While waiting to board a flight, have you ever watched a parent walk by with a baby or toddler and said a silent prayer, hoping the tyke is not seated near you?
If you answered no, then you’re either a stone-cold liar, have never been on a long-haul flight, or you’re currently the parent of a baby or toddler.
Everyone loves a cute baby, but not so much on a plane. Especially at those moments when you slip into your post-meal, post-wine, post-Ambien nap, and suddenly the darkened cabin is filled with banshee-like screeches from a baby. These tantrums often continue so long that the wailing descends into a frenzy of hiccups and then a significant block of whining. Eventually, the child forgets why she was crying and then starts again because, hell, why not?
And perhaps this is why a majority of Americans said they wish airlines offered adult-only flights.
A study commissioned by PhotoAid found that 80 percent (!) of travelers crave adult-only flights. A majority of these travelers (64 percent, to be precise) said they would even pay a higher ticket price for the luxury of a child-free flight. Nearly 90 percent of those wanting adult-only flights said they still favor the idea, even if it leads to more CO2 emissions.
In summary, people are heartless, selfish monsters who hate babies and don’t care about the environment. Or maybe they want to sleep on flights and don’t want their seat kicked by small children for several hours. Let the debate begin . . . again.
The idea of adult-only flights, or, at minimum, a separate section of a plane for families with children, has been bandied about for decades. Just as the flames of the polarizing debate die, someone else ignites the whole mess again. The latest instigator was Morgan Romero on TikTok. She posted a video of herself, and the only sound was the rumble of the plane’s engines and a very loud child crying behind her. She captioned the video, “Why isn’t there such a thing as adult flights?? I would pay SO much money.”
So far, 30,000 people have commented on her TikTok, either hailing her as a hero or calling her the devil, but mostly attacking each other. The most popular suggestion for her was to invest in noise-canceling headphones. She also mentioned that the child crying behind her had been at it nonstop for three hours, so I believe she deserved some sympathy, regardless of her stance.
The participants of the PhotoAid survey seemed to back Romero on the subject of adult-only flights. In addition to craving adult-only flights, a majority said they would also favor a separate section on planes for families with small children, sort of like a smoking section, but for babies rather than cigarettes. Survey respondents also called out parents who are inattentive or ignore their children’s behavior.
Even airlines have had fun with the issue. The Canadian airline WestJet created an April Fool’s Day ad introducing a child-free cabin. That same year, RyanAir also teased child-free fights on April Fool’s Day, but because it’s RyanAir, the joke could be true, and there would likely be an up-charge to store babies in the overhead bin.
Last week I was a guest on “Boston Public Radio” and was curious to hear how people felt about the babies-on-a-plane issue, so I asked hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan if they could put the question out to their listeners. They were all too eager to share.
“Not only am I willing to pay a premium for a childless flight, I’ll kick in for a vasectomy fund,” said a particularly cantankerous gent who goes by the handle “Andy the mailman.”
Patrice from Middleborough chimed in, “I’m all for child-free any kind of business.” Another listener recounted a tale of a flight to Hawaii ruined by a toddler. “A woman had the audacity to bring an infant in first class, and it cried nonstop. Total bummer for all those who paid extra.”
Darrell from Belmont was kind enough to offer, “They already have a section for families. It’s called coach” (ouch!).
The pro-baby side was also vocally represented.
“I have a 2-year-old I have flown with a few times,” said one mother. “Having a family-only section would be the equivalent of the back of the train in the movie ‘Snowpiercer.’ I would rather have the noise be distributed around the plane to help out the already-stressed parents!”
“I’ve flown to plenty of places, including long flights to Europe and Japan,” said Marnen from Randolph. “And I can’t recall ever being bothered by a kid on a plane. Besides, how do we socialize kids to behave properly if we never give them the opportunity to do so?”
You may be surprised to learn (as was I) that a handful of airlines in Asia already have child-free areas on their planes. Air Asia X has a “quiet zone” cabin class at the front of the economy section for passengers 10 and older. Malaysia Airlines has a child-free area in the upper deck of its A380s. Children under 12 are also not allowed in business class unless they’re infants, which sort of defeats the purpose of not allowing children in business class.
One airline expert said people can argue on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or in the aisles of Walmart all they want about misbehaving children on planes. He said no US airline would get behind the idea of adult-only flights or a designated family section.
“It would be a public relations nightmare for them,” said airline analyst Henry Harteveldt. “Also, because commercial airlines in the United States are considered public transportation, airlines would be opening themselves up to lawsuits.”
Another solid reason you won’t see adult-only flights in the United States is that it would hurt an airline’s bottom line. Currently, the US Department of Transportation is pressing airlines to offer fee-free family seating and is working to ban the fees for family seating altogether. That’s not exactly the news advocates of adult-only flights want to hear.
Thankfully, there’s one thing that everyone dislikes more on planes than crying babies: adults who are jerks. Back to the PhotoAid survey, 60 percent said they’d rather sit next to a crying baby than a rude, loud, or unpleasant-smelling adult. Did you hear that, babies? You’re no longer the least-liked people on a flight. You’re the second-least-liked!
But before you start going after babies, children, or their parents, please keep in mind that we’re talking about little humans who have no idea what’s going on. Because babies aren’t able to defend themselves on this topic, comedian Tom Papa has offered to speak on their behalf, telling audiences that he is “Team Baby.”
“You chose to be on this flight,” Papa said in his stand-up routine. “That baby doesn’t want to be here. No baby wants to be at 30,000 feet with their skeleton collapsing like a Poland Spring bottle. That kid’s in a bad spot right now. He should be crying on that airplane. We should all be crying on the airplane. He’s the only honest one on the goddamn plane.”
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.