Should there be child-free zones on planes? Wendy Shand, founder of TotsToTravel says "No!"
As both a parent and an individual with a passion for travel, I understand how frustrating it can be listening to the child sat behind you scream whilst he/she kicks the back of your seat and plays with the tray tables. There will be always be parents who don’t seem to care, or are oblivious to how badly their children are behaving, but most parents do care.
We’ve all seen a mother frantically trying to calm a screaming baby so as not to upset fellow passengers. Most parents remember what it was like to be childless, those carefree days when they could tut about a screaming baby.
They don’t want to be the person on the receiving end of ill-tempered scowls, so most will do everything they can to avoid upsetting fellow passengers and keep their child happy. It’s stressful, but being forced to sit in a family-only zone as though they’re some kind of inferior passenger is hardly going to ease their stress.
Children and babies don’t understand why they can’t walk around when they want to or why their ears hurt so much when the plane descends. And they may kick up a fuss. But that doesn’t mean they should be treated as though they’re something to be reviled.
So should families be made to sit together in a special zone? No, definitely not. They’ve paid their fares and taxes and the majority of children are relatively well behaved on planes.
As the world’s opened up with the advent of low cost airlines, it’s easier and more affordable than ever for families to take their children abroad. The family travel market has exploded and become more adventurous, luxurious and exciting. Specialist operators, including ourselves (www.totstotravel.co.uk), simply can’t keep up with demand.
Families contribute millions to the travel industry, and many airlines are waking up to the fact that they need to look after this key customer sector. Many now offer child packs on board containing colouring books and games. Some have designated flight attendants to care for families, whilst others offer toddler friendly food, and nearly all long haul flights have children’s TV programmes and bassinettes for young babies.
There are some wonderful examples of airlines that have gone the extra mile and made children welcome on board. I have heard of birthday parties in the sky and of flight attendants playing with, and reading to the children.
If airlines and parents work together, a flight can be an enjoyable experience for everyone on board. For their part, parents need to be prepared. You can’t board a flight without milk, food and some new games or books, and then expect your child to sit still without making a sound for two hours.
I believe the gift of travel and adventure is one of the most important things we can give our children. They learn so much from new experiences, cultures and people. It’s time to stop seeing them as a nuisance and have a little more compassion for their needs in the sky – after all, we were all children at one point and none of us are perfect.
So let’s not send them to the naughty corner, but remember that with a bit of preparation and a little understanding we can all fly harmoniously together.
Don’t agree? Read the other side of the argument here: Should there be child-free zones on planes? YES
Wendy Shand is the founder of TotsToTravel.co.uk, which specialises in hand-picked, family-friendly holidays.