Child-Free Air Travel?

The gang at The Week ask, "Are child-free flights the next travel trend?"

The gang at The Week ask, “Are child-free flights the next travel trend?

An air-rage-fueled rebellion is brewing, as travelers without children pressure airlines to protect them from their worst travel nightmare — being seated next to a relentlessly screaming toddler. Nearly 60 percent of travelers surveyed by price-comparison website Skyscanner said airlines should put all groups with children in a “families only” section on flights, and there have been several recent scuffles over poorly behaved kids who angered other passengers. Is it time for airlines to offer child-free travel options?

The ensuing comments range from “Quit whining — kids are part of life” to “There is absolutely nothing worse than the sound of a crying baby. I think the breeders should have to sit together, so that those of us who DON’T like children, don’t have to deal with the little brats on a long flight.”   The most interesting suggestion:  “If a traveler has to sit next to a baby who is flying free, then that traveler should fly free too.”

Certainly, screaming babies and misbehaved children can be a major nuisance, especially on a long flight.   Some of it’s just parental neglect — there’s no excuse for your kids running up and down the aisles — and sometimes there’s not much that the parents can do.    A bottle and a pacifier are helpful, but if a baby’s ears are hurting from the pressure, they’re going to wail.

We fly quite frequently with our 22-month-old, who’s thankfully a pretty good traveler.   Indeed, we’ve flown First Class with her more often than not because it works out cheaper than buying three Coach sets, especially when you’re using miles.  (Alas, that option will expire with the New Year, as kids 2 and older are required to have their own seat.)  For the most part, people are understanding when she’s a little cranky, since we’re obviously trying to settle her down.

At any rate, I don’t think “child-free” is going to catch on.  If airlines could fill their seats with full-fare business travelers, they would already be doing so.   Since they can’t, we’ll likely continue to have to endure each others’ annoyances.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Children are the problem? Hah.

    How about banning hairy-legged people who wear flip-flops and shorts? How about banning people who won’t STFU? Or people who have to get up to pee 12 times on a two hour flight? Or people who stink? Or people who don’t get that a full-size suitcase won’t fit in the overhead? Or people who cannot get on and off a god**mned plane in under 20 minutes? Or people who eat salads reeking of vinegar? Or people who think I’m going to trade my aisle seat for their middle seat so they can sit beside their wife? Or women who distract me from my important work by displaying their cleavage?

    Well, okay, I guess I’m all right with that last one.

    But even all of that is nothing next to the petty harassment and utter bull**it from the airlines with their cramped, hard seats and their idiotic anti-electronics policies, and their pay-for-everything-but-air and buy some duty free and give to our charity crapola, and their inability to handle something as simple as stocking the bathroom with paper towels.

    Can you tell I’ve been on way too many planes lately?

    Air travel is miserable. It makes me long for the days of Greyhound. 50% of the problem is the airlines, 20% is the TSA and other agencies, 20% is slobs and idiots in the nominally adult segment, and only 10% is squalling children.

  2. James Joyner says:

    That’s about right.

    When we flew coach and childless, my wife would book the window seat for herself and the aisle for me, figuring that the solo middle seats filled last. About 1/3 of the time, someone would buy it and she’d offer to trade her window seat for the middle. They never turned that down.

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    Well said Michael…well said.

  4. Drew says:

    “Air travel is miserable. It makes me long for the days of Greyhound.”

    Really? Because that’s basically what has happened. The “bus people” now fly.

  5. just me says:

    I almost never fly and even though I have kids who have always traveled well, I can understand the appeal of wanting to fly on a plane with no children. I just don’t see it being profitable or practical.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    I would much rather drive than fly just about anywhere, for all of the reasons Michael listed. And these days, I’m used to babies crying, so strike that.

  7. floyd says:

    My bet is that those who “don’t like children” were insufferable brats when they were small … and now they are big. [LOL]

  8. floyd says:

    Note to those who don’t want to fly with children… Don’y fly tp Orlando!

  9. MstrB says:

    I’ve travelled with two kids under 3 and really only had one passenger get really pissed at us. But in the 2 year old’s defense the lady did recline her seat completely into kicking range and refused to move it at all.

  10. Nightrider says:

    Yes for redeyes. Parents who bring kids age 18 months-6 years on redeyes are selfish or morons or both. Daytime flights the kid-hating folk can suck it or get their own plane.

  11. TG Chicago says:

    This may be an awful idea, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway:

    When a parent is dealing with an inconsolable infant, should the parent take the kid to the lavatory and sit in there until the kid is quiet again?

    There are obvious downsides: one fewer free lavatory, parent would not be able to stay in the lavatory during takeoff/landing/turbulence, what if there is more than one loud child?, etc. But they could potentially be outweighed by the good.

  12. just me says:

    When a parent is dealing with an inconsolable infant, should the parent take the kid to the lavatory and sit in there until the kid is quiet again?

    This probably wouldn’t work depending on why the kid was crying.

    The one and only time I flew with one of my kids acting up (my kids generally travel well and I have never had behavior problems while flying-although flying is rare) my oldest was a baby and apparently was in the process of developing an ear infection and she pretty much cried the entire trip-there was no consoling her because the airplane was hurting her ears.

    However I do sometimes wonder if they could create a sort of kid free area on the plane like business class. It wouldn’t get a passenger entirely away from the kids, but they may not have to sit right next to a bored toddler either.

    That said, the worst behavior I have ever seen on an airplane involved adults. I saw an adult throw a tantrum better than a 2 year old when she wasn’t getting her way-she was probably in her 50’s.

  13. sam says:

    On Children and Airlines.

    I was on flight once, and from behind me I hear, “Jesus Christ!!!” — seems this guy was seated next to this young girl (about 9 or 10, I think), and the poor kid had a bout of airsickness and upchucked all over the dude’s lap. I saw the flight attendant bringing the child up the aisle to clean her up in the bathroom. She was, evidently, traveling alone, and right away that aroused my sympathy. The kid looked miserable — sick and embarrassed. Whatever I felt for the guy evaporated when I saw this little girl’s face. She was truly unhappy. But then I thought, well, I know you feel pretty bad now, honey, but believe me, you’ll have a great story to tell when you’re older.

    Folks who have this no-child attitude make me think of those “50 +” communities where kids are treated like illegal aliens. I’m saddened by that attitude. The older I get, the more I find myself appreciating children of all ages. They remind me that the world can still be something fresh and new.

  14. TG Chicago says:

    This probably wouldn’t work depending on why the kid was crying.

    The one and only time I flew with one of my kids acting up (my kids generally travel well and I have never had behavior problems while flying-although flying is rare) my oldest was a baby and apparently was in the process of developing an ear infection and she pretty much cried the entire trip-there was no consoling her because the airplane was hurting her ears.

    Not sure why that means the lavatory idea wouldn’t work. Would the kid stop crying in the lavatory? No. Would the kid’s crying be isolated to the lavatory allowing other passengers to get some peace? Yes. That’s the whole idea.

  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    Instead of bans on children, can we just make a rule that if you are seated in front of a tall person, the point in which you stop reclining your seat is not when it hits the knees of the guy behind you? And if you do recline your seat, you are not allowed to leave it reclined the entire 13 hour flight to Germany?

    Just as an example…

  16. Neil Hudelson says:
  17. Generation Yer says:

    Personally, I think they should have a minimum age requirement, at least for domestic flights. If the child is too small/young to fit in a seat by themselves, they shouldn’t fly. Why would you knowingly take your baby into a pressurized cabin, where they will be in pain for x amount of time? It’s completely selfish. You should take a different mode of transportation less disturbing, painful, & exhausting for the child.

    Either that, or they could just have benadryl passifiers… that would solve the problem!

  18. Elroy says:

    I never flew with a baby but I did fly with my kids when they were 3 and 4 years old and they never bugged anyone else other than me as far as I know. “I’m tired”, “can I sit by the window?”, “can i get this?” (at the duty free shop). Nothing loud enough to be obnoxious to other travelers. I have been on a 9 hour flight with a crying baby a few rows up from us and I can empathize though.