The NY Times on Child-Free Flights and Airline Amenities

The NY Times offered an article on Saturday about the idea of airlines offering either child-free flights, or sections of the aircraft set aside for families with children.  Two notes:

– The set up to the piece includes this bit of nonsense: “flights are full and increasingly devoid of amenities.”  Yes, they are full.  I’m curious, though, which amenities are they devoid of?  What have airlines taken away from us in the past few years that he is referring to?  Seatback television with dozens of channels?  Hm, no they have that now.  In-flight Internet connections?  They have that, too.  In-seat power for your laptop so you can watch all the movies you brought along with you?  Nah – a bunch of airlines have that.  Extra legroom?  JetBlue, United and others offer that for a small fee.  A selection of decent meals for only $6 or so?  The airlines have that, too.

The trope that airlines have taken away amenities seems to come from two things:  there’s no longer the awful food that nobody liked, and many (though not all) airlines charge for bags.  This is also nonsense for many, as plenty of people never checked bags anyway.

This is just lazy writing, and I see it more and more.  I expect the Times editors to do better than this.

– The second point is that the idea of a “family section” in the plane is so ridiculous that the article might as well have been suggesting that we separate people on the airline by race.  Can a kid on a plane be annoying?  Sure.  Can a kid in a restaurant be annoying?  Sure.  Is it up to parents (as much as it’s possible) to teach children manners?  Yes.  Did American parents decide sometime in the early 1990s that it was unimportant to teach children manners?  Apparently.  Am I slightly annoyed/jealous when I walk by business class and there is a 5 year old sitting there?  Yes, but I’m being an idiot.  Some 5 year olds live in bigger houses than I do.  Some are driven around in Porsches, while I am not.  Some of them just have it better than I do, and that’s just how it goes.  To my 4 year olds, every seat is business class, since their feet barely dangle off the end of even Spirit’s seats.  But thems the breaks.

Airlines are not going to stick families together.  If you are traveling with kids, you don’t want to be in a section with only other kids.  I’m not saying a crying baby sit fun to sit next to.  But that’s how it goes.  We’ve all been there.  Get over it.


  1. The NY Times has really gone downhill in the last few years, hasn’t it?

    Completely agree with your use of the word “lazy”…it’d take far too much effort for them to write a more nuanced article pointing out the trade-offs we’ve made, and that by historical standards fares remain very low.

    As for kids, I’ve found the best solution is an iPod, noise-reducing headphones, and vodka. In theory, child-free zones, or even child-free flights, would be great, but these ideas just aren’t practical.

    I would like to see airlines impose a rule that if parents have younger kids in coach, at least one parent must be back there too – I’ve seen too many instances where both parents have been in first or business while two or three kids in the maximum-disruptiveness age (3-6ish) are parked several rows deep in coach. That’s not fair to the flight attendants, who either have to ride herd on the kids or have to continually go get the parents.

  2. This reminds me of the smoking sections on airplanes. If you were in a small first class cabin (yes, there were upgrades back then, too!) it was hard to escape a smoker. I can easily imagine somebody sitting immediately in front of the “family section” getting their seat kicked and a screaming baby in their ear.

    I agree, though: this will never happen on a major US airline. There’s just no reason to go there. Sometimes, there is no solution to life’s little annoyances — like screaming babies and “inadequate” parents. And I’m sure I was both of them at some point in my life.

  3. The real issue here is that most parents don’t know how to,or make any effort to control their kids.

    It’s that simple.

    If you kid kicks my seat then I should get to kick him into next Tuesday if you don’t teach him/her proper public behaviour.

  4. “This is just lazy writing, and I see it more and more. I expect the Times editors to do better than this.” It is the NY Times after all…… For what it’s worth, I agree with Mitch, however I’ll be taking my 2 1/2 year old on his first plane trip this summer. Perhaps I will change my mind…

  5. “iPod, noise-reducing headphones, and vodka” – yes, AND Chloroform (make sure your supply is in an unbreakable bottle of 100ml or less). I detest the terrorism many children demonstrate, and their parents kow-tow to them as if they were pashas. Pathetic. When my siblings and i fought too much, we were not allowed to travel for a year. it WORKED. Now i travel alone – preferably with no kiddies nearby. And EARPLUGS and my own ipod and noise-canceling earphones. And vodka.