Does the sight of a family with young children fill you with horror as you check in for a flight? Do you wish the airline you are flying had child-free flights?
Not quite child-free Air Asia was the first to announce, rather courageously, the introduction of child free zones on their flights. This sparked a debate, most of it online, along the lines of travelling parents needs vs the wants of the rest of the travelling public. Since then there have been debates with varying degrees of vitriol across social media platforms and blogs. This is a debate that will rumble on and on with neither side wanting to back down.
Where do I stand in the debate? I’m OK with kids but like most people this is often stretched to breaking point if I am sitting near a screaming baby, whining toddler or tantrum throwing pre-schooler in side a metal tube hurtling through the air at 600mph. However, I also realise that they have as much right as I do to fly. So until all airlines have quiet child-free zones (which they will probably add an extra charge for) I have a choice either pay to upgrade or tolerate my fellow travelling companions whoever they might be. I always choose tolerance over an upgrade because it’s free.
Having travelled more times than I can count I have several strategies that improve my chances of NOT sitting near kids. Here are some of them.
Choosing a seat
Budget airlines make this easier because, passengers with children are usually allowed to board first. Not because it helps them but because families tend to hold up a queue of passengers as the settle the children in and stow bags. I try to make sure I am near the head of the queue so that when I get on the plane I can check out where the already seated children are and choose a seat as far away as possible. As some budget airlines experimenting with assigning seats this might not always be possible so check ahead of time. If not see below.
For flights where seats are assigned at check-in it’s a little more hit and miss. The following is a good working strategy. Firstly check-in early; as soon as it opens – remember this might be online. This will give you more choice. Secondly choose seats toward the rear as families are often assigned seats towards the front. This is particularly true on medium to long haul flights. Thirdly, if you can see what seats are free (as when checking in online) avoid blocks of seats. Families like to sit together and families generally consist of 4 or more people meaning they are going to occupy more than the usual three-seat row and will look for blocks of free seats when they check-in.
Keeping out the noise
If you have the misfortune to be close to kids on a flight then you can take action to reduce the sound waves reaching your auditory nerve. The best action is to use noise cancelling ear phones but standard earplugs or headphones will reduce the sounds especially if you are listening to music. Failing that earplugs will also help.
Choosing the right time of day
Ironically I am finishing this post on a flight to Thessaloniki, Greece which seems to be a nursery school outing. There are kids everywhere. Which goes to show that it is not always possible to take avoiding action. Fortunately all the families have come well prepared so no real disruption. It does bring up another issue. Families with pre-school children tend to fly when flights are cheapest and if there is a choice of an early flight will take that before the children get tired. So book a flight later in the day when there is less likely to be children on board.
If all else fails you can try for, or pay for, an upgrade.
Do you have any other child avoidance strategies. Let us know in the comments below. Please keep the comments polite.