But how about when adults are the biggest babies in the lounge?

For as long as airlines have dished out perks to frequent flyers, there’s been draconian red tape to go along with them. From mile long rulebooks on when you can upgrade to when someone can join you for a toast in a cosy airport lounge, it’s hardly ever been intuitive or easy to follow. For those with families, it’s always been worse.

Most airline loyalty programs allow one guest into airport lounges, which quite often means choosing between a comfortable and relaxing pre flight environment alone, or a happy family.

If you ask many lounge dwellers, they’re thrilled that these lounge dragon policies largely keep family groups out of their coveted freebie filled booze dens, but to make frequent flyer perks appeal not only to the frequent flyer, but everyone in the family – some airlines are instituting rule exceptions so that everyone can benefit when traveling together.

Kids in lounges – yay, or nay?

In recent months, airlines have created exemptions to the strict “1 guest” rules, for those traveling in family groups. They’ve tended to run these trials during high leisure periods when families are more likely to travel and more of the typical lounge clientele are off the road. The move effectively allows a frequent traveller to guest their entire family in, provided the kids are under 18 and accompanied by at least one adult, completely usurping the 1 guest allowance.

For those who get little joy from their perks while traveling solo, it’s amazing to have their hard work translate into benefits which make family travel far more manageable and enjoyable for all. Being able to grab a quick bite, recharge and relax is huge for anyone, and when travelling with young children, one can only imagine it’s doubly as nice.

At the same time, for those used to clean and quiet environments, turning a refined lounge into a theme park may not be ideal.

As far as I’m concerned, I have no problem with it, at all. I think kids under 18 should always be allowed in with their families, not just on special occasions. I wear noise cancelling headphones, which tend to drown out even the worst little demons in the air, or on the ground. Food anywhere out of an airport tends to always be better than anything found in one, so I rarely linger for long in any lounge anyway. I spend enough time in the airport to never want to be in one longer than I have to.

Ultimately, it’s all up to how parents discipline their children, and whether they take responsibility for their guests. This is a crucial distinction. If a frequent traveler uses their ‘one guest’ privilege to bring  in an adult who disrespects the place, causes a fuss or… vomits from inebriation, you better bet it will be taken up with the frequent flyer. Parents should be held to the same standard.

I actually think all lounge guests should have a file, or strike count, not just kids. Three strikes, you’re out…

I hate the DYKWIA lego men with baggy jeans, oversized company logo polo shirt on speakerphone yelling at someone down the other end while guzzling Jack Daniels far more more than I could ever hate any human not old enough to fly unaccompanied. If someone of any age is found abhorrent or abusive of the rules on multiple occasions, perhaps a ban would do some good?

I actually think this is why Cathay Pacific had the foresight to introduce lounge etiquette. If you haven’t read it, do the world a favour and please do – especially if you’re one of those that listens to music or makes calls that others can hear.

The bigger question comes down to capacity and use of space. Most people with high tiered elite frequent flyer status rarely fly with their entire families, so it’s not as if a sea of total chaos would be created overnight by any means. As airlines rethink these often mundane spaces, greater attention is being paid to wellness, kids facilities and sectioning off spaces to create unique nooks, rather than massive college study dorm rooms.

Would this create more passengers in a lounge overall? Of course it would. If a lounge was already marginally brimming at capacity, a more relaxed guest policy could tip the scales entirely and make the terminal the more civilised place to pass time, which defeats the whole point.

What do you do then?

Some would say the best solution is to create new series of lounges within lounges, where certain spaces are reserved exclusively for guests flying in premium cabins, while those who enjoy lounge access via their loyalty program would be ushered into a different space. Others say dedicate more space to bigger lounges and nothing else matters. There’s even the idea of creating dedicated family only lounge spaces. No one likes overcrowding.

As airlines look to make their benefits more useful, relatable and progressive it will be fascinating to see if these trial initiatives become common place and if traveling families are welcomed with open arms, regardless of size. I think they should, but the internet tends not to agree…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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10 Comments

  1. All well-behaved people, regardless of age, should feel free to use a lounge’s facilities. I feel a bit of empathy for parents traveling with children given how difficult it must be in some respects (I am not a parent and thus do not know).

    That being said, I’ve seen some behavior that leads me to believe that lounges are just a microcosm of society at large – no more sophisticated or caring than anywhere else. A few days ago, some child literally screamed for an hour at the top of their lunges in the DFW Centurion while his caretaker / parent just sat there on her phone. She looked absolutely exhausted, so I don’t want to judge her too harshly, but it wasn’t exactly a great experience.

    At the SFO Centurion, I witnessed a child run up to the plate of cookies next to the coffee machine and feel pretty much every one while her mother was desperately trying to chase her down and head her off. At least in that case the parent was doing her best (she also had an infant in tow and the husband didn’t seem to be much help, unfortunately).

    I agree with you, though, on the point that adult humans can be just as obnoxious as the small ones. My wife and I were recently in the SQ F lounge at HKG and this dude comes in, throws his bag on a couch, grabs a drink, and proceeds to have the loudest phone conversation I’ve ever heard for an hour while pacing back and forth around the buffet and drinks area. This is not an isolated incident, either. Watching Netflix at full volume without headphones, playing at reality TV while talking into your speakerphone in the middle of a crowded lounge, etc. It is frustrating to have people not be courteous of the ones around them.

  2. Get them out. Think about what the concept of Lounges was. A peaceful, quiet place to relax before a flight.

    Not a place for ferals and bogans to behave like they are in McDonalds.

    Now they let every man and his dog in and the places have become a place for ferals to shove food down their throats like it’s the last meal they will ever have. Kids tasting food, not liking it and throwing it back in. People sneezing all over the buffets.

    It’s especially bad in DXB, DOH, MCT, AUH where it s a tradition to let little Johnny run amok without discipline.

    And don’t even get me started on board QR, EK, EY flights. And equally flights from the US to DOH, DXB, AUH et al, otherwise known as baby express to the middle east. Pull your kids into line people. Please.

    Stay in Economy.

  3. No. No. No. Never. No. No.

    If you think families need to stay together that is great…they can sit at McDonald’s, scream all they want, knock over other’s food and luggage and act like morons. As an added bonus the parents are typically the one’s carrying on a “private” business deal at full volume on their cell phones so they can enjoy McDonald’s as well. Two problems solved.

  4. I’m not really a fan of the “well, some adults are selfish animals, so why not let kids in too?” argument. I’d prefer somewhere calm and relaxing, with good behaviour from all. No screaming, no watching videos without headphones, no loud phone calls. Adults can understand a code of conduct and be excluded if they don’t comply. Not the case with a toddler. A McDonald’s with a soft play area sounds more appropriate!

  5. Anyone who is well behaved should be allowed to enter. I’ve seen way more than my fair share of idiots in lounges — feet up with no socks, talking on devices with no headsets, watching porn on laptops / devices, drunk and disorderly, eating food directly from the serving trays… I’d rather have a well behaved 10 year old with me than a drunk or disturbing business person any day. Lounge Managers should be able to warn and kick anyone out who is disturbing other patrons.

  6. Paul is right. The yardstick should be behavioral, not numeric. If you behave, you are welcome to stay regardless of your age. Likewise, if your behavior makes the place unpleasant to others – get out even if you are a so called adult.

    And let’s not forget that the distinction between leisure and business travelers is a bit arbitrary. The stuffy, suited business executive sitting in the corner, working on his computer Monday morning, could very well be the one wearing shorts over open toe sandals, and chasing three kids on the Friday PM flight to MIA.

  7. Unfortunately, there is always that 1 kid that’s runs over you as your trying to balance a wine glass and a plastic plate with a few carrot sticks. Then the 1 adult with that kid thats all to happy to share his/her little twit of a pride and joy with the rest of us. Then there is always the 1 adult with the cell phone voice that we all have to listen to as they carry on about their worldly travels and pathetic job. (I had to call a guy out when we where leaving the club at Heathrow after all of us in the lounge spent 30 minutes having to listen to his every word)

    At the very least -have a family section. Children should have to be accompanied to the food line so your little bambino doesn’t shove his snot filled paws into the chicken finger basket then proceed to the cookie cart and pick up every cookie to see if thats the 1 cookie he wants. In fairness – I watched an adult at the fruit basket pick up every single apple and squeeze it till he found his perfect selection.

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