The world can be a very funny place and few places embody that notion more than airplanes. People tend to let their wildest self beliefs take charge and often, many of their most basic manners are left to fly out the window.
And if you want to take things up a notch — or twelve — just ask people about their thoughts around kids on airplanes. If you thought politics was polarizing, my goodness try this one. This is unfiltered coffee.
As a frequent first and business class traveler, who more often than not has a two year old in tow these days, I wanted to address some of the issues, stigmas and the double standards which exist.
And to be fair, I’ll also” tell all” about some of the unacceptable situations involving kids on planes.
Before I do, I’ll say this. I’ve had more flights ruined by childish adults, than children.
Should Kids Be Allowed To Sit In First And Business Class At All?
Is that even a question? The answer is yes. Yes, they should.
Somehow, I’ve heard a shocking number of people pontificate that children shouldn’t be allowed to sit in business or first class. These are usually also people where I’d fret to hear their thoughts on freedom of marriage, or who can drive cars.
Even still, there may be solutions lurking which would help everyone. Like any other commodity, airline seats go to the people who pay for them.
If there are no more seats, you can’t pay for them. When I make the decision to pay for an airline seat for someone else, it’s entirely my prerogative who sits there.
How You Can Stop Kids From Being In Your Cabin
If you wanted that seat to be quiet, or want to control who sits around you, you should pay for the seats around you too. Yo-Yo Ma famously pays for a seat for his cello.
At the stage of divine diva-ness where you’re purchasing an entire cabin to avoid the sounds of children, I can recommend looking up empty leg jet pricing, or just buying a jet.
If you’re not at that financial level, remember that noise is not exclusive to kiss. Try not to let cackling laughs, loud “business” conversations about “how important you are”, or an endless stream of farts disrupt a kids flight.
The only bodies which can impact this rightful decision of the ticket purchaser are the governments or an airlines involved.
If the person is deemed physically unfit to occupy a certain seat for a safety reason, the airline can move them. If a government deems a person is inadmissible to travel to a given country before flight, they can remove them.
What’s The Etiquette On Screaming Kids In First Or Business Class?
I travel frequently in first or business class without my wonderful daughter, Olive, and I travel frequently with her too.
I know the feeling of hearing a child screaming while trying to catch precious zzzz’s on a plane, or catch the subtle nuance of Larry David’s humor on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Neither situation is all that pleasant for anyone involved. But I think this is where the important distinction is. It’s not fun for parents, the child, or for you. If the parents or the kids are trying to remedy the situation, have some empathy.
When the parents are not trying, that’s a different story.
If you’ve had too many gin martini’s to remember, so much is happening at young age with children. Ear trouble, growing pains and emotional overloads are just the start. I’d be lying if I didn’t note that Olive has cried on flights, but it’s always been brief periods, rather than long and sustained bouts.
I’d say that’s really down to us, the parents, really trying.
As part of the essential tips for flying with toddlers, it’s absolutely vital to have snacks, distractions, games, arts and crafts projects and everything under the sun ready for a long flight.
I’d love to recline my seat into a big flat bed and pass out, but we spend most of the flight when Olive isn’t sleeping — doing our best to stimulate her and give her what she needs to be comfortable, or happy. Planes are an environment very famous for being uncomfortable.
It’s our way of trying to make her happy — which is our utmost priority — but also keep the cabin happy, which is a very distant second place. I think etiquette should always be to forgive and forget — or just put your f**king headphones on when possible.
Parents who want to be lazy and forget they are responsible for a young child should pay for an extra seat for a nanny. Remember, we’re talking about first class.
Don’t even @ me with the “but noise cancelling headphones can’t silence changing sounds” nonsense. If you’re into a good movie with a good pair of headphones or in ear monitors, it should be faint background noise at the worst.
When parents do nothing to try to resolve the emotions or discomfort of a young child it’s all just kinda sad though. Nothing good usually comes from confrontation on an airplane, but it’s fair to be frustrated by lazy parents. That’s true on the ground too.
In ideal situations, this is where cabin crew can play a role. Proactively offering up a coloring book to the parents or doing really anything to get them involved can go a long way.
Physical Annoyance Is Another Story Entirely
We’ve gone deep enough into the emotional and physical toll flying takes on everyone and children specifically, but there’s an area which even as a parent, I’ll agree is totally unacceptable.
Noise from children is somewhat inevitable, but physically disrupting another persons flight is not. I’m looking at you, parents who mindlessly look away while your kid kicks the back of my seat, or starts lobbing gummy bears.
Even as an advocate for family travel and the incalculable good and joy it brings for all — once you get there (wink, implied) — it’s just never ok for anyone of any age to disrupt a journey in a physical manner.
No kicking the seat, no throwing things. It may happen, but parents gotta’ stomp that out real fast. Not ok.
Would Children’s Areas Or Seat Maps Help Solve This?
There’s no way to create a children’s area in a first class cabin, but some airlines have tried in economy. Many see this as the great solution everyone has been waiting for. Others see it as first world privilege gone mad.
One solution which could help, involves a little iconography key on seat maps, which shows where children are sitting. It won’t stop every case for fussy travelers, but niche benefits may exist.
Who is on the flight can change up to the last moment, but if a person is looking to fly between cities with numerous flights and sees a kid in first class on one flight but not another, it could diffuse some tension for the hardest to please by identifying that in advance.
The problem with “kids sections” is that they can actually make things worse. If Olive is sound asleep and another kid is screaming their lungs out, it will likely wake Olive and then she’ll give her best impersonation.
With natural spacing between kids, there’s actually better chance for those who are asleep, or are being quiet and peaceful to remain that way, even if one of the young kid flyer team is having a rough day.
Parents Should Be Responsible, Adults Should Too
Kids are the innocent parties here. Well, except when they get old enough to be their own kind of trouble. But with young kids, responsibility for a good journey, for every person in the cabin is really down to the parents.
I think it’s essential etiquette to be as understanding as you can be with young kids, as long as the parents are being understanding of your journey too. When Olive has had teething pain, I’ve picked her up and carried her to a galley, to try to spare passengers those couple moments of audible pain.
Being kind, smiling or just remaining calm can also go a long way with making things better for all. A plane full of people recently sung “Baby Shark” to calm a young kid and you can’t help but laugh — and love.
On the flip side, I’ve also had Olive woken from a peaceful slumber by people trying to talk to us without any awareness.
Or, just being loud and obnoxious having conversations with friends, or crew, that practically the entire plane could listen in on.
Very few planes have been turned around, or forced to divert due to young children throwing tirades over booze, political issues or popping too many pills. You cannot say the same about adults. Particularly, these days.
Before going all high and mighty over children being allowed into premium cabins, a look in the mirror can be helpful. If parents are trying and kids are trying their best, it’s best to just sit back, relax, put the headphones on and enjoy the flight.
You can’t control who sits around you. If you want to — charter a jet.