Lonely Planet Writer

Will having child-free zones on airplanes become a reality on US flights?

If you have ever spent a flight from hell sitting next to a screaming child , you may be one of a growing number of people who would favour having child-free zones on planes. Unless it’s your own screaming child, of course, in which case, alas you’re stuck with them. But is this ever likely to become a reality on US airlines?

There’s a growing movement in favour of child-free zones on planes. Image: Lisa5201/Getty RF

According to Airfarewatchdog’s Annual State of Travel Survey in 2017, 52% of more than 4000 travellers surveyed feel that families with children age ten and under should be required to sit in a separate section of the plane. Some international airlines have already introduced child-free zones in their planes, including Malaysia Airlines, AirAsiaX, Scoot, and Indian budget airline IndiGo. Customers who choose to sit there can be confident they won’t be sitting next to a crying baby or noisy toddler, but US airlines haven’t indicated any rush to embrace the concept.

Having child-free zones on airplanes is becoming a growing movement. Image: MakiEni’s photo

So would child-free zones make a flight more attractive to travellers without children and is the idea likely to spread to other airlines? “Just as passengers are willing to pay more for extra legroom, they’d no doubt pay more to sit in a child-free cabin,” Tracy Stewart of Airfarewatchdog tells Lonely Planet. “Despite the fact that polls continue to indicate public support for child-free zones, it’s highly unlikely that US carriers are going to respond. The issue is just too contentious and, at least for now, the loudest voices belong to parents and families who are mostly against this idea. It’s a controversy the airlines will want to avoid. In addition, parents are quick to point out that children are often the least bothersome passengers. Why not have a special cabin for those who have decided to bring on stinky food, or those who become chatty and loud after drinking?”
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A smiling family is traveling in airplane.
Parents are quick to point out that children are often the least bothersome passengers. Image by Hero Images/Getty Images

Good point, but as well as appealing to child-free passengers, many believe that creating separate seating for children might reduce the stress some parents feel when travelling with children. New parents often get anxious that their children will become upset during a flight and disrupt fellow passengers, and A-list stars are no exception. Worried that their twin babies would make a fuss during a flight to England, Hollywood star George Clooney and his international law and human rights barrister wife, Amal, give free noise-cancelling headphones to neighbouring passengers.

Passenger Alyson Hershelman from the US was grateful when two strangers made her flight with a toddler easier. Image: Stock photo by Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

“Of course, not all parents are against the idea of being seated separately,” says Tracy. “Being grouped with other parents could certainly help to relieve the stress and worry that some feel when their child cries and all eyes are on them to do something about it.”