After the news that a second Asian airline - Airasia - plans to introduce seven rows of 'child-free' seats in its economy section, this week Easyvoyage considers the future possibility of adult-only travel as well as its benefits and problems.
Airasia is not the first airline to introduce child-free areas on flights. Malaysian Airlines also announced in April that the upper deck on its A380 planes would be out of bounds for children as of June 2012. These are by no means isolated cases. It seems tolerance amongst travellers for rowdy children is on the decrease. Time reports that Mark Yanchuk and his son David were thrown off a flight with Alaska Airlines in June 2012 as the boy made too much commotion after his toy (an ipad) was taken away from him when the cabin crew asked that all electronic equipment be switched off. Moreover, a recent survey by TripAdvisor revealed that over a third of Britons would be willing to pay more for a plane journey without children, whilst 40% of Americans would also pay extra to have a seat in a quiet zone. In support of these findings, a Telegraph poll found recently that almost 70% of readers supported the idea of child-free flights.
So, the question that follows is surely 'Is it acceptable to segregate a certain type of person just because other travellers feel inconvenienced'? This question has been all over the press last week, with a number of different answers being offered up. The overwhelming response - and one that I personally agree with - is yes, it is acceptable. I cannot remember the last time I was on a flight, bus, train, or any form of public transport, without having to dig my iPod out of my bag to block out the sound of screaming children. Whilst I can just about manage this on short journeys to work on the tube, for example, I cannot stand it on long haul flights when all most travellers want to do is sleep.
However, I am not unsympathetic to the parents of these children, who claim that they feel victimised by recent moves to create child-free zones. In fact, parents of troublesome children on flights are often even more stressed than their fellow travellers as they feel embarrassed and are certainly not immune to the filthy looks they receive from other passengers. What does annoy me however, are the parents who simply ignore their child's frantic cries for attention or who do not even attempt to calm them down.
One of the main criticisms of this new initiative is that child-free zones will lead to an increasingly intolerant social structure as future passenger demands may include the creation of different areas for obese people or for the elderly, for example. Firstly, to me this is a rather illogical jump. How exactly does the prospect of passengers choosing to make the most of a quiet zone on a plane lead to a Third Reich style situation at the boarding gate, with the different social groups being directed to their 'allocated' sections?
The way some commentators have reacted creates mental images of parents being chased off planes by crazy passengers with pitchforks and flaming torches. Rather, all that has actually happened is that two airlines have allocated small sections of some of their planes to adults only. Besides, even if this does suggest increasingly intolerant travellers, who can blame them? For the majority of us, air travel equates to holidays (or at least means we are on our way to or from a holiday). Therefore, at this almost sacred time of year when adults can escape the stress of work pressures, financial worries and the fast paced lifestyle we are all forced to endure these days, why shouldn't travellers get irate when this escapism is ruined by brawling children?
More importantly, think about all the advantages adults in these quiet zones will now enjoy. The days of enduring seat kickers behind you whilst you grit your teeth and discuss with the child's family how cute he is are finally over! Similarly, no longer will you have to experience the dubious concoction of smells that sitting next to a family with a baby usually entails - all baby food and nappies will be far away from you in the regular noisy section of the plane. Films and music can be appreciated through earphones at a regular volume - not turned up to drown out crying children - and naps can be enjoyed without interruption!
I am well aware that my neuroticism is my problem - not that of travelling parents, but it is nice to know that there is now an option for travellers who want to avoid journeys that leave you with a migraine and short of a night's sleep.
As for the possibility of more airlines following suit and introducing child-free zones, I believe it is unlikely. Any companies that chose to do so would reduce the number of potential customers for certain flights, which could in turn be less profitable - a big deterrent for most airlines. What seems more plausible however, is the creation of quiet zones, which would not necessarily be limited to adults (but it is likely that parents with young children would not choose these seats anyway), as this would allow the airline to avoid offending parents, whilst still capitalising on the growing desire for tranquil journeys.
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