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This morning I saw an article linked on Milepoint about another airline that has added a “child free” seating section to their planes. The first airline I know of to offer “child free seating” was Malaysia Airlines who banned infants from first-class cabins on its Airbus A380 and Boeing 747s in 2011. Malaysia Airlines then banned children under 12 from the upper deck on the A380 in 2012. This was followed by AirAsia X who banned children under 12 from the first seven economy class rows on Airbus A330-300 flights to China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and Nepal in early 2013. Now, Scoot Airlines, a budget offshoot of Singapore Airlines, has introduced a 41-seat “ScootinSilence” cabin. For a premium of £9 (about $14USD) those 12 and up can sit in rows 21- 25 where they will not only be surrounded by other “grown-ups”, but there will also have some extra legroom to stretch out.
Here are some details on the child-free seating:
AirAsia X calls their child-free area the “Quiet Zone,” and in addition to being child-free, it also has softer lighting and is sectioned off from the rest of the plane by toilets and bulkheads. AirAsia X does not charge for seating assignments beyond their normal charge for a seat assignment in their Quiet Zone, unless you are selecting one of their “hot seats” shown in red. They have had their “quiet zone” since February 2013.
Malaysia pioneered child-free seating when it banned infants from the first class cabins of their A380 and Boeing 747s cabins back in 2011. Older children were still permitted, but those most likely to cry (the 2 and under crowd) were not allowed. The reasons given were that customers did not want to hear crying babies after spending large amounts of money for a first class experience….and there wasn’t room for bassinets in first class.
I can only assume this approach went well for them since they expanded the idea by banning children under 12 from the economy upper deck on the A380 a year later. I have read about some other airlines, such as Thai, that have not outright banned children on the upper deck, but did not install bassinets on that level.
Today’s announcement that Scoot Airlines has a new economy “ScootinSilence” cabin just puts it on a list with the others that already exist. To my knowledge, they are the first to charge an extra fee simply for a child-free seat (though it does have extra legroom), but if it works for them I’m sure others will follow as a way to make some extra cash. As you can see below, they were pretty smart about having the child-free zone be a bit separated from the rest of the economy cabin. A screaming child’s noise can carry, but at least there is some insulation from that sound for those who shelled out the extra 14 bucks.
To be fair, I don’t think these airlines are out to “get” families. In fact, as an example, Malaysia Airlines treats families better than many US airlines in lots of ways. They permit families with young children to board first, they offer children’s meals if requested in advance, and they offer Care Bears storybooks or activity books for children ages 3-10 on their flights.
Is this fair to families?
As a mom, and a travel/miles and points blogger, I am probably supposed to be outraged that airlines would dare not permit me to sit wherever I want with my young child, but for the most part I’m not. We already couldn’t sit in exit rows for safety reasons, so some of the seats with the most legroom were already off the list. I would rather not be around those who are most offended or bothered by the presence of children, so by all means put those folks all together away from us. I’d pay $14 to not sit next to someone who will give me or my kid dirty looks for being on the plane, so I’m fine with them paying $14 to sit in a different section. For the most part I have not had any problems or gotten any grief from fellow passengers when flying with my kid, but I know other families who have had more negative experiences.
What would bother me is if there weren’t an option for me to sit in a premium cabin or an improved economy seat with my child. For example, if United decided to ban children from all E+ seats, and our only options were the squashed-in regular coach seats I would be very angry. I would also be angry if multiple airlines started banning children from premium cabins. I am not bothered if it is just one or two airlines that do this as you still have other options, but a mass trend would bother me if there were not also a set of premium cabin seats that I could choose to utilize when flying with my daughter.
I think it is on the parents to ensure that children behave as much as possible on the plane, but sometimes there is just nothing you can do about a crying infant other than wait it out and do your best. I have flown in a premium cabin next to a crying baby and it wasn’t fun. It lasted for hours and hours, but it was just the luck of the draw on that particular flight. Fortunately most of my flights have been much more peaceful. We also all know it is not just children who misbehave on planes; adults can get quite out of hand as well.
So, what do you think? Are you happy with the increase in child-free cabins, annoyed, or totally neutral? How much would you pay to avoid sitting next to young children?