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
zones on its Airbus A330-300 flights to China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea,
Australia and Nepal.
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.
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
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,
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.
“It’s already hard enough for families to find seating together so this
would take another chunk out where they have fewer seats to choose from,” Brett
Snyder, of The Cranky Flier blog, told
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
Peace of mind
for passengers and parents.