Kid-free airplane cabins have caused a lot of controversy over the years, and now it seems the idea is gaining traction once again.
This week, Indian budget carrier IndiGo adopted a “quiet zone” policy for premium seats.
It’s a euphemistic way of saying kids below 12 years of age aren’t welcome in certain parts of the plane, which usually includes seats in the front and over the wings with extra leg room.
The controversial idea is popular with frequent flyers — and anyone who has been locked in a cabin beside a screaming infant or naughty youngster — but it’s sparked ire among families.
“The policy is discriminatory,” a disgruntled customer told the Hindustan Times.
The issue stirred up a hornet’s nest of parental indignation in 2013, when Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airways, AirAsia and Singapore-based Scoot all introduced reserved seating.
“No offence to our young guests or those travelling with them — you still have the rest of the aircraft,” Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson said at the time.
According to Jeff Edwards of Flyer Talk, the idea of adult-only cabins seemed ready to take the industry by storm, but it caused a logistic nightmare for airlines faced with policing seats in cases of delay, cancellation and changed bookings.
He described the idea as “more of a passing fad than a revolution in air travel”.
It’s no secret most people hate travelling next to children.
In a study commissioned by British booking company LateDeals.co.uk in 2014, almost 70 per cent of respondents said they’d like to see child-free areas on planes.
About a quarter said kid-free zones should be compulsory on long-haul flights, and nearly a third said quiet rows were necessary to ensure stress-free travels for non-parenting passengers.
Thirty-five per cent said they’d pay more to travel on an entirely child-free flight.
Parents were incensed.
“How would people feel if an airline touted special sections excluding people for similarly arbitrary reasons?” parent Matt Villano wrote for Parenting.com in 2012.
“I can almost envision the day JetBlue reserves four rows for people with less than two per cent body-fat ... suck it up! We family travelers have every right to fly with our kids, and we’ll be damned if we let [you] take that away from us.”
The other side fired back.
“It’s not that they don’t like kids. They just don’t like bad parents,” Keli Goff wrote on the topic for the Huffington Post in 2013.
“If someone is willing to pay for extra legroom for a more comfortable seat, and that same someone is also willing to pay for a child-free cabin to increase the likelihood of enjoying a quieter seat, but your superior opinion is that your kids are adorable and every person should be forced to see them as adorable too, and therefore should have to sit near your kids whether a person wants to or not, that would make you ... what’s the word? Could it be ‘intolerant’?”
Debate continues to rage on social media.
#childfreeflights has to happen, I'd be 100% willing to pay more just to not have to sit 6 hours straight next to a crying kid.— RandomNickname (@HapFreeman) June 19, 2016
I took my 1yr old on hol in June and I wont be going on a plane with him again for a while! Parents know their children! #childfreeflights— Busy Working Mummy (@busyworkingmum1) August 27, 2015
Surely, there’s a happy medium.
“Is it really necessary to take a tiny baby on a long flight?” journalist and parent Kelly Rose Bradford asked on ITV’s This Morning in August last year.
“I think there’s an element of selfishness from parents who insist on not changing their lifestyle once they have their children because there are some things that just aren’t practical.”
She said since there’s already business and first class, it makes sense to have a family section.
“Surely that would be better for everybody? You’ve got miserable, many people like me who do not want your delightful children wailing in my ear for my flight.”
Budget airlines charge for all optional extras, including exit row seats, baggage and meals. Maybe more carriers will start rolling out other types of quiet zones.