorry for their shameful individuality. Moreover, I am certain that these creatures have never been a baby or small child; indeed, they were born old, grumpy, sad and dark. They cannot see that airplanes are public places, just like buses, theaters, a shopping mall, a hospital or any given street anywhere in the world. These places must have order? Of course! But not one should have discriminating policies of age, height, weight, color, religion or whatever else. Babies react to almost everything by crying; it is their way to express themselves until they are able to speak. I am sure everyone knows this. And the parents of small kids should control them so they don’t keep running up and down the aisle and kicking your seat back? For sure! But this “control” is the parents’ obligation, not the small kids responsibility. Let babies be babies; let small kids be happy, yet respectful. God bless them all! And God be mercy on those jealous individuals that were never in their lives been babies and small happy kids!

  • Cabernets Mum

    I would like to see baby free First class aircraft . also would like to see people in general chastising loud children Just had a screaming kid all the way from the lounge to the aircraft in bali and all the way home. If i wanted to hear screaming kids I would have had my own.

  • MedEscort

    Flying is not for everyone, whether adult or child. Just because you can buy a ticket or someone buys it for you, doesn’t mean you should fly. As the father of four kids who flew internationally often over a 13 year period of time, my kids were kept orderly by my wife and I. I need to say there is a balance in all this. Yes, parents need to be able to control their children, but if we are going to punish children or their families, we need to address adult problems. Physical or mental problems are at the top of my list. If you are sick, don’t get on a flight (LDH). No one wants to watch
    you projectile vomit five times, because you can’t get to the lavatory
    in time. Just before making an emergency landing at the halfway mark, I was called to help
    an unconscious passenger who forgot to take her meds before the flight (LDH). I have flown (KLM) next to a man who was so wide, he took up half of my seat. I had to sit for 8 hours with my elbows on my knees. I have flown (THY) with people who woke me up to ask how I could sleep while flying ( they wanted someone to talk to). I have been surrounded many times by loudmouths (sometimes from fear of flying) that bellowed during the whole flight. For every child who has kicked the back of my seat with their short legs, I’ve seen 4 times as many adults who “ruin” flights in so many other ways. Let’s punish the adults as well. Kids have short legs and are nervous too, give them a break. As a suggestion, parents need to take off their kids shoes and perhaps socks, so the kid can feel what he’s doing. Oh and please don’t allow cell phone use on planes. If you’re going to complain about a crying baby, then don’t allow adults to talk on a cell phone.

  • Cowboycork

    How about the airlines email a document to anyone that books a child on a flight giving expectations on child behavior and helpful hints. I’m sure that there are adults that have no idea of what they should/shouldn’t do with a child that also does not know how to behave on a flight. For infants, we were told to always have the child drinking during takeoff and landing to help their ears with the pressure change.

  • Rick

    Such a dividing issue! As a frequent traveler, one of the rewards for traveling so much has always been redeeming my miles to go on vacation with my family – including my 2 daughters. As frequent travelers ourselves, my wife and I have always been sensitive to the surrounding passengers and keeping our daughters quiet and under control. Thankfully most parents seem to be of a similar mindset, but unfortunately, few people seem to remember the quiet kids and their parents. My point is this – my daughters have probably each flown more times by the age of 8 than many of the complainers will in their entire lives! Should they have had 1 bad flight out of 20 (and they have), please cut them some slack. My daughters have both flown first class in their own seats (and as “lap children”) because their dad EARNS those tickets by being away almost every week. We view this as compensation and a perk for my frequent travel – we get to travel as a family. Whenever I find myself a little short on patience, I remind myself of traveling with my kids and how stressed out I was as a parent whenever they made noise or disrupted other passengers. Rather than getting upset, I prefer to think of ways I might help the parents or at least reassure them that everyone with kids has gone through the same thing. Complainers – do yourself a favor, travel with headphones or earplugs and shut out the distractions. Have some patience and understand that kid behind you kicking your seat may be a more seasoned traveler than you AND may have more of a right to be on that flight than you!

  • Karen Muffi Merriman

    YES! YES! Bring back the concept of the “cry room.” A separate cabin for families, with family amenities like changing tables and so forth!!! As a business traveller I do not ever want to see another baby changed on the seat next to me … or on the tray table!!!!

  • aliceblue

    Deferring to your travel experience would you please provide a link to where it says that the more you fly the more you may kick the seats and the greater your “right” is to be on the plane.

  • Rick

    Poor, poor aliceblue – you missed the entire point of my comments and completely twisted my words into something convenient for you to complain about. As I said in my original post “As frequent travelers ourselves, my wife and I have always been sensitive to the surrounding passengers and keeping our daughters quiet and under control. Thankfully most parents seem to be of a similar mindset, but unfortunately, few people seem to remember the quiet kids and their parents.”

    You see, my kids are perfect and would never DREAM of kicking the back of your seat! They’ve always been very quiet and respectful of fellow travelers. They don’t drink alcohol (obviously) and they don’t slam their seats back into the person behind them (or their laptop!). They don’t overflow into neighboring seats and they don’t fight over armrests. They never talk on phones while boarding planes, and they completely turn off all electronic devices before takeoff and landing. They keep their shoes on and never prop their feet up on the seat or bulkhead in front of them. If they bring on 2 bags, one ALWAYS goes under the seat in front of them instead of filling the overhead space. But, in the rare case that one of my kids ever makes the severe error of kicking your seat, be assured that their parents will immediately address the issue and my entire family will provide you with a public apology. Maybe you would agree to do the same?

    Again, my point can be summed up in one word: Patience. These are kids we’re talking about, with every right to be on that plane as you. Parents should do their best to make it a positive experience for everyone, but sometimes it’s just going to be a loooong flight! If the airlines decide to offer kid-free flight (and I hope they do), I hope they charge a premium for them.

    And the link you requested? Try this one:

  • Annoyed

    Just because you don’t have a problem with it doesn’t mean the other 100 people on the flight don’t. Why do people with young kids think they are entitled to make everyone else miserable for hours on end? Have you stopped to think how cruel it is for you to bring a child that can’t understand what’s happening onto a plane? It isn’t the child’s fault, parents should be more considerate of others just as I do when traveling with a child.