Child-free zones on flights? What’s not to love?

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Child-free zones on planes could become an actuality [Photo: Getty/Yahoo Style UK]

It was a flight to Majorca. The twins were about 15-months, they’d just learnt to toddle and were into EVERYTHING. Just before take-off girl twin decided to kick-start the mother of all tantrums. At first people nearby just shuffled awkwardly in their seats hoping (read: praying) it might stop, but after twenty minutes of ear-splitting screams the shuffling progressed to eye rolling, tsking and finally out and out under-the-breath grumbling. At this point boy twin decided to join his sister at the paddy party and no amount of biscuit bribery or desperate begging would silence the dastardly duo. In the end, they wore themselves out with the effort of it all and passed out for the rest of the journey, while hubby and me chugged back the booze to try and calm our frazzled nerves and avoided eye contact with our fellow passengers.

It was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. So hearing the news that Indian budget airline IndiGo were to ban passengers under the age of 12 from certain sections of their planes, my ears automatically pricked up.

“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.”

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Would you opt for a child-free zone if you could? [Photo: Getty]

And IndiGo aren’t the only ones to introduce paediatric prohibition on their airplanes, Malaysian airlines, Thai airways, Air Asia and the Singapore based Scoot all have some kind of kid-free zone.

So how do we feel about it? I’m sure if you asked the passengers who witnessed two mini Majorca-bound meltdowns about banning babies from certain parts of the plane, they’d have cracked open the bubbly. And they certainly wouldn’t be alone.

According to a survey by LateDeals.co.uk, almost seven in ten Brits dislike flying with babies so much that they would like to see child-free areas introduced on planes. 39% believe that no-kid zones should be compulsory on long-haul flights and nearly a third would go further and bring in such silent spaces on ALL flights to ensure stress-free travel for non-parents. Our dislike of travelling with children clearly runs deep with more than a third of us admitting we’d happily pay extra to travel without a small child kicking the back of their seat.

A straw poll of my mum friends reveals a mixed bag of opinions about the tot-free plans. Like the many parents who have taken to social media to express their dismay at this latest ‘discriminatory’ treatment of child travellers, one friend felt the move was an indication of the wider wrinkled-nosed attitude towards children in general.

“I think it shows us to be pretty bizarre child-haters if we can’t cope with children around us on flights,” she said. “We were ourselves all children once. Have we forgotten so easily? It would probably do stressed business people good to take a note from children in the air and have a bit of fun.”

That didn’t mean she was actively against the idea though. “Pragmatically given the fact we live in child-unfriendly times and flying is a stressful business, I guess it seems reasonable to set aside quiet areas where grumpy travellers can huddle together and sit in joyless silence.”

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Worrying that your child is annoying other passengers is not a nice feeling [Photo: Getty]

Others actively embraced the idea. “I’d welcome it,” one mum explained. “It would be arguably easier for parents when other kids are around – a) because it offers a distraction and b) it’s less stressy when your own kid is screaming. It’s a bit like 5pm at Pizza Express, you don’t have to worry about offending others so much and can relax a bit more.”

Another mum raised an interesting point about the futility of the kiddie-free zones. Anyone old enough to remember the ‘smoking’ zones of planes will appreciate that open-plan planes are not that easy to segregate. Just as the smoke drifted into the ‘non-smoking’ sections, so too will the noise of a tantrum-ing child, no?

“I don’t see how it will be effectively enforced unless the seats are in a separate area to the rest of the seats. Will they police the planes by not allowing parents to walk the toddlers up and down the aisles? Unless properly enforced, these kid-free zones will just end up being overpriced, slightly further away from kid noise seats.”

As for whether the move is discriminatory, another friend felt it was more about having a choice.

“I appreciate those who wish to have a peaceful flight and know many parents who have avoided flying for years because of the innate fear of their children disturbing other passengers! I would probably be totally more relaxed if I knew I there was a ‘child friendly zone’. If my kids kicked off and anyone complained I would feel confident in telling them they could have chosen to sit somewhere else!”

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So, could child-free zones be a good idea? [Photo: Getty]

But whether you have the choice to segregate or not, there’s no doubt being near a hollering child, particularly someone else’s, is so not fun. Indeed, the human body is hard-wired to find it stressful. According to a neurological study from the University of Oxford, a baby’s cry stimulates areas of the brain that trigger an immediate fight or flight response, in a way that an adult crying does not. And that makes it difficult to ignore. “When you hear a baby on a plane, you’re immediately alert, even if you don’t want to hear it,” explains Christine Parsons, one of the researchers behind the study.

As for me, the mere thought of THAT flight (and several others since) can bring me out in a cold sweat, so as a parent I can certainly see the appeal of knowing that if my kids kick-off they’re likely amongst ‘friends’.

The fact is kids will be kids – on planes, in restaurants, on the school run. And given that, aside from sedating them or tying them to the seat, there isn’t an awful lot you can do about it, it’s entirely understandable that some passengers want to travel in peace. Indeed on a rare trip without the kids I’d be tempted to book into the child-free zone myself.

It’s likely that the seemingly growing passenger demand for the measure will mean that other airlines will follow IndiGo’s lead and jump on the baby ban bandwagon and who knows it may even lead to the introduction of entirely adult-only flights.

Now, a kid-free airplane, that sounds like bliss…

What do you think about child-free zones on flights? Join the debate @YahooStyleUK

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