Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Childfree Flights November 23, 2010

Filed under: Children,Current Affairs — Life Without Baby @ 6:23 am
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You’ve been there. You’re tired, jet-lagged, just want to go home, but two rows over a baby with the healthiest lungs imaginable is testing them at full force. Or the three-year-old behind you is pounding the back of your chair with his light-up sneakers. Or (my own personal nightmare) the kid in the seat next to has turned green and is reaching for the air sick bag.

At some point we’ve all been on a flight disturbed by kids, but now a movement is beginning to persuade airlines to provide childfree flights or at least family only sections. I must say, I can’t quite decide where I stand on this.

Over the years, I think I’ve had relatively good luck with babies on flights, but when my luck has turned, it’s turned big. This summer we flew from LA to Vancouver on a flight that had connected with one from Fiji. There were lots of families on board and the whole three-hour trip was like a bad day at the Whacky Warehouse. The flight back was no better and we’ve vowed not to fly that airline again, at least not on that route.

But a childfree flight? The NY Times article prompted this letter to the editor, and while I don’t wholly agree with her argument (yes, all babies cry, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken to restaurants, the movies, or on long-haul flights) she makes some good points. Childfree flights feel elitist and while I like the idea in theory, I can’t actually see myself paying more for the privilege. And a family section on a plane? Remember the days when planes had smoking sections? Confining children to one section is like giving them carte blanche to run riot.

I think this debate is going to go on from some time. Where do you stand? Would you pay more for a childfree flight or do we all just need to get along?

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9 Responses to “Childfree Flights”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    I’d vote for “family sections” myself.

    Several years ago we had a flight from Orange County, CA to Chicago, with a lay over in Las Vegas.

    While waiting to board, i noticed a family across the way with three children that seemed completely out of control. The baby was between 10 & 14 months, there was a little girl about 5, and an older boy of about 9. I was particularly concerned when the MOTHER knocked over a drink on the floor, started to bend down to it, then shrugged and left it.

    The flight was over-full, & i begged my hubby to take their considerations and take the next flight. But he hesitated, and we boarded the plane. There were a lot of children on that flight. The others seemed to be well-behaved, but irresponsible mama and her 3 kids were in the seat behind ours. Dad was nowhere to be seen.

    The little girl kicked the back of my seat the entire flight. The baby screamed 3/4s of the way, & when he finally stopped crying the older boy began pinching him to make him start up again. It was truly the flight from hell. Everyone was disgusted with this family, but of course being in the seat just in front, we got the brunt of it. I think someone finally told the mama off at the end of the flight, & was applauded by the rest of us.

    I can’t help but wonder, however, if there had been a “family” section, if it wouldn’t have been a bit better for these kids. The whole flight probably still would have heard the baby shriek, but i wonder if the two older ones would have been a bit more distracted if there had been other kids they could have been near so they could talk/play.

    Maybe this family was just having a particularly bad day. Frankly, when i observed the mama walk away from a spilled drink with no attempts to take responsibility for it, i have serious questions about how she chooses to teach her kids. How she chooses to parent is none of my business but her neglect in managing those kids made for a very miserable 3-1/2 hours for a very large, very full plane.

    Yeah, i have some strong feelings about this one.

  2. Illanare Says:

    I think I would veer towards a “family section” too, having spent a 13-hour flight from London to Malaysia across the aisle from another…exuberant.. family a few years ago, and more recently being kicked from Queensland to Sydney. I think I agree with Kathryn above – children get bored and restive on long flights in cramped conditions, perhaps being in an area where there are other children nearby would help.
    And of course I’m not completely altruistic, I’d like to travel in a bit more peace and unkicked, too!

  3. Colleen Says:

    A family section does sound like a good idea.

    I have to say that I could complement several families on flights that I have been on. I had a baby right behind me on the way from the US to Italy. Although I could not lean my chair back because of the car seat, I would gladly take the seat by these parents again. They were great with comforting the baby when he got upset. For the most part, I think we all took a nice long nap. 🙂 My hubby would tell you his story very similar to Kathryn’s. The kid annoyed the entire plane. My husband got the brunt of it as he was sitting in front of the kid.

    I certainly would not pay extra for a childfree flight. Most kids aren’t that bad……

  4. Jennifer Says:

    I agree, a family section sounds quite humane. It seems to me that it would be nicer for people with kids too, not being glared at and being among other parents. I mostly feel sympathy for parents of screaming junior airline passengers, but I must admit that some snark lurks in the back of my mind…

  5. Elena Says:

    I spend a lot of time on trains where i meet similar situations. In my countries, some intercity-trains have “family cars” which even have a kind of playground in them and enough space for prams and so on. Thats a good thing – unless your train is over full and you HAVE to sit in the “family car” :-). And it’s true that it depends on the parents a lot. recently i saw this mother riding on the train for over an hour with her toddler. The kid constantly had his feet on the seat and she didn’t even bother to take his shoes of. She had not a single toy, or colouring book or anything with her to keep him occupied. Of course he was annoying the entire train car.

  6. loribeth Says:

    Dh & I travel every Christmas to see my parents (as well as other times of the year), & the plane is always packed with families. For the most party, I don’t mind. I think the most annoying experience I ever had was a family seated across the aisle from us with two toddlers, a boy & a girl. They brought a DVD player with them & the kids watched “Lilo & Stitch” the whole way. WITH the sound on & turned up. Hello, ever heard of headphones? I think they could easily have been adjusted for little ears. Not exactly my choice of entertainment for the flight, but I had to listen to every word. :p

  7. happynenes Says:

    Yes, I think this would be a nice touch, but no, I probably wouldn’t pay for it any more than I’d pay for first class. It’s lousy to hear a kid scream the whole flight. In my experience every flight has at least one screaming kid. But, air travel is full of other equal annoyances. No leg room, no elbow room, crappy snacks, people laying their seat back into your knees, drunk people, annoying seat-mates (including one dude who read my writing on my laptop over my shoulder, ugh). I don’t know how so many people afford first class, but I can’t.

    I don’t know when I switched from being sad that I don’t have kids to being totally annoyed by every one older than about 1 month, but, I think that’s where I am right now.

  8. Kate B Says:

    I lke the idea of a family section. That would help with the seat kickers. As for the screaming – nothing helps. I always bring my own headphones, usually the ones that screen out the airplane noise – which helps with noisy passengers as well.

  9. lmanterfield Says:

    Great discussion ladies. I’d be very interested to hear what parents think about the idea of a family section, if they’d enjoy the freedom or if they’d feel like second-class citizens. Maybe I’ll do an informal poll and report back.


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