If you have ever travelled on public transport with your children, you’ll have encountered them. They walk into the cabin or carriage , eyes fixed on their tickets, looking up now and again at the seat numbers as they pass down the aisle. You can see the exact moment they clock your offspring; their eyes widen and they quickly glance back at their tickets, hoping against hope that they wont be seated near you. And when they inevitably end up in the row beside, behind or in front of you, you can see them sneaking furtive glances at your kids waiting for them to cry, scream or, god-forbid, throw a tantrum.
These are the people who airlines like Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines are catering for, by providing child-free areas on their flights.
Air Asia intends to offer a ’quiet-zone’, seven rows of seats separated from the rest of the plane by bulkheads and toilets. Seating in this area will not cost any extra but but will only be available for passengers over 12 years old. Air Malaysia goes a step further by decreeing that families with children can only be seated on the upper deck of its Kuala Lumpur to London service.
As the mum of a family who travels frequently, how do I feel about this segregation?
Well, as much as it pains me to admit it, I can understand how people may feel apprehensive at the thought of being forced to spend cabin space with these little angels.
My children are not perfectly behaved. They are seasoned travellers, so most of the time are quite happy watching their personal video screens. But they can be loud and easily excitable,and at least a couple of them are prone to tantrums when tired. Quite frankly, I’m often not sure I want to sit next to them on a long flight either.
I like it when we have other families sitting around us, the kids often chat and it makes for a much more relaxed flight.
Parent on planes don’t make their children cry on purpose and I can pretty much guarantee that they will be doing everything they can to quieten them asap if their little ones kick off. There is nothing worse than some outraged gentleman demanding that your 4 year old stops kicking the back of his seat, when it’s not deliberate, just unfortunate that your preschoolers leg reach exactly matches the seat pitch. And when one of my children starts crying in the middle of an overnighter, coming over and angrily asking me to keep my child quiet is not terribly helpful. Short of suffocation, there really isn’t any way of silencing an exhausted child who has woken up in a strange place, and can’t get back to sleep.
When nearby passengers start giving us the hairy eyeball before we’ve even taken off, I tend to reach over and pat the leg of the child nearest me saying loudly ‘Try not to throw up everywhere when we take off this time, darling’, before moving them as close as possible to the disapproving neighbour. I do think some people need to be a little more child tolerant and remember they were once children themselves.
So, yes, I would welcome the idea of a ‘grump-zone’, as long as it doesn’t limit seating for families or discriminate against them in any way. I think the airlines are missing a trick here, as surely they could charge a little extra for these quiet spaces?
It will be interesting to see if the idea catches on with any airlines that we might use, but if it does, maybe DH and I could book ourselves seats in the quiet zone and leave the kids to fend for themselves up the back. Or we could take turns.
So yes, I think that Child-Free Zones on public transport sounds like a potentially fabulous idea.
What do you think?