FFE Magazine

Do you favor the kid-free zones of some airlines in their long haul flights?

Early this year AirAsia X, AirAsia’s long-haul branch, joined the array of airlines offering kid-free “quiet zones.” The airline’s new feature –complete with soft lighting and more leg room – have disallowed children less than 12 years old from sitting within the first seven rows of the economy class. According to AirAsia X’s press release, CEO Azran Osman-Rani said that this new venture targets passengers wanting some peace of mind.

AirAsia X’s kid-free zones may have been the right business move, as it has gained overwhelming support from many travelers.

According to a survey conducted by Jetcost.co.uk, 53% of 1,666 British adults opted for kid-free zones. Based on another poll by travel site Tripadvisor, over a third of Britons were willing to pay extra just to travel without the presence of children. In other websites and forums, folks have expressed their support over kid-free zones. One commenter by the name of DigDug2010 said,

“I will happily pay $50-$100 more each way if I was assured I would not be seated within five rows ahead or behind of some little hyper brat who isn’t controlled by his useless parents. In fact, airlines should all offer flights that are totally ‘child free.’ “If pets can survive in the cargo hold, so can ill-behaved kids…” 

Jonathon Stannard, a frequent flyer welcomed the idea too by saying,

“It’s about time. Economy is stressful enough without having to endure screeching kids and crying babies. It’s usually the parents’ fault – they rarely do much to control their children.”

It may come as a surprise, but even parents are relieved by the “quiet zone.” Trying to control a crying baby while sleeping passengers are around can be stressful as well as embarrassing for many parents. And for Cathy Winston from MummyTravels, kid-free zones would mean getting less reproachful looks from other passengers. She says sitting in an area where all the people around her had chosen to sit there would take some of her stress off.

Parents also prefer sitting outside of the kid-free zone knowing airlines are providing them with the appropriate infant and toddler amenities. For example, AirAsia X will be adding three baby bassinets to some of their economy sections.

Generally, travelers are happy about kid-free zones because they now have the option to journey peacefully. Mr. Osman-Rani said it himself that kid-free zones do not ban kids from traveling; that the new offering was about customizing preferences and providing “fair choice.”

Yet when talking about “fair choice” other travelers, especially those with children, felt they were not given the option to choose. Many parents and families actually feel segregated for being required to sit in the assigned area. Even elite travelers who want to stay in business class with their children cannot do so anymore, as in the case of Malaysia Airlines’ standard on kid-free first class cabins.  Some have called the new feature insensitive and unfair, since there is no separate compartment for noisy adult passengers who play earsplitting music or those whosnore loudly. Arnie, a commenter on a news website, refuted pro kid-free zone supporters saying,

“We were all kids and most of us have kids. You can deal with it. What about the fat people? The smelly people? The guy who turns his light on when it is dark so you can’t sleep? The person who reclines their seat in coach? We all have issues with each other,” wrote Arnie.

Other said the new feature was futile since toilets, bulkheads, curtain partitions, several seating rows – the only things separating the families and kid-free zones – were not enough to block off any clamor especially if you were in a tight and condensed space. George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com used the analogy of cigarette smoke, wafting into non-smoking areas, to support this. He said,

“If you were just one row away from the smoking section, you still got the smoke… And you’ll still hear the screams … if a child has strong lungs.”

Another commenter known as markbaeg agreed,

“Funny thing about sound. … It can carry a long distance — say the length of a fuselage.” 

Budget travelers without children also commented on the extra charges. They said they found the additional cost of $11.32 for kid-free zones, as in the case of AirAsia X, too expensive.

On one hand, kid-free “quiet” zones have made peaceful journeys a possibility. On the other, it may not have fully been sensitive towards families and parents. To avoid further conflict, perhaps airlines need to compromise, and make kid-free zones, well, kid-friendlier.  Perhaps lowering the age for the “quiet” zones (from 12 years old) to 7 is better, given that seven-year-olds do not bawl uncontrollably anymore. Adults traveling alone might find this more convenient as well, since seven-year-old seatmates are still too small to hog the armrest or occupy the space intended for you. Furthermore, with all the gadgets available nowadays, kids as young as seven can easily be entertained, and kept busy and quiet.

For some tips on managing children during travels, read “Bringing the kids along”




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