In 2012, Malaysia Airlines made headlines when it enacted a new policy banning children under the age of 12 from certain cabins on long-distance flights. The move was in response to passenger complaints about the noise that children make on the plane, more specifically, first-class passengers who claimed that even though they paid for premium seats, the noise from the smallest passengers kept them awake.
The move sparked both outrage, from parents who cried discrimination, and relief, from travelers without children who have long suffered through flights punctuated by crying, their seats being kicked and other issues brought about by kids on the plane. While so far, none of the American airlines have followed Malaysia Airlines’ lead and created child-free zones on flights, there are some travelers who are calling for greater restrictions — or even outright bans — on kids flying on certain flights. While it’s unlikely that airlines will resort to such measures, like prohibiting parents from buying certain seats if they are traveling with their kids, the attention that this issue is suddenly receiving is leading to some discussion of how to handle kids on airplanes and what passengers can do to make their flights more pleasant.
Choose Your Seat Wisely
So, if the airlines won’t establish policies keeping certain parts of the plane child-free, what’s a passenger to do? While most people grin and bear it, or spend the flight silently cursing the parents of unruly passengers while intently looking for more info on the most unusual Istanbul hotels in the in-flight magazine, there are some things you can do to make your flight a relaxing experience.
One of the best is to choose a seat that is unlikely to be near a child, most notably those in the exit rows or in business or first class. Children under the age of 15 are banned from the exit rows, and most families avoid the more expensive premium classes. But keep in mind that choosing one of these seats isn’t a guarantee you won’t have any children at all around you. You will likely still be able to hear them, but you likely won’t have a 4-year-old as your seatmate. Avoid choosing seats near the back of the plane or the lavatories as well. Many parents intentionally choose seats at the back of the plane for easy access for the inevitable potty breaks, and even those who are seated in other sections of the plane usually end up making several trips back to the bathroom.
Also, choosing your flight time and route may help reduce the number of children you encounter. Red-eye flights, for example, tend to have fewer children on board because parents are generally reluctant to have their little ones out and about in the middle of the night. The first flight of the day tends to have fewer young passengers as well.
If, despite your best efforts, you can’t book a first-class seat on the red eye, you can still have a comfortable flight if you have a sense of humor and a bit of patience.
First, remember that in most cases, the parent of an unruly or crying child wants that child to settle down just as much as you do. While some parents are guilty of ignoring or not effectively handling bad behavior, the majority do not want their child to make a spectacle and disturb other passengers. So cut them some slack, and if possible, offer to help. Make a hand puppet out of an airsickness bag, or offer a piece of gum or some crackers with the parent’s permission. Sometimes, simply getting the attention of someone new can stop a tantrum in its tracks.
If a child is doing something annoying , like kicking the back of your seat, politely ask the parent to have their child stop. If the behavior doesn’t stop, ask a flight attendant to intervene. Never, under any circumstances, should you get into an altercation with a parent about a child’s behavior. It’s the flight attendant’s job to ensure that everyone has a comfortable and safe flight; most will have strategies for effectively dealing with unruly children.
Finally, take steps to ensure your comfort. Bring along noise-canceling headphones or ear buds so you can listen to music or watch a movie on your device to tune out the noise around you.
Banning children from airplanes altogether is unlikely to ever happen, but public outcry and complaints are likely to lead to stricter rules and designated “family areas” on certain flights. Until then, it’s up to passengers to be respectful of each other and take steps to ensure their comfort and — sanity.
About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is fortunate that she gets to spend her life writing content, allowing her to devote plenty of time to her million and one hobbies. When she’s not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s traveling.