Airlines and “Child Free” Seating Sections – Scoot Airlines Joins the Crowd

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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 Quiet Zone:

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.

AirAsia Child FreeMalaysia Airlines:

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.

Scoot Airlines:

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.

Scoot Airlines Child Free Mommy Points

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.

My daughter in BusinessFirst on the United Dreamliner

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?

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  1. I like the idea of having some part of the plane kid free, as long as there is adequate seating for families. I’ve had a few bad experiences, LHR-SFO where the two girls being, 4-6, in turn had non stop screaming fits (head spinning, poltergeist, screaming fits) for 6 of a 10 hr flight. Such that 3 row of people hid in the galley. That was an exception, but general quiet is nice. Oh, and now I remember the mother who let her little one watch video games full volume without speakers for an international flight. A little peace is lovely. (Levy – becoming an old grouch.)

  2. I raised four children and we didn’t travel all that much when they were growing up. Now that they are grown, I finally get to travel again. I actually like not having to deal with other people’s children. I had children at home for thirty years. It is my turn now!

  3. I like the idea, and we travel frequently with our 2 year old. What I like about it, is that as a parent with a small child I won’t feel as bad if the child is fussy. Knowing that other passengers have the option of being in a child free zone makes me less worried about ruining the environment around us. Of course we are always responsible parents who bring quiet entertainment and engage the child to keep them calm. But sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.

  4. I don’t like that the quiet zones are where I want to sit ( with my kids). My kids in general are well behaved so not much of a problem. But kids are kids so I am not sure if I have more tolerance toward a crying baby, but I will take that rather than the global services guy that sat next to me and picked his nose all the way from IAH to SFO.

  5. Does the mention of “extra legroom” mean that the only Prem Econ seats are in this special section? Hard to tell from the seat map.

  6. All airlines should start doing this. Keep the young kids in the back of the plane and give them some games to play with.

  7. As a parent who has travelled to over 30 countries and more flights then I can even count with a now almost 3 and 5 year old. We always try to book the seat in the last row even though it sucks with people always lined up with bathrooms but it is what it is, and would never even think of booking a seat in first class just because I get enough death stares as is when people realize we are about to sit next to them, I don’t need the people to have the additional expectations of a first class flight too. As someone who travels the world with little kids I realize that most people on the flight don’t want me there…so whatever they can do to get those people away from me the better in my book. 🙂

  8. People should be able to purchase any seat on a plane. The issue is not whether they are traveling with children. The issue is consequences for disturbing fellow passengers.

    When we purchase a plane ticket, we should be guaranteed a reasonable level of peace and quiet. If an adult disturbs others, s/he would be fined or even banned from flying.

    Since children are not fully responsible for themselves, their parents are. If a child disturbs others, airlines should fine their parents or even ban their children from flying until they are older.

    Unless you know from repeated experience that your child can sit for long periods of time and remain well-behaved, why are you bringing them on a plane? There should be consequences if you or your children disturb others.

    No one can blame a child for acting like a child. We can, however, blame parents who subject passengers to their out of control children.

  9. My son and his wife were on their way back to IAD from Qatar this past spring. In their row of 10 seats were 14 people – 4 children under the age of 2. This is far too many for one row particularly when there are people without children,. In addition, next to him was a mom and the attached bassinet which took up part of his space as well as his entertainment center having difficulty go up since it was partially blocked by the bassinet. It was their nightmare of a trip.

  10. Chris, Where do you draw the line for punishment? That is, what would constitute “disturbance” in your book for which parents would be punished.

    Say you punished a parent.
    What if someone who is “banned” has to go to a funeral overseas with their children?
    Banning from flying is sometimes worse then a revoked driver’s license because the alternative to flying is taking a cruise to say Europe.
    Yes, an extreme disturbance should have some consequences but a crying child is certainly not one of them.

  11. This particular configuration seems fine to me. I’m a little uncomfortable with the precedent that children be excluded from certain parts of the plane, but this seems a reasonable compromise. That’s especially true if it is truly treated as a “quiet zone” rather than just a “kid-free zone”. If space on planes weren’t so limited then I wouldn’t mind this at all. It’s not that I mind kid free zones, but there just aren’t that many zones on a plane, so if you are looking for an award seat or just trying to buy a seat, you want to have as many options as possible.

  12. On one of the links you provided explaining Malaysia’s policy, there was a survey and the majority of its readers actually wanted a child-free first class AND business class cabin! Perhaps it’s cultural? I can’t see US-based airlines having a similar policy.
    For me, I am ok with the policy. For those frequent flyers of Malaysia Airlines with little kids who can afford to pay First Class, they will most likely bring their toddlers/babies along with their very own nannies and can easily pay economy tickets for them while they live it up comfortably in First Class.

  13. My personal solution preference is not a child-free zone but rather a family-friendly cabin. That cabin could feature two-facing-two seats, child-friendly seats (with mounting points for car seats), possibly smaller, cheaper seats for toddlers, bassinet friendly seats, different video selections, perhaps different catering, etc.
    I realize it would be hard to manage the size and occupancy of this cabin, but some creative design might allow it to happen.
    This solution allows both families and non-families to feel they have preferential, rather than punitive, treatment.

  14. I am all for it, it did not bother me early on in my flying times, but after a flight from muc to ist the lady next to me ( after breast feeding her baby) burped it and I got clotted barf all over my one spare clean shirt.

  15. Here is my experience with united. I have flown a number of international flights with my daughter now 20 months old. On two flights they had wall bassinets and on a few flights they said it was their policy not to allow any more wall bassinets and provided only floor bassinets which was impossible to use. I have also flown on business and for most of the flights they are welcoming except on my last flight where the stewardess commented that she is surprised we were able to book a seat on the upper deck because we had an infant. I also notice that when I book the seating on the upper deck with an infant and my wife (and it was confirmed online), they split us up upon check-in and assigned me to seat in the infant on the lower deck while my wife kept her upper deck seat (which I protested but they said there is nothing they can do). I also noticed that almost all my check-in had problems when I travel with my daughter and on average it takes them 2 hours to issue a boarding pass. Apparently whenever they attempt to print the infant boarding pass, the entire ticket gets deleted. When it happened after the first two times, I started getting paranoid that they were discriminating against infants. I even called customer service to find out which they denied. However, this problem continue to persist — and in multiple countries. The agent at the united lounge in Tokyo took more than 3 hours attempting to print the infant boarding pass. Even on my last trip (2 weeks ago) it took more than 2 hours to get an infant boarding pass at DFW.

  16. I also prefer stay away with my 2 boys, although they are very good kids when flying. I fly with my 2 kids in international flight since they had 8 months old once or twice a year and never had any problem in disturbing other passengers. On the contrary, people always say to me at the end of the flight that they were very good children and it seemed that there were no kids near them during the flight. But they are no angels after all when are awake, I just educated them not to disturb people during the flight and it works fine.

  17. Yesterday I was returning from a family vacation in Naples, FL with my wife and 2 kids (ages ~4 and 16 months). For our return travel to DCA, I was able to get upgrades for all of us (3 seats and my son as a lap child). (side note, I was able to do this by utilizing the USAir perk of giving a trial silver status to someone for 90 days when I hit 35K miles for the year, so I gave it to my daughter).
    Anyway, we are in seats 1D, 1F, and 2D, and we are trying to get settled (ie, get out books, IPad, food, and any other distractions we can think of), when a passenger boards the plane, looks at us, and says very loudly to the flight attendant, “So this is First Class now? They let all these kids sit here?”
    Thankfully, I was too occupied in distractions, or I probably would have let this women have a piece of my mind. After the flight was over, my wife says she had about 20 things she really wanted to say to this woman, but refrained.

    In the end, both my kids were great (outside of about 3 minutes of loud crying just prior to takeoff) and the woman, in 3A, never said anything more to us of the FA.

    I just felt that I needed to share this story with you given these other recent stories you have been writing about.

    Please keep sharing your stories!

    • Matt, sorry to hear you encountered someone that felt that was necessary to say. I’m glad your children had a pretty good flight and hopefully that woman took note and won’t say something next time!

  18. I am okay with kids on flights and am rarely bothered by them as long as they don’t kick the back of my seat. Seat kicking is something a parent can control. I would rather see the airlines put loud talkers in the back. Have you ever sat near someone who thinks everybody in the cabin needs to hear what they are saying? This is must worse than a crying baby.

  19. I think the child free section is the biggest form of discrimination in the airline industry. Banning kids from 1st and business class is the same as the airline saying that it hate kids right in their faces. I remember sitting behind a family w/ 2 small boys, 1 of them an infant, when I flew business class from Miami to Panama City and they didn’t bother me a bit. From experience, I think unaccompanied minors should be required to sit in at least business class cuz the cabin crew is on hand more in those cabins, allowing them to help the kid more than they would if the kid sat in coach. On most of the flights I flew on as an unaccompanied minor, I was in business class and the people i sat with didn’t mind, and this was mostly on a transcon flight between JFK and LAX. Plus, the lie flat seats found on long haul planes are perfect for the little ones 2 nap on during long flights cause neck pillows are very uncomfortable. It’s also unfair if its a family trip and the parents can afford first or business class for themselves and their kids. Airlines should give unaccompanied minors, school groups and families w/ kids 12 and under big discounts and free upgrades for premium cabins to attract more families and groups traveling for fun and people wanting to do something special for unaccompanied minors, especially if its their 1st time flying alone. I’d do all these thing if I ran an airline cause I love kids and I’d want to make it a flight they’ll never forget, in a good way. And this is coming from an autistic college student who loves traveling in both style and comfort.

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