Should children be banned from the pointy end on planes?
I hate myself for this, but whenever I find myself seated in close proximity to an infant on a plane, especially on a long-haul flight, my heart sinks.
It's worse if I'm seated in the business or first-class cabins, because I've been looking forward to the possibility of a peaceful flight with lots of sleep.
That is, I suppose, the main reason why travellers pay a considerable amount more for the premium end of the plane.
I once flew first class from Sydney to Asia seated across the aisle from a colicky baby who would not settle during the entire flight. The poor mother was incredibly distressed by this, more distressed than I, but the fussing flight attendants only aggravated the situation and made the ruckus worse. It was no one's fault, least of all the new mother's, who was taking the baby to see its grandparents for the first time.
Some people would like to see this mother banned from sitting in the comfortable seats, arguing that noisy babies and children don't belong where passengers might be doing business or trying to get some rest before an important meeting, or where they have paid a premium for the privilege of not sitting in the scrum that is economy class.
CNN anchor Richard Quest began a campaign on his program, Quest Means Business, called Ban Babies On Business Class.
Both Scoot and AirAsia X have no-children policies in business class and child-free zones in economy. Malaysia Airlines provides a child-free upper deck on its Airbus A380 services, but it's not an idea that flies elsewhere.
It's a sensitive issue, especially as that woman with the baby has paid a premium for her seat and, with a baby in her arms, she probably needs that seat more than the businessperson next to her, who only has to nurse a drink.
Denying families the right to travel together in the front of the plane can open a can of worms, especially these days when there is more multigenerational travel than ever. Children aren't pets that can be relegated to the hold - they are human beings - but like pet dogs, some of them bark and others sleep all day.
If an airline were to ban children from these seats, which children would they ban?
There is no requirement for a certificate or doctor's note saying a child is well behaved. Some kids are peaches, quietly drawing away and watching movies, hardly making a peep. Others yell and punch their siblings and play tag up and down the aisle. Some babies snooze all the way, while others take to being yanked out of their regular routine very crankily.
This is not something that parents can necessarily predict.
Well-prepared parents bring on board bags bursting with weapons of mass distraction in case the child suddenly goes rogue, but it happens even so. The child suddenly develops an earache or a delay at the airport means a carefully organised preflight sleep doesn't happen.
There are, of course, "those parents" - the ones who conveniently forget they have children the minute they strap themselves into their seats and remember only when it's time to disembark. Those same parents in the front of the plane have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and expect the flight attendants to be full-time nannies. These are also the kind of parents who threaten you with legal action when you firmly ask their child to stop kicking your seat.
The reality is this - if an airline permits children in business and first class, there is a reasonable chance they will disturb the peace in some way during a flight.
A baby might cry for a while or a pair of siblings might squabble over a game. The parents may be embarrassed or they couldn't care less. But you know what? I would take a distressed baby over a pompous lug booming endlessly into his mobile phone any day.
You know the type - the kind of traveller so filled with his own importance that he wants everyone else to know he has just pulled off a big deal. Or the rowdy mob of business colleagues who sit in the onboard bar, steadily drinking while everyone in the cabin is trying to sleep.
Despite my sinking heart, I find inconsiderate adults far more infuriating than children, but no airline is going to ban them.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.
- FFX Aus