Lately there has been a lot of chatter—and a lot of debate—about child-free zones on airplanes. In April, Malaysian Airlines banned children under 12 from the upper deck of their A380s, and AirAsia is now offering child-free quiet zones on several of their aircraft at no extra charge to passenger. Of course, many parents feel like this is blatant discrimination, and take offense. As someone who frequently flies with a toddler, I have no problem with it. Everyone deserves a little peace on the plane if they can get it. However, I have an alternative suggestion that I think might appease everyone and be profitable for the airlines at the same time: a designated "Family Section."
When I fly with my kid these days, I pray that I'm near another family for several reasons. One, I know they will be more understanding if my son starts fussing. Two, it's nice for the kids to be able to chat with each other or share toys. And three, I now often find myself asking strangers for help, whether it's to hold my kid while I get a bag down from overhead, or to grab him if he's trying to get to the front of the plane while de-boarding. In turn, I have helped several other parents when they've needed it while flying, from buckling a toddler in to sharing some of my kid's stickers. The willingness for families to help one another out while flying is extraordinary. So why not group us all together?
My suggestion is the family section be at the back of the plane. That way parents with young kids board first, keeping things moving along at a nice pace. Airlines can charge more for a family section seat, in return for something: my suggestion would be a little gift bag for the kids with a plastic plane and a small package of animal crackers. Chain restaurants have crayons and fun placemats for kids, so why not chain airlines? I would always pay $20-$30 more for a ticket for the family section. There's a win-win for both.
Charge other passengers less in the two rows in front of the family section. Many people would sit near kids in exchange for a better fare. And charge those far from the family section more. I'm guessing many solo travelers looking for a snooze would also happily pony up another $20 to be at the front of the plane and away from the kids.
And please, have your nicest and smiliest flight attendant work the family section—and give him or her a raise.