Besides the whole sitting down while flying hundreds of miles an hour to your destination in a pressurized cabin thing, there is little that’s pleasant about a commercial flight. For most of us, it’s crowded, it’s cramped, and there’s no open bar.
What can make that experience even worse is a screaming child. One airline heard their cries and smelled a business opportunity.
Indian budget carrier IndiGo recently introduced “Quiet Zones,” premium-priced seats in rows 1-4 and 11-14. Deep in its “conditions of carriage” the airline says that these seats will be primarily assigned to passengers above 12 years of age. It’s a pretty cheap fix for the child-averse. The additional cost is about $3 to $12, though fares that allow passengers to select their own seats can be 40% more than the cheapest economy fare.
While it stops short of an outright ban, the suggestion that children aren’t fit to sit alongside their older cabinmates sparked some strong opinions on social media, some praising the move and others calling it discriminatory. Some have pointed out that we were all children once, and that some grown-up travelers may still be playing the part.
It’s not the first time an airline has broached the tricky subject of babies on board. Several Asian carriers had introduced similar policies to appease passengers who might find the sudden cries of a child obnoxious.
But some airlines are trying to encourage adult passengers subjected to traveling with youngsters to make the best of it. In May, US carrier JetBlue launched a promotion around Mother’s Day with a video called “FlyBabies” in which passengers got 25% off their next flight every time a baby cried on the plane.
“We all know when we’re flying with babies and they cry on the flight it can be hard on all of us,” says a flight attendant in the video. “This will be the very first flight where crying babies is a good thing.”
American Airlines suggests that some flyers are just better at sharing a cabin with children. In its new “World’s Greatest Flyers” campaign, the airline says that one characteristic of these super passengers is that ”they like babies but bring noise cancelling headphones.”
How much would a no-child zone help? A child’s screams carry, so a no-child section may be just as pointless as a smoking section on an airplane.
Comedian Louis CK says passengers should try a little empathy.
“This is how selfish people are: When you’re on a plane and you hear a baby crying you think that is happening to you. Well, look at the parent. They have a baby,” he once said in a standup routine. “So their life isn’t even good. If there’s any joy for them it’s that this is now bothering other people.”
And cranky adults be warned: It’s not just children who act out on planes.