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Should Airlines Be Offering Adults-Only Flights?

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Viral TikTok Video Sparks Debate Over What We Should Be Able To Expect From Flights

We’ve all been there.

screaming girl on plane

You’re prepped for your flight well in advance, armed with the perfect pillow, a lovely little travel blanket, high-end noise-canceling headphones, and a fully optimized airplane outfit. You’ve paid extra for more legroom and even splashed on early boarding so you can slip your carry-on into the overhead, sit down, get comfy, and embrace your zen for the impending flight.

That is, until the three-year-old seated behind you decides that you’re taking a different path today – cue seat kicking, incessant crying, and a slew of cartoons on an iPad-come-distraction device.

This is exactly the situation documented in a recent TikTok video that’s now gone viral and sparked debate across the internet, centering around the question: Should airlines be offering adults-only flights?

flight cabin

It’s a complicated question, and answers tread a thin line between offending parents on one side and frustrated customers on the other. The video naturally split the population, with some immediately agreeing with the video’s adult-only sentiment while others sprung to the defense of the parents.

The frustration is natural, especially on a long flight. An already oft-feared mode of travel can be made ten times worse by the inability to relax, but apathy and common sense must play a part in any decision made to counter the issues.

young girl on plane

It’s not reasonable to require a parent to keep their child quiet, just as it’s equally unreasonable to require every passenger to purchase noise-canceling headphones. But is it worth it for an airline to offer adult-only flights? Would people actually pay for it? What would it look like? And should we do it even if we could? 

Would We Actually Pay For it?

The girl in the video claims she would pay a lot of money for an adult-only flight. She’s only flying a three-hour route and, as with any TikTok video, is looking for attention in the form of views. Studies in the past suggest that as much as a third of travelers would pay for a child-free flight, but those have all failed to find out how much they would be willing to cough up.

passengers baording plane

Most of us choose not to upgrade to a comfort-plus seat on a regular flight. These can range from $25 to $200, depending on the route and airline. Those are guaranteed benefits that we would all enjoy. Everyone gets excited when they realize they’ve bagged the emergency exit because everyone knows their flight will be more comfortable. Yet we still avoid parting with the extra money.

When push comes to shove, would we shell out for what would almost definitely be a far more expensive option for the possibility of a quiet flight? Probably not. That’s betting $100 or more on the possibility that a kid might start crying mid-flight. 

young boy reading

It’d Be Environmentally Horrible

From an environmental standpoint, it would be terrible. All personal qualms aside, adding new flights with no added demand means flights wouldn’t be full. That’s not good for an airline, and it’s not good for the environment. The more people are on a plane, the better, and adult-only flights would make that impossible. At a time when carriers are now being forced to examine ways to reduce their carbon footprint, it’s almost definite that these kinds of flights aren’t in anyone’s future.

@mooorganic

The flight was 3 hours and I listened to this the entire time #travel

♬ original sound – Mo

Would it actually be better?

Say what you will, but adults are often a bigger annoyance on planes than children. Sure, the singular sound of a baby wailing might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but removing that problem doesn’t take away from the loud talkers, the armrest nudgers, the hygienically challenged, or the perpetual seat recliners and leaners. There are no children shoving you out of the way to grab a pointless spot in the line to get off the plane either – that’s the parents if anyone.

young boy midflight

Separating the families with young children might alleviate (and we stress might) one problem, but it’s really just driving prices up for everyone at little benefit while still dealing with some of the worst of us.

Give the parents a break

What’s the purpose of a flight? It gets us from point A to point B. Whatever luxuries we want to attach to it are irrelevant unless promised otherwise. In practice, a plane is no more than another form of public transport, and believe it or not, families do need to travel occasionally.

father and baby

No parent brings their child on the flight with the intention of ruining everyone’s day. In fact, the people probably most affected by a child are the parents. Not only do they have to navigate an already exhausting travel process, but they also have to do it while keeping tabs on a tiny human that’s unable to do so themselves.

There’s a strong chance that most parents feel some form of guilt (if they have a second to feel it), and it’s not uncommon to see them apologize profusely to those around them. The last thing they need is the ire of other passengers. You wouldn’t act the same way on a bus or train, so don’t lay it on any thicker for them.

What could work?

Creating separate zones on a plane could be a possibility. Airlines could have a separate family zone, with a size based roughly on the average number of families with small children per flight. Ideally, this wouldn’t cost anything extra and could provide an easy answer. Unfortunately, it’s likely to result in empty seats once again, as there is no guarantee that they could fill it each time.

unhappy young girl

Creating an adults-only zone on the flight may work better. Passengers bothered by the prospect could fork out more money to pay for a similar style seat but in a different cabin where families would not be permitted to sit. This, of course, would hark back to previous questions. What are we really willing to pay to possibly avoid a hypothetical child that may or may not cry on our flight? It’s a tough figure to quantify and one that many wouldn’t see the value in paying unless it was only a fraction more.

The fact is that none of us is entitled to a perfectly quiet flight. There are no rules preventing people from talking at 3 in the morning on a flight, and we can’t order a young child to stop crying or, worse, prevent them from flying. It’s a part of air travel we have to accept if we choose to do so.

This article originally appeared on Travel Off Path. For the latest breaking news that will affect your next trip, please visit: Traveloffpath.com

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Ashley

Monday 5th of September 2022

So I have two young kids and both need and want to travel with them on occasion. The only reasonable way for us to go on vacation to anywhere worthwhile from where we live is to fly and the only way to be able to see my family is to fly vs spend 4 days traveling via car to see them- and I don’t have the time off to spend 4 of my 7 days driving with two little kids.

The fact of the matter is a commercial flight is public transport. The vast majority of parents do our best to keep our kids well behaved in flight but quite frankly, as anyone who has ever had a baby or toddler knows, kids can be loud, they get tired and cranky and even despite the best planning to try to avoid a tired/cranky kid things can happen while traveling. We recently went on a MUCH much needed family vacation. One that we planned for for over 2 years and one that we didn’t think would be possible when my oldest was hospitalized for months waiting for heart surgery. We very carefully planned the flights to avoid nap times, give adequate layovers time to eat, burn some energy…and you know what? Flight got delayed, we barely made it to the next flight. We had food on us thank god, but despite getting their bellies full they were tired and cranky and cried even though we literally were doing everything we could to get them to be quiet. It was stressful and I was already practically in tears trying everything I knew to do to get them to sleep when some asshole commented that we shouldn’t be on the flight which really just made me feel about a million times worse than I already did.

So to the commenter who said that you should wait til your kids a reasonable age- absolutely not. Families with young kids deserve to travel too and to visit fun places. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow and I certainly don’t plan on missing out in some really fantastic memories waiting for my kids to grow up. You want to not be bothered by families, maybe you should book a private jet. I’d be fully supportive of a family only section- both for my own comfort when traveling as a business traveler alone in the adult section and also when traveling with my family to avoid assholes being assholes. But until then can we just be a little kinder to each other please?

Matthew E

Sunday 4th of September 2022

Ms. Mooorganic is free to charter her own aircraft, since she's willing to pay SO much more money. Or pony up another $1000-plus to fly in business or first, where youngsters are a rarity. Or head on down to her local flight school, get licensed, then buy and fly her own shiny new Gulfstream V. Life is about choices.

I've had precious few unpleasant experiences with children on flights, and the ones I have had were short-lived. I've never had to deal with a visibly drunk or stoned child on a flight, with all the pleasures that entails. I've likewise never dealt with a kid who obviously hadn't showered in a long time stinking up the place. (I especially enjoyed the unwashed fellow on the twelve-hour San Francisco to Beijing run. Thanks for the memories, Pigpen.) I've never seen or heard of a kid who insisted they be allowed to board with their obviously untrained and out-of-control "emotional support" animal. And no child has ever gotten into a screaming slapfest over someone's decision to wear, or not wear, a piece of cloth over their face.

You know who else I've never seen do any of those things? The kid's parents. It's almost like the responsibility of having a child with them precludes them from getting hammered, smelling like a slaughterhouse where the cleaning crew is on strike, screaming at other passengers to "MASK UP!", or bringing Snappy the Emotional Support Pit Bull with them. Maybe we should have families-only flights instead.

Christian

Sunday 4th of September 2022

The family zone should be made with flexible moveable walls so that it can adapt to the numbers of families with kids without affecting how much each would be paying for their flights. They should come up with new seat design that would make it possible to install those moveable sound proof walls

AYL

Sunday 4th of September 2022

100000% yes. you don't understand how a single baby can cause misery to up to hundreds of passengers. i keep the kids at home with wife or with the parents. i get it, if it's an emergency, but if not, wait until the baby is grown up to a decent age, otherwise, have a sense of respect and manners to fellow passengers and not feel immediately entitled to ruin someone else's dream trip because you have a baby

covidvaxinfo

Sunday 4th of September 2022

actually, correction -- ONE time it was. But that was poor parenting. The mother dragged her child on a baby seat of some kind that was on the ground level at the airport. Like her baby was her luggage. Just plain laziness / ignorance. Everyone was LOOKING DOWN at the defenseless baby.

Turns out I ended up sitting kiddie corner to her and baby on the flight. Baby was crying the entire flight nearly, or good portions of it. ShortISH flight from recollection.

I called her out on it (In as nice a way as possible) and told her she shouldn't be doing that / not good for child. In front of anyone...hopefully she took the advice.