When you’re flying Southwest – one of the only airlines that allows you to pick your own seat – there’s a science to making the right choice. You want to smile at the people who look quiet and courteous, cough loudly when the talkative and brash people give the chair next to you a glance and, most importantly, you want to avoid families like the plague.
Children are a terror to fly with simply because they’re not used to the experience: They’re in a new and unfamiliar environment and they aren’t quite aware enough to take the social cues that screaming or talking endlessly aren’t appropriate. This isn’t the kids’ fault (if anything, it’s the parents’), but you as a flier shouldn’t have to deal with the shenanigans. Unfortunately, if you’re not flying Southwest, your seating fate might be left to the airline gods. If you get a parent and child as your aisle mates, strap in for a bumpy ride.
If you get the chance to fly Malaysia Airlines, however, your child-filled flying days might be over. According to the April 12 CNN.com CCNGo Staff article “Malaysia Airlines launches kid-free economy zone,” the Asia-based airline’s flight from Kuala Lumpur to London, launching this summer, will have an upper deck reserved reserved seating assigned specifically for all passengers above 12 years old. All families that have younger passengers will automatically be put in seats on the lower deck.
To counteract any potential criticism over the move, the lower-deck will be revamped to be particularly family-friendly, with 350 seats – many more than the upper deck, which only has 70 seats.
CEO of Malaysia Airlines Tengku Azmi tweeted that “the carrier received ‘many’ complaints from passengers who fork out for the expensive tickets, but then can’t sleep due to crying children,” according to the April 11 Daily Mail article “Child-free flights? Malaysia Airlines bans children from upper deck of its A380s.” This sense of peace and quiet is clearly the primary motivation behind the new no-child zones, according to Shashank Nigam, the CEO of SimpliFlying, an airline branding company that specializes in customer service and engagement.
According to an April 9 MSNBC.com article titled “Malaysia Airlines offers child-free zone on new Airbus A380,” Nigam elaborated on the decision by saying: “Malaysia Airlines is trying to make its premium product on the A380 more appealing to the high-yielding business passengers. … They value their peace and quiet and [this way] can rest assured that they won’t be disturbed by kids on long-haul flights.”
I’m not exactly one to sleep on long flights, but I still love the peace and quiet. Airplanes are where I do my best writing – no Internet to distract me, long periods of time stuck in your seat. It’s a formula for success, unless you have a screaming child bothering you. If I ever found myself flying from Kuala Lumpur to London, I would definitely enjoy the luxury of a kid-free zone.
The question is whether this is something that will find its way into airlines in America. The policy seems less made for the family-friendly United States, but there are specific carriers that seem tailor-made for this system. The one that springs to mind is Virgin America, an airline known for its almost club-like interior and entertainment-inspired service – hardly a kids’ airline. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’d adapt to such a businessman-friendly feature, but no doubt they’d come in for a world of criticism from family organizations. I can hear the slogan now: “Moms United Against Child-Hating Virgin.”
Malaysia Airlines has the right idea. Airline travel was once all about a dream experience in the clouds instead of one long headache. Changes like these to help satisfy customers can hopefully take us back to the golden age of flying. For now, I doubt we’ll be seeing any American no-child zones on flights, despite how much I dream of that day coming, but that just makes it all the more important to find the perfect seat on a flight. My writing depends on my peace and quiet, after all.
This is the opinion of Kevin O’Keeffe, a sophomore screenwriting major from Austin, Texas. Please send comments to email@example.com.