Friday 15 November 2019

Sinead Moriarty: Child-free section on planes? Now that could fly

We’ve all been there, either as the parent of a screamer ... or the victim
We’ve all been there, either as the parent of a screamer ... or the victim

WE'VE all been there, stuck on a flight beside a screaming baby. It's no fun. No one wants to be in that seat. I once sat beside a small baby on a flight to LA and it screamed for almost the entire eight hours. I almost lost the will to live but I still don't think the child should have been thrown into the hold along with the luggage, like Jeremy Clarkson has suggested.

Clarkson, the 'Top Gear' presenter, is no stranger to controversy; in fact, he seems to thrive on it. He has once again caused a very strong reaction by suggesting that babies should be put in the luggage hold on flights.

Clarkson had just flown to Scotland when he tweeted: "When will British Airways realise that babies belong in the hold?"

As a parent I have now been on the other side of the screaming child debate. I've spent hours trying desperately to calm a screaming baby, while I felt the rage of the passengers sitting near me.

I know how annoying it is to be stuck beside a screaming child, but having been on both sides of the divide, I can honestly say it's worse when you're the parent. You are desperate to calm your screaming child down. You know everyone on the plane hates you. You know you are ruining their peaceful flight. But the baby can sense your tension and it makes them even more hysterical.

Is there a solution to make travelling more pleasant for everyone? AirAsia thinks it has come up with the perfect solution for passengers wishing to have a peaceful flight.

AirAsia, a low-cost airline, has introduced a 'quiet zone' on it's long-haul flights. The carrier will reserve the first seven economy-class rows "exclusively for guests age 12 and above". There is a small charge to book these seats of €10 to €25.

With toilets and a curtain separating the front section from the rest of the plane, the airline feels that passengers will have a "more relaxing atmosphere" in which to travel.

Chief executive Azran Osman-Rani is keen to reassure people that "the airline is not banning kids from travelling, but instead is enhancing the array of product offerings on board to suit its guests".

Will other airlines follow suit? So far, they have all said no. But I imagine that they will be watching the progress of AirAsia's 'quiet zone' with interest.

Can it really make a difference? Remember when there was a smoking section? It was a joke. If you were sitting in the seat in front of the section, you were enveloped in a cloud of smoke for the entire journey.

One can only imagine that a child with a healthy set of lungs can still shout loudly enough to annoy the people in rows one to seven of the AirAsia plane. No curtain is strong enough to block out the sound of a child with a piercing shriek.

It's the parents who do nothing when their child is screaming that seem to annoy the most. If a child is repeatedly kicking the chair in front and the parents do nothing, the passenger will probably eventually reprimand the child themselves, and they are perfectly entitled to do so.

If a child is screaming, the parents should try to soothe them – most do. But there are some parents who don't seem to care that their child's ear-splitting shrieks are driving everyone on the plane crazy. They continue to read their magazine as if it's not happening.

But let's be honest, it's not just children who cause 'noise violation' on planes – adults are guilty too. I once sat beside a man who snored so loudly his whole body shook – as did mine. What would AirAsia do about that?

What do you do about people who have a conversation with their friend two rows in front at the top of their voice for the entire flight? What do you do about people who have personal hygiene issues? What about the passenger who falls asleep and uses your shoulder as a headrest? The list is endless.

Perhaps in the future we'll all sit in individual, soundproof bubbles on the plane. But then we'd have nothing to complain about . . . and wouldn't that be worse?Child-free section on planes? Now that could fly

Irish Independent

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