I recently read a Conde Nast Traveler article about another airline adding a kid-free zone on their flights. IndieGo Airlines, based in India, is the latest company to make this offer. Although I do like kids (truly I do), as a childless adult, I did a quick, silent cheer in my head when I read this headline. Kids are cute – from babies right up until the age where their feet can actually touch the floor – but I cannot be the only person who sees a family with kids in the boarding area and prays that their seats are far, far away from my own. In a perfect world, I would be sharing my row with Anthony Bourdain (so we could swap endless, witty travel stories) and a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner who happened to fund his good deeds by moonlighting as fitness model…oh and he’s single. But I digress. The more I thought about it, I wondered if I really would pay extra for a child-free section on a plane.
For one, the real issue with kids is the noise factor. If you get a colicky baby or a 2 year old who is 2 hours past their nap time, be prepared with ear plugs AND noise canceling headphones. Now there’s also the added problem of kids and technology. I recently sat near a mother who entertained her child with a movie on their iPad (great!) but did not administer headphones so I got to hear “Princess So-and-So” and her high-pitched singing for an hour (decidedly NOT great). But moving a few rows away from the source of the noise likely will not do you a whole lot of good. Moving a couple of sections away (or if you’re on a 747, getting a seat in the coveted upstairs cabin) will help, but if you’re in the outer edges of the said “kid-free zone” you’re still going to be dealing with the noise. Similar to the days when smoking was allowed on flights, if you’re a non-smoker and you’re in the non-smoking section, perfect! But if you’re in one of the last few rows before it switches over to smoking, you’re probably still going to smell like smoke. If you’re in the middle of the kid-free zone, you may be buffered from their annoyances, but if you’re at the front or the back of that zone, little Johnny’s temper tantrum is still yours to enjoy.
The other common complaint about kids is when their precious tiny feet connect with the back side of your seat…over and over again. Yes, I’ve had this happen over the years, but I feel like most parents are well aware of this kiddie crime and are ready to (lightly) swat the legs of their little one if they get to swinging too aggressively. Or if mom and dad are not paying attention and kicking ensues, a brief but determined turn of the head to look at the child and then mom or dad in the eye gets everyone’s attention. The last time I found my seat back being kicked, I didn’t even have to completely turn around. I turned my head ever so slightly past 90 degrees with a subtly raised eyebrow and mom was on it. Problem solved. Not sure I can justify paying an extra $50 or so for a problem that was so easily solved.
Plus sometimes having little ones near by on the plane can be a lot of fun and brings a smile to my face. The cute kid sitting in front of you who peaks between the seat backs and gives you the sweetest smile. Or hearing a child’s unreserved excitement as they lift away from the earth for the very first time. Reminds you a bit about the magic of flying.
The other day I found myself in a middle seat sitting next to a very young mother with her 2 month old baby girl. As we were preparing to take off, the mom asked if I would hold baby Abagail while she dug in her bag for something. I thought it was a little strange that she so easily handed off her baby to a stranger but I said sure and played bouncy games with the little girl for a moment. I guess that was a test which I passed, because about 30 minutes later the mom asked if I would hold her baby again while she went to the bathroom. I can only imagine how tough it is traveling alone with an infant. Of course I said yes and she handed Abagail off again. That little girl was such a sweetheart. She stared at me with her big brown eyes as they got heavier and heavier as she tried (unsuccessfully) not to fall asleep. By the time mom came back Abagail was sweetly napping in my arms. I told mom that if she wanted to relax for a bit, I’d be happy to keep holding her daughter. A look of relief came across mom’s face and she thanked me. She then reclined her seat and dozed off for what I’m sure was a much needed nap. Funny, but that was probably one of my favorite flights this year: sitting in a middle seat next to a mom and baby. And if I’d paid money for a kid-free zone, I never would have had that experience.
So all that to say, would I pay extra for a seat in kid-free row? Well, maybe, depending on the situation. On an redeye flight or one where I had to get off the plane and head straight to a meeting, yes. I would consider it. But if its just a regular flight, I’d probably give it a pass. I’d sooner pay for an exit row seat (automatically free of little ones by airline regulations) or a seat towards the front with more leg room. At any rate, this is probably not a decision I’ll need to make any time soon as it seems that the only airlines that offer this option are based in Asia. U.S. based airlines have not jumped onto this bandwagon yet.
Now about kids in business or first class who cannot take advantage of the free liquor, extra leg room or higher quality food??…Well, that’s a whole other blog post.
I’m curious to know your thoughts on airlines designating kid-free sections of the plane. Do you think that’s a good idea or a form of discrimination? Would you pay more for a seat away from children? If so, how much would you pay? Please let me know in the comments below.