Child Free Flights and Restaurants

6 years ago

Even as a single woman, I’ve never had much of a problem with children on airplanes. I have, however, seen a man so drunk he vomited all over his seat (and the one in front of him) and listened to him insult the staff around him with slurred speech. He was handcuffed to the seat behind us and we had to put up with that smell for the remaining four hours of the flight.

I’ve also seen a few people who ordered the airplane staff around as if they were waiters and waitresses. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but being stuck with children running around and screaming has never happened to me and I’ve flown a lot. We all hear about the odd baby crying (especially during take-off and landing) and the child who won’t stop kicking the chair in front of her (that drives everyone nuts on a plane, no matter their age or parental status!) but in general, flights with kids aren’t really as bad as we think.

Now that I have three young kids of my own who started taking long distance flights within weeks of being born, I see both sides.  Our children love to travel, they enjoy watching a movie on the plane and love the whole excitement of it--stocking their backpacks, settling into their seats and the fun of ordering their own drinks when the cart comes around. They also know to only get up to go to the bathroom and stretch their legs every couple of hours. And yelling or screaming just doesn’t cut it with us nor most of the other families we see on planes. As for not kicking the seat in front of them? I’ll admit it took about two years for it finally to sink in that the chair in front belonged to someone else. Even still, they need quick reminders on the plane not to kick seats and then they are good to go. The kids are great but they’re not perfect!

It’s fair to say that adults who are paying to eat and relax in upscale restaurants should be allowed to do so without misbehaving children who might ruin the atmosphere. As an adult, I think adult-only restaurants or restaurants that don’t admit children after a certain time are a great idea. There are many child friendly restaurants and eat-and-play places like Chuck E. Cheese where kids can eat, play and run around without upsetting others. One North Carolina restaurant placed a sign that read “Screaming Children Will Not Be Tolerated!” to the cheers of many. While some parents didn’t like it, the restaurant brought in more customers who wanted to be able to enjoy a meal without disruptive children.

But some people are calling for child-free flights or sections on airplanes that are for adults only.  For parents with well-behaved children, this may not go down well. Why should their children be assumed as disruptive and be forced to sit with actual disruptive children that may ruin their flight? The assumption that all families are nightmares-in-waiting is wrong. Many agree but other commentators on various blogs have said they’d welcome a family section where they would feel less pressure to make sure their children behave perfectly.

There’s certainly merit to having adult only flights, if people truly don’t want to be around children in any capacity. Some are even willing to pay more for this option. If enough people who have the extra money sign up for this, then it could be a new way of flying that meets the needs of adults who travel without children. If there is both demand and supply, it could be a really good thing.

As for mandatory family sections – I’ll take a pass. Families who pay good money to fly should be able to sit anywhere on a plane.  Children don’t fly for free; their tickets are fully paid for. As long as children are well-behaved (and most are, despite angry commentators acting like every child is a monster) then they should be able to sit where they wish.

Generally, misbehaving children have parents who don’t take the time to teach their kids good manners and etiquette. For the vast majority of us, the days of flying being a luxury (where people dressed up for the occasion!) are long gone. Flying is routine, mundane and cramped. We all have to put up with each other, no matter what our ages are. This is life and we live it as best we can. Parents need to step up and ensure their children behave in public. Those without children need to remember that they were kids once too, and that the human race comes in all ages, with the accompanying challenges attached. And when it comes to bad behavior in public, we adults are often the worst offenders.

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