With flight comparison site Skyscanner recently revealing that 59% of travellers support the idea of a ‘family only’ section on planes, some commercial airlines are said to be ‘seriously considering’ offering this option – as well as the possibility of entirely kid-free flights.
However, a new start-up airline has decided to capitalise on the obvious demand for segregated flights from a completely different perspective. Already over 1 million unaccompanied minors fly each year, and now the newly launched UK based carrier – Urchin Airways – is providing a specialist service geared up to the requirements of children travelling by themselves. The airline’s maiden flight took off from London Heathrow en route to New York JFK this morning (01-04-11).
Aside from staff, no over 16s are permitted to fly on the adult-free planes. Instead, the usual cabin crew will be supplemented by the addition of qualified nannies who will provide a full service to the passengers, ensuring their safety and comfort for the duration of the flight.
Gareth Williams, Skyscanner CEO commented:
“There is already PetAirways, an airline just for pets, so why not have the same thing for children? Despite the higher cost, we expect the service to be very popular and we’ve already seen huge interest on the Skyscanner site.”
While most unaccompanied minors are flying solo because their parents are unable to travel with them, a spokesperson for the new airline indicated that there is growing demand from parents to have the option to travel separately even on occasions when the whole family is travelling to the same destination.
“Many parents find it stressful trying to keep their offspring in check while receiving scowls from childless passengers, and muttered criticism of their parenting skills. Others prefer to travel in peace themselves and many airlines have requests for parents to be seated in business or first class, while their children travel in economy.”
Urchin Airways will be launching a parallel service with adult-only flights to cater for these parents as well as other adults who wish to fly child-free. The two services operate take-off and landing slots just minutes apart, ensuring parent and child are reunited with precision timing at the destination.
Cabin crew on Urchin Airways will all be dressed as clowns and will oversee the library of video games and supervise a ball pit area. Activities such as egg-and-spoon races will be held along the aisle and targets woven into seating upholstery will offer youngsters the chance to hone their seat kicking skills. Whereas on regular flights children are scolded for making noise, screaming will be encouraged in “Who can scream loudest?” challenges.
Menus will be tailored to kids’ palates and avoid ‘yucky’ foods such as vegetables or blue cheese. Instead, everlasting gob-stoppers, gingerbread men and cheese strings will be served to passengers by certified Oompa-Loompas, who will also sing to the children as they work.
Rather than offering refreshing wipes, Makka Pakka from In the Night Garden will be employed to wash and dry the faces of the kids following their meal, while Igglepiggle will assist children on overnight flights by tucking them up with his trademark red blanket. Story time will include readings from The Very Hungry
Caterpillar and Dora the Explorer.
In the event of emergency hyperactivity, strawberry bootlaces will be deployed from overhead compartments to pacify the passengers. Older children are asked to ensure they have secured their own laces before helping younger children with theirs.
Bookings for the service had been so popular that plans for TeenJet – a Teenager-only carrier – are now underway. TeenJet planes will feature a smoking section on the back row of the aircraft, and a text messaging service that will allow youngsters to interact with those sitting next to them electronically, thus avoiding any unnecessary verbal communication.