Airlines offer no-crying sections
Seating devoid of screaming babies — for a fee
Airplane seats are only slightly more pleasant than dentist’s chairs: There’s no elbow room, your knees end up pressed against your chest, and someone inevitably opens a tub of steaming, stinky food. And then the real kicker: An infant, expressing on the outside how everyone else feels on the inside, starts to scream. Back when smoking was still allowed on flights, fresh air could be found in the nonsmoking section. And on at least a couple of airlines, similar sanctuary can be found from babies in a non-crying section — for a fee.
Scoot Airlines — a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines — announced that it will let passengers pay about $14 to sit in a “child-free” zone. Children under the age of 12 are banned from sitting in this “ScootinSilence” area, which will span rows 21 to 25 on its flights. This area also offers a few inches of more legroom. Scoot offers flights to Singapore (its hub), Sydney, the Gold Coast, Seoul and Nanjing.
The airline joins Air Asia X, which also offers child-free zones. Air Asia X launched its “quiet zone” in February. Children under 12 aren’t allowed to sit in this zone, which is composed of rows 7 – 14 in the premium cabin on some of its flights to Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Nepal and Korea.
Many travel experts and consumers say there is demand for “child-free” zones. “Most Americans are used to being able to buy certain kinds of seats,” says Michelle Weller, the vice president of sales and customer support for travel agency Travel Leaders in Houston. “Some would pay extra for child-free areas.” Kim Reicherter-Specht, a travel agent with New York-based Tzell Travel, says that business travelers in particular would pay for child-free zones, up to about $25. “I am constantly having discussions with my clients about kids on a plane and how they can be annoying,” she says. “Business travelers use Wi-Fi on the planes, they are working, they don’t want to be bothered.” Some consumers sing a similar tune: Atlanta resident Marissa Joyce says she’d pay $50 or more to sit in a child-free zone.
However, Anne Banas, the executive editor at consumer travel site SmarterTravel.com, says that while a lot of consumers like to talk about how annoying children are on planes, there probably isn’t going to be a ton of demand for this — and it could alienate many families and make it even harder for them to travel. Plus, “even if you have a child-free section, you can probably still hear kids crying from another part of the plane,” she says. “You could be spending extra money for not that much benefit.”
Experts are mixed on whether U.S. airlines will adopt something like this. Carriers will often consider new ideas that might make them money and enhance the customer experience, says Weller. “Some business travelers would opt for an airline that offers child-free zones over another airline.” Banas says she thinks that most larger U.S. airlines won’t adopt child-free zones, but that smaller ones like Spirit SAVE +0.83% — which she says often pioneers ancillary fees and puts out unusual promotions — might. (Spirit and Delta DAL -0.64% could not be reached by press time; American Airlines and Southwest LUV +0.61% say they have no plans to offer a child-free zone on their planes.) And if an airline does adopt this, they can expect some backlash, says Reicherter-Specht. In U.S. culture, “children are very highly revered by their parents,” she says. “It could be a big PR issue for airlines with people saying ‘I won’t fly this airline because of this.’”
Would you pay extra to fly in a child-free zone? If so, how much would you pay?