/ Parenting, Travel & Leisure

Do you want planes to have kid-free zones?

Girl eating on plane

Research suggests children are the number one annoyance for business class airline passengers. Could this prompt the introduction of kid-free cabins – or is it just too difficult for airlines to create peaceful havens?

A survey of 1,000 business travellers by the Business Travel & Meeting Show reveals that nearly three-quarters find children the most annoying thing about their flights.

Whilst many of us won’t be too surprised by this result, it does beg the question of whether all passengers, regardless of seat type, should have the option to sit in a designated quiet area of the plane.

Or could things be taken one step further with the introduction of adult-only flights, targeted at business travellers ‘commuting’ on prime business routes?

A quick glance at the British Airways website gives an overview of the different business class seats available. A Club World seat will give you ‘the flexibility to sleep, work and relax so you arrive refreshed and ready for the day ahead’ – a statement that makes no guarantees of a quiet cabin.

And how could it when seats are available to those travelling for ‘business or pleasure’? You can’t just ban families who wish to travel in a little more comfort. So what exactly constitutes a relaxing flight? I’m sure the expectations for families and business travellers are likely to be very different. So can the service be tailored accordingly?

Are quiet cabins the answer?

Quiet coaches have long been adopted by some train operators, catering for passengers who want to travel without the disruption of mp3 players and mobile phones. Could something similar be adopted by airlines – a separate ‘quiet’ cabin, perhaps with a volume restrictor on the in-flight entertainment too?

I guess the main problem is pure logistics. Do you just introduce one quiet cabin or do you have a section in all classes of the aircraft? What about short haul or charter flights where the demand for different types of seat will vary greatly depending on the destination, time and month of your flight.

Unlike long-haul flights, short-haul and charters tend to give the option of buying an on-board meal. Seating on the aircraft is then allocated accordingly, with passengers who are eating often grouped together – a new quiet cabin would therefore make it trickier for the cabin crew to hand out the meals.

Add additional requests for window, isle and extra leg-room seats to the equation and the quiet cabin ideology no longer appears as quite as straightforward. And, at what age do we decide a ‘child’ is no longer a potential annoyance?

Would you pay for peace and quiet?

Long-haul flights are the more likely candidate for these quiet zones. Cabin areas are often already defined to cater for the various categories of economy and business class passengers, so an additional class would be more acceptable. But at what cost?

Unless taking seats away from the economy area, it is likely that the airlines would need to charge an increased fare for passengers in quiet seats – covering the potential need for increased cabin staff or the loss of revenue that may arise from the reorganisation of the cabin.

I would consider paying extra to sit in a quiet area on a long haul flight – a decision based as much on annoying adults as a potential crying baby. Sometimes you just want to read a book or close your eyes ‘so you can arrive refreshed and ready for the day ahead’!

Chris Mayes says:
7 February 2011

I fly regularly, mainly short haul into Europe, but occasional long hauls to Asia or US. Yes, bawling kids are irritating when commuting – but so is a narrow seat, people who are so fat they spill into your seat, volcanoes & snow that disrupt travel plans… and a whole host of other inconveniences. If i fall asleep I’ve been known to snore & drift onto other peoples shoulders, and tapping my foot in time to music from headphones has occasionally happened.
So get real – its easy to see the mote & not the beam in our own eye. I tend to zone out into a slightly zen feel whilst in transit: less stressful to me – and for anyone else around i’m not so likley to get irritated. And just think of the parent of the kid: theyre already feeling guiilty enough normally that you dont want to wind them up in a counter productive way.

I guess if the reasearch had been done in the US that no 1 would have been oversize passengers without a double ticket – much more problematic if you are right next to one (been there, done that, been subjected to the reverse psychology)

Sue Shaw says:
7 February 2011

Fat people, who take up some of the little space I have make me feel very uncomfortable and as annoying as children who climb all over the seats and kick the back of seats. I pay for a whole seat that I may not get so fat people should buy two seats and children should be strapped in their seats at all times except when an adult takes them to the toilet. I have met some lovely, well behaved children on flights. They will have times when they are unhappy but when the adults are doing there best it is not so annoying.

Hi Sue
Please try to be sensitive to other people’s feelings when you post – some may take offence at your comments about ‘fat people’. Do have a look at our commenting guidelines which emphasize the importance of consideration for others: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/


Mikhail says:
19 October 2011

I don’t think ‘fat people’ is offensive words, I mean they are people and they have a lot of fat, not weigh, not size, but fat.

Sophie Gilbert says:
7 February 2011

Do you want planes to have kid-free zones? Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesss!

7 February 2011

Why not have a kids/ parents department which is closed off from the rest of the passengers?
(preferably soundproof).
Give them space and lots of things to play with.
Stick all the kiddies together so I don’t have to endure the delighted “MORE MORE” shrieks when we hit another air pocket.


Been on long flights – Caribbean and Australia a number of times – the only thing that annoys me were kids kicking the back of the seat – Then I tell – not ask – the child to stop – the vast majority do – those tiny few that don’t I tell the parent to do something. I don;t mind the noise as such (I was a teacher) – but I am good with kids so often told them stories – strangely most of them listened quietly so I got an impression most were not read to.. I can sleep through almost anything.

The logistics would be insurmountable to supply a child free zone on every long flight.

put them in the hold. problem sorted.

Yes please, though I’m not sure how effective they would be. How would you force parents to only sit in certain areas? It would only work if it was an advantage for parents to take them there, with special children areas – but then that sounds like a premium that would cost money, nor could you ensure that they’d use it. I’m afraid it’s just not going to happen…

LIL says:
8 June 2011

Our family of sixteen has just booked on line with jet2 for our seat allocation and boarding pass.
Eight got adjacent seats but our family of two adults and four children ages 6-8 and twins 2/12 all allocated different seats all over the plane.They have had to pay £30 extra to sit together.
What we would like to know is this legal sitting such young children next to complete strangers and who is responsible for them in flight as there parents are no where near them?
These airline are only blackmailing parents with young children knowing full well they will pay the excess seating fee, I CALL IT MEAN AND GREEDY.