Should Children Be Banned From the Premium Class Cabin?

S creaming children ruined the experience of Patrick Smith being a passenger seated in the business class cabin — an experience for which he splurged for the full airfare — from Bangkok to New York, leading him to ask whether or not children should be banned from the premium class cabin.

That actually happened on one airline, Patrick — but it was limited in scope; and it did not last long.

After already having banned babies from the first class cabin on its Boeing 747-400 aircraft, an announcement from Malaysia Airlines in June of 2011 revealed that the ban would also be imposed upon delivery of its first Airbus A380 aircraft in June of 2012 — but that controversial decision had been rescinded only a month after the announcement.

Originally thought to affect all babies, the ban was then thought to only affect those “lap children” who did not have their own seat.

Back in 2010, passengers were pushing for airline flights for adults only — no children allowed. “In July, Qantas settled a lawsuit from a woman who claimed that she suffered hearing loss after sitting next to a screaming 3-year-old boy on a 2009 flight from New York to Australia”, according to this article written on November 12, 2010 by Douglas Quenqua of The New York Times. The terms of that settlement were not disclosed. “In January, AirTran removed an entire family from a flight before takeoff from Fort Myers, Fla., because their 3-year-old girl was hitting the parents, making noise and refusing to take her seat. And in March, a 42-year-old woman allegedly grabbed a boy (3 years old, again) for kicking her chair during a Southwest flight to Las Vegas.”

Somehow, though, the adults-only flight and the banishment of children from the premium class cabin never really caught on. Why were those policies not popular?

I have a theory; and no, it is not an original theory: it is not the children who are at fault. Often, it is the parents who are responsible for teaching their children how to behave properly in public. In many cases, it can be done successfully…

…but you cannot ban the parents from a cabin of an airplane or from the airplane itself, leaving the children alone. Besides — why punish the child? He or she needs for someone to care for him or her; to encourage learning; to show the child how to get the most out of life — especially when it comes to travel.

It really irritates me when a child persists on being mischievous — kicking the back of my seat, for example — and the parent either does nothing about it; or repeats idle threats. “You better stop by the time I count to three…one…two…I said stop! I am going to count again…” There is absolutely no excuse for that. The child is not exactly excited that the parent cannot seem to count all the way to three. I personally would be embarrassed if I were the child.

“Hey — at least my mom can count all the way to three. What can your mom do?!?”

I do not expect children to be prim and proper at all times. They are children. They want to play. They need interaction. They are curious about new things, new people, new experiences. In fact, I encourage the idea of children traveling. To me, travel is the best learning experience, with the world as the best classroom to be found.

As a moderator on FlyerTalk for years, I have seen members belittle fellow members who are younger than 18 years old simply because of their age. That behavior is just plain wrong, in my opinion. I personally think it is wonderful when a teenager logs in to FlyerTalk and wants to find out all about different types of airplanes; asks about different places to go; and wants to collect frequent travel loyalty program miles and points.

It sure beats them feeling neglected and resorting to joining gangs, getting wasted or committing crimes.

As much as I despise screaming children who kick seats and whine when they do not get their way, I absolutely enjoy watching the eyes of a young child fill with wonder: discovering how to move that window shade up and down for the first time; visiting a new place in a foreign land; hearing music he or she has never heard before; and speaking that first word in a language other than the one he or she normally speaks. The questions a young child can ask through innocent eyes may cause an adult to stop and think “Wow — I never though of that!” and look at things in an entirely different way…

…so Patrick Smith — who is the author of Ask the Pilot — I respect your opinion and enjoy reading your articles; but my vote would be no: children should not be banned from the premium class cabin of an airplane. There are countless times where they behave better than certain self-important adults who for some reason keep asking people if they know who they are.

Many children certainly behave better than these people who fought over seat recline; or this man who pushed a debate over boarding protocol too far to the point where he was arrested; or people who defecate in hotel pools solely for fun.

In my opinion, the ideal solution would be for parents — as well as other influential figures in the life of a child — to pay attention to the child; to continuously set a proper example; and to teach their children on how to behave while out in public — but without stifling the natural need of the child to learn, grow, wonder…

…and just be himself or herself.

  1. I think the airlines should treat everyone the same. For example if an adult kicked on your seat over and over or started screaming, hitting people….acting like a child, then what would happen? The same should happen to a child passenger.
    I also think lap children should be prohibited. I have children and grand children so I get it but it’s a safety hazard to the child and other passengers in an emergency situation.

  2. Yes, ban them. I fly BC for business and my employer pays for it because I can relax and be rested once I reach my destination. The expenditure of $7,000+ is wasted if there is a screaming/misbehaving child in the premium cabin.

    Best to put them where they belong – in the cargo hold with all the other pets.

  3. This is one of those topics that will always be around and will always have people really adament about their position. I’m a single guy with no kids and it doesn’t really matter to me either way. No one wants a screaming baby next to them, but I think most prepared travelers have their noise cancelling headphones, ear plugs, and maybe a zanax to help combat a cryer. I would also have to think that most children in premium classes are probably paid travel. If that assumption is correct, i can’t see an airline losing not only that child’s seat in revenue, but also the rest of the family.

  4. if the child can have his/her own seat and afford it in premium cabin, then why NOT ?

    Last time i checked most premium cabins give you noise cancellation headphones so put them on and relax on your company’s $7k+ ticket which the CHILD is also paying equally.

    babies, sure prohibit them, but children..i think NOT

  5. I am onboard with NOT banning children from premium cabins. I was recently on a flight from VCE to LHR and a young couple with a young child were seated in front of my wife and myself. My first thought was “oh no” this will be a miserable 2 hours, but was surprised at how active the child’s parents were on the flight and kept her entertained. Having a young son of my own, I realize how difficult it can be to travel with children, but these parents who just let their children behave badly need to be held accountable. Just like we as adults are held accountable for poor behavior on aircraft, ( seat recline and alcohol related incidents come to mind) parents should he held accountable for the behavior of their children. It’s one thing for a small child to cry as a result of the pressure changes of flight (although I would argue that having a snack or a bottle to ease those changes for a child would be the responsible course of action ) but a temper tantrum or misbehaving is unacceptable. Other passengers shouldn’t suffer because a parent can’t control a child. I am not advocating diverting a plane for a child whose parents refuse to take action when he/she repeatedly kicks a seat back, but those parents when identified should be penalized. Maybe they are placed on a no-fly list. First reported incident by flight crew gets you a warning, next gets you are banned from flying with the airline with particular child for a period of time. I don’t have the answer, but this behavior will continue to happen if there is no action taken on a consistent basis.

  6. This entire debate is laughable. Airlines will do what is MOST PROFITABLE. Slicing classes into anything finer than “how much money are you willing to pay” just doesn’t work. This has been proven in past by airlines that tried other arrangements and they flew with empty seats. What is the load factor these days? Exactly….

    Anyone who thinks airlines decide passenger loading on any basis other than how much money they have, is completely deluded.

    1. This is the main reason why special niches — such as all premium-class and no children allowed — attempted by some airlines have failed.

  7. Buying a BC ticket at present “entitles” you to nothing more than a better seat and better food. NOT dictating who may sit in the cabin with you. What’s next? Excluding brown people from the front of the bus?

    Furthermore, whiny passengers who think they are “entitled” to peace, quiet, and child-free BC, should register that discontent by DOING something about it. But with the AIRLINES, not with their fellow passengers. You get up enough biz travellers to form a coalition, they will pay attention to that. Demonstrate you are a force to be reckoned with, who will go on strike and let their $7K seats go empty until you get what you want. Until then, you are just wasting your breath.

    Failing that, buy up the empty seats in BC. Or fly a private jet.

  8. I think it would be interesting to see a children zone seating area/cabin where the seats are shorter, pitch smaller, and thus the airline can fit more people! Sure the parents would be seated in a different area but they can always check on their kid from time to time!

  9. I am with Patrick Smith on banning children in premium cabins. If I pay or upgrade to Business or First, I expect a quiet environment and the airlines should not risk that by allowing children in the section as kids are notorious for their bad behavior.

    Also, I would like the airlines to ban old people because many of them move really slow, often smell funny like talcum powder and something else mediciney and sometimes try to show me pictures.

    And men. Men should be banned because sometimes they hit on me when I really want to read (This is less frequent since I crossed the 50 Rubicon but it still happens.) and their sense of entitlement takes all the oxygen.

    That would make a flying environment worth paying for.

  10. I don’t understand why people are INCENSED at the notion of children being banned form premium cabins. Children are regularly banned from bars, theaters, etc. and children who can’t be quiet are banned from a vast number of places. It’s not a punishment; it’s just a recognition that “kids will be kids” and that not all places are good venues for that sort of behavior.

    Obviously, children have travel needs, same as anyone else, and benefit from going to see new places. But the question here isn’t whether we should allow kids on planes; the question is whether they should be in PREMIUM cabins where people have spent many thousands of dollars for elegant, relaxing experiences, which children are more likely than adults to ruin.

    If children *can’t* be banned from premium cabins, then I guess my question is… where do you propose adults looking for quiet, relaxing places go? Nowhere? Should there be nowhere adults can go without the threat of rowdy kids? Why? That doesn’t seem right, even for the kids– who, after all, might decide in a few years that *they* want some peace and quiet too.

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