Monday 23 September 2019

Budget airline introduces child-free 'Quiet Zones' on flights


Kid near the window in the airport.
Kid near the window in the airport.
Children and planes
A little boy plays on a plane.

High Morris

As far as contentious air travel issues go, it’s up there with free hand luggage and elbow wars over arm rests.

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The debate over whether airlines should introduce child-free zones in aircraft – or even child-free aircraft – has shown itself to be about as sensitive as it gets after numerous carriers have mooted the plan and felt the wrath of family travellers.

IndiGo, the Indian budget carrier, is the latest after it last week announced its Quiet Zones aimed at business travellers, where passengers under the age of 12 are forbidden.

“Keeping in mind the comfort and convenience of all passengers,” a statement from the airline read, “row numbers one to four and 11 to 14 are generally kept as a Quiet Zone on IndiGo flights. These zones have been created for business travellers who prefer to use the quiet time to do their work.”

Children and planes
Children and planes

The airline also said that children are not allowed to sit in rows one, 12 and 13, where the emergency exits are found, as well as additional leg room. While, as anyone who has ever flown knows, the cry of a child has the volume to fill an aircraft, the policy would help the airline control where families might sit.

The backlash has already begun. One flier, Anshuman Sinha, told the Hindustan Times: “The policy is discriminatory. It means that you cannot ask for more leg space while travelling with your children.

“It’s clear that they do no want children to disturb fliers paying extra for these seats. But when why permit children in the nearby rows?”

However, as the below tweets show, there is some support for the concept.

IndiGo is not the first airline to attempt to segregate babies and toddlers from other passengers. In 2013 Singapore airline Scoot introduced a ScootinSilence upgrade for travellers to move to rows 21 to 25, where children under the age of 12 were banned from sitting.

The airline's CEO, Campbell Wilson, said at the time: “No offence to our young guests or those travelling with them – you still have the rest of the aircraft.”

AirAsia X has also introduced kid-free zones, while in 2011, Malaysia Airlines blazed a trail when it banned infants from first class – the following year, it created no-kids zones in economy class.

Though no major UK airlines have publicly considered the idea, it has been a hot topic among travellers, with a Telegraph Travel poll in 2012 finding that 70 per cent of fliers would support the introduction of child-free flights.

A similar survey conducted by in 2014 found a similar leveller of support for child-free areas on planes.

While former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson once famously said that children should be stashed in the hold for long flights, journalist Judith Woods, writing for The Telegraph, said that child-free flights would end in more tears.

A little boy plays on a plane.
A little boy plays on a plane.

“It might make for a quiet night but it would be divisive and polarizing. In recent years a schism the size of the San Andreas Fault has started to develop in our culture between those with and those without children,” she said.

In June, American airline JetBlue awarded free plane tickets to every passenger on-board a flight from New York to California, after a one-off promotion whereby each traveller would receive 25 per cent off a ticket for every baby that cried – five babies cried.

“People smile at babies everywhere, except on planes,” said Elizabeth Windram, JetBlue's director of brand management and advertising (and a mother of a toddler). “For Mother's Day, we wanted to acknowledge how moms (indeed all parents and caregivers) often feel stressed while traveling with children.”

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