One of the biggest
variables when flying is the company that you’re forced to keep. Whether you're
in economy or business, aisle or window, there will almost always be someone
sitting next to you – and if that person is particularly flirtatious,
odoriferous, anxious or loud your experience could be drastically altered
But with recent upgrades
allowing noise-conscious passengers to choose a seat away from children, having
at least one type of less-than-desirable seatmate could soon be a thing of the
Last week, Scoot
airlines, the budget subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, announced that seats in child-free areas, dubbed the
“ScootinSilence” rows, can now be booked for a small fee. The section is an
updated set of restrictions on their premium economy product; in addition to
extra leg room and a better seat pitch,
you are also liberated from having to sit with children 12 and under.
“Just as there are
some people who prefer to travel without checked baggage, or to sleep rather
than eat… there are some who would rather travel with adults. We’re simply
providing the option to do so,” said Scoot Airlines CEO Campbell Wilson.
In September 2012,
AirAsia X launched a similar service in their premium economy cabin, and Malaysian
Airlines has a similar policy on the upper-deck economy cabin of its A380 jumbo
jet, which it flies on select long-haul routes.
The trend seems to be
catching on quickly in Asia, perhaps because culturally the region places a
premium on the wealthier business savvy class and is eager to please affluent
“The reality is that
the companies, people and culture of Asia are actually a little bit less
politically sensitive in certain areas than places like Europe and America,” said
Jonathan Galaviz, airline analyst and managing director at Galaviz &
Company. “The practicality of Asia is one of the things that makes it unique in
the world. Many people enjoy that.”
But could child-free
zones spread around the world? Not necessarily.
“I don't think that
we'll ever see child-free zones on US carriers, any more than we'll see the
return of smoking zones. In the politically correct United States, it would be
considered discriminatory to exclude passengers with kids from certain cabin
sections,” said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.
“But in Asia, where it's legal to 'retire' flight attendants when they reach
the ripe old age of 35, a different sensibility applies.”
The issue that Western
airlines will need to consider is the strong consumer voice, which could create
a significant and harmful image problem for the carriers. In Asia, that
community is neither as loud nor as vociferous. Disrupting the consumer base
and any potential discrimination litigation that would follow may create risks
that Western carries aren’t willing to take.