Who is your ideal seatmate on an airplane? Is it a handsome bachelor in a business suit, wielding a briefcase and a smile? How about a young female student, diligently reading? Many travellers admit to adopting a no-eye contact, fervent plea of “not me, not me” when they see the elderly, the anxious, the overweight, the over-packed, and the parent approach their row.
Sales or Service?
Air travel has certainly lost a lot of its glamour in the past few years. It’s not just the rigid security measures, which most of us concede may be unpleasant but understandable. It really comes down to service standards. Free meals, pillows, blankets are all perks of the past. In the era of $5 potato chip packs and $20 seat reservations, airlines have turned opportunities for service into opportunities for sales.
Child Free Zones – Heavenly or Horrible?
The latest option – choosing a child free seating zone. More and more airlines are developing this as a potential passenger option. Is this a brilliant idea or blatant discrimination? Air Asia, a discount airline carrier well known for its cheap base prices and steep add-on fees, has just launched the Quiet Zone. The Quiet Zone promises soft lighting and no passengers under the age of 12. Later this year, I’ll be flying with Air Asia between Thailand and Myanmar. The Quiet Zone can all be mine for an extra $20-$50 dollars. Each way, of course!
Travel is Stressful.
Even the most devoted parent will admit that there are many challenges when it comes to travelling with children. The slow wail that escalates into a full-on scream. Diaper disasters, motion sickness, spilled drinks, and spilled tears are all part of the journey. Can you blame travelers for seeking out a quiet, child free environment, complete with mood lighting?
Quiet Zone or No-Go Zone?
Let’s not be so quick to switch seats. Programs like this are fraught with problems. Does anyone else find it suspicious that airlines are cutting back more and more on amenities, treats, and distractions for children, no doubt leading to more unhappy travelers, who you can now pay to escape from? Seems like a bit of a scam to me!
So will be the Quiet Zone really be quiet? Will it be a peaceful refuge for weary travelers who just want to read and rest? This is unlikely, as noise from other areas can easily carry over. A crying baby three rows away from the Quiet Zone will still be a source of noise. There is no sound-proof force field involved here! And while the under-12s may be banned in the Quiet Zone, their 13 year old colleagues can easily sit there.
How About an Adult-Free Zone!
Of course, the biggest source of noise, discomfort, and annoyance is likely not to come from children at all, but from other adults. Drunk, lewd businessmen, fighting couples, boisterous sports fans, Chatty Cathys all top the list of airplane annoyances. Even the low hum from laptops, tablets, and iPods all contribute to the noise in the cabin. How quiet can the Quiet Zone really be?
Parents Weigh In.
Parents I talked to were split about kid free zones. One dad told me to go for it – he even joked that he’d sit there if he could pawn his son off on someone else! Another told me to save my money and seek refuge in wine instead! It really is a topic that creates a split decision.
Many weighed in that they would look at the length of the flight and also whether it was a redeye. Great point! It seems silly to upgrade on a daytime flight of just an hour or two. When I fly 15 hours across the Pacific, even a small upgrade is well worth it. The same upgrade cost from Ottawa to Toronto rarely pays off. I think the same is true of so-called Quiet Zones. There might be some value for certain flights, but I’m going to remain focused on what it really is – a sell up, not a service.
What do you think? Are kid-free Quiet Zones a good idea, a gimmick with some potential, or just offensive? Would you choose this option when you fly, or even when you take the train? On the other hand, would you pay more to fly with pro-child, kid-friendly airline? I’ll be sure to carefully observe the Air Asia Quiet Zone when I fly with them later this year and I’ll report back on just how quiet and peaceful it appeared to be!
Share your thoughts in the comments below!