Family-Friendly Travel: Should Airlines Segregate?

As the holiday season approaches, I thought it pertinent to raise the issue of air-travel with families – and those individuals who are not family-friendly. Whilst reading the Sunday papers last weekend Mummy had what can only be described as a coffee-snort moment. Apparently someone had written to the Sunday Times travel section complaining about the fact that families are allowed to share the same space as normal grown-ups.

Sunday Times Travel section 22.5.11

The author of the complaint had been compelled to sit next to a baby who not only failed to keep its arms and legs still, but who showed an unhealthy interest in her airline meal. (Personally I would have thought that the opportunity to offload some of that unappetising rubbish would be a major benefit). She was unable to concentrate on her book, and called for airlines to provide segregated seating areas to keep families away from people.

Mummy found herself in somewhat of a moral dilemma. First she recalled her 30-year-old child-free frustration at finding herself seated immediately in front of an under-2 on his mother’s lap. As the seat-kicking began she huffed and grumped audibly in an effort to get the mother to make it stop. Fast forward 10 years and she mentally apologised to that lady for having absolutely no compassion and zilch understanding of what it means to travel with small children. In fact, as Daddy used every ounce of his creative power to turn the airline magazine into a new game for 2-year-old me, she tried hard to ignore the comments from the ’empty-nesters’ behind (‘I can see you’re trying your best, but really, there is a limit!’ – duh, what more did they expect us to do – parachute?). Much sweeter to her ears were the congratulations of the family-friendly couple in front for doing such a splendid job with such a lovely little girl (that’s me!).

Really, don’t I have enough stress on a plane as it is, what with the Bug wanting my DS, batteries that run out too quickly, colouring pens that travel way too far down the plane and Mummy telling me to choose my seat position and stick with it? Do I really need to be worrying about whether I’m upsetting the people that don’t like children as well? And on top of all that Mummy gets doubly upset in case they’re upset – which only signals more bad news for me.

So kids on planes – love them or hate them? Should families be banished to a land of motorway chaos and rain-swept Welsh beaches until they ‘grow up’? Actually, maybe airlines should provide segregated seating so that me and my friends can travel stress-free(er). Then child-free travellers could pay extra for non-family seats, as well as speedy boarding and an insipid airline meal 😉

11 thoughts on “Family-Friendly Travel: Should Airlines Segregate?”

  1. Hi there! I do so love reading your blog and your style, tone, it’s just so easy to read and get hooked. Will you be at Cybermummy? Would be great to catch up again. Just understood your tweet re; tagging so must get to it! Duh! xx

    • Thanks Caroline, it’s so nice to get such great feedback. Unfortunately not going to Cybermummy – I am going to be so jealous when those posts start to appear! Keep me posted if you get any great tips! x

  2. Interesting! I can see it from both sides though as if you do not have kids you just do not understand how much guilt parent have when travelling. I would not object to being in a family zone on a plane. I know I wont sleep because of my baby but I do not see why people who choose not to or cannot have children need to encounter our little darlings as they tear up and down the plane and we might all feel less stress that way.

    • Agreed, I used to seethe if I was seated near a child before I had my own, and I do make every effort to control mine when we’re travelling or in Restaurants. But it’s hard not to bristle just a little bit when people give you ‘the stare’. Especially when other people can be just so lovely to my kids. I think you’re either a child-person or you’re not. Segregated areas on a plane is not a bad idea. My only dilemma is who should pay the airline for the privilege?

  3. I was all for segregation until I spent 2 hellish hours in a packed up soft play centre on a cold Friday last week, if this is what the family section in the plane could turn out to be I don’t think I can handle it… On long haul flights the TV screens at the back of the seats have helped immensely by sedating the little angels, long flights are so much more bearable!

  4. I must admit I wasn’t very keen on sitting near children on flights in my child free years so I feel I have a foot in both camps. One big achievement for me as a mother (and it was mostly my achievement) was keeping my 10 month old son from crying on flights to and from Thailand. I succeeded as he only cried for longer than 5 seconds once when I just had to go to the toilet. That said, I felt the effects afterwards as I had sore nipples from lots of breastfeeding.

  5. Oh it’s such a dilemma isn’t it. I think it’s difficult to see the other side. Both camps have justifiable claims to being right. I do know that I never want to be an air stewardess! Thanks for stopping by x

  6. Hi Mummy:

    KidsTravelDoc. com helps parents keep children healthy, safe and comfortable when traveling and for outdoor recreational activities. Informative. Accurate. Often amusing.
    Karl Neumann MD FAAP CTM

    Please visit us.

    Thank you.

    Karl Neumann MD, FAAP
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  7. Oooh it’s so tricky isn’t it! We live abroad so we fly regularly, and my children are used to planes and know how to behave on them as I have instilled it into them that there’s to be no shouting, kicking, running up and down, or disturbing other people if they can help it. Of course, they have their moments, but they are usually well behaved. Doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get someone tutting at us though for the slightest thing, so I give them (miserable person, not my children!) my best death stare which usually works!

    If you can see that the parents are doing their best, then I am always tolerant of others, and I always, always make a point of praising children if they have been well behaved. God I hate flying! Thanks for your contribution to Loveallblogs Travel! Emma 🙂


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