International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Imagine this: a long-haul flight with no disturbance from crying children, vomiting infants, rambling toddlers, seat back-kicking kids or bored grade-schoolers.
For a little extra money, that dream could be a reality for passengers booking flights on Malaysia-based carrier AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of budget carrier AirAsia. Last week the airline began rolling out child-free zones on its Airbus A330-300 flights to China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and Nepal.
The controversial new policy bans children under 12 years old from a Quiet Zone, demarcated as the first seven rows of economy. Located immediately behind the premium seating section, the zone also has softer lighting – designed to provide a more relaxing atmosphere – and is sectioned off from the rest of the plane by curtains and bathrooms. A spot in this section will cost passengers an additional 35 to 110 Malaysian ringgit.
“This product enhancement allows our guests to have a more pleasant and peaceful journey with minimal noise and less disturbance,” said AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani in a press statement.
AirAsia isn’t the first airline to test out the tactic. Malaysia Air instituted a similar policy in July 2012, banning children under 12 from the upper deck of its A380 flights between Kuala Lumpur and London. But AirAsia’s decision is further raising eyebrows – and questions. Does banning kids from seven rows of a plane really eliminate noise and make for more peaceful flying? And how are parents reacting to the ban?
As George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, told NBC News, “Logistically, it’s a nightmare for an airline to allocate certain seats for certain people. The last time they had to do this was back when there were smoking and non-smoking sections. Even if you were just one row away from the smoking section, you still got the smoke and you’ll still hear the screams... if a child has strong lungs.”
And then of course, there’s the ire of angry parents.
Nonetheless, surveyors have found support for such policies among many fliers. The UK’s Telegraph conducted a poll in 2012 that found that nearly 70% of readers support child-free flights, and even commenters on the UK’s parenting website parentdish.com widely supported AirAsia’s new policy.
While AirAsia waits to see how the new rules play out, other airlines are promoting their kid-friendly flying practices. Gulf Air and Emirates both offer passengers free in-flight nanny services, ranging from entertaining children to helping with meals. And Nanny in the Clouds, a new US website, connects fliers with potential babysitters scheduled on the same flight.
Peace of mind for passengers and parents.