Be honest: If you had the choice of a comfortable, peaceful flight where the only disturbance was the air hostess asking if you wanted another tipple or a journey with jangling nerves and a splitting headache because you're sitting in front of a screaming baby and a small child intent on kicking the back of your chair every five seconds, what would you pick? It's a no-brainer. Still, plenty of people are getting seriously twisted knickers over a budget airline's recent announcement of child-free zones on its flights.
I love taking my kids abroad. Actually, that's a lie. The taking-them-there part is not so enjoyable. Even now, when they're 6 and 8, I'm still haunted by a previous trip when I had to single-handedly transport a toddler and a baby across the English Channel to France. It wasn't even a long-haul flight, but it felt like we were trapped on that plane for days. Between wrestling with a writhing, whimpering, fussy baby and apologising profusely to the unlucky passengers in our immediate vicinity, by the time we landed at Nice airport, I was a nervous wreck.
What I should say is that I love being abroad with my kids. As soon as we're in a taxi heading away from the airport, it's all good. But if I want to take them to France and Spain and Italy as often as time and money permit, I have to deal with the taking-them-there part.
Of course, it's not just me who has to deal with that. Other passengers do too, and I'm well aware that being in a confined space with small children is not many people's idea of a good time (or a relaxing start to their holiday). I'm not at all surprised that people are champing at the bit to book themselves onto a #ChildFreeFlight.
Alas, this doesn't yet exist; the misleading hashtag refers to the child-free zones one budget airline, Indigo, has introduced on their flights. As word has spread, quite a debate has ensued. Unsurprisingly, some parents are angry, calling the policy discriminatory and accusing the airline of making them feel unwelcome if they're travelling with their children.
"They are saying adults comfort is more important than kids exploration of the world […] bullshit," tweeted one critic, while another hit out at those applauding the scheme, posting, "Grow up people stop blaming kids for your own short tempers."
However, the general consensus on social media is that child-free zones are the way forward. "Amazing....about time!!!" tweeted one traveller. "Was in cabin premium last week and had a child kick the back of me my whole flight."
Some commented that they were surprised it hadn't happened sooner, and many confirmed they'd be happy to pay more for their seat to ensure they weren't near a child.
Before we all get too excited — or enraged — Indigo only operates in India. The budget carrier has adopted a "quiet zone" for its premium seats, meaning that children under the age of 12 aren't permitted to sit in those areas. But there's no reason this shouldn't take off in other countries. And if I'm perfectly honest, if I were lucky enough (sorry, darling kids) to be travelling without my children, I'd be heading right for the child-free zone.
Nobody is suggesting parents shouldn't take their kids abroad — or should feel guilty for doing so. But the truth is that sometimes, kids just won't behave on a plane. They're noisy and stressful and — yes — annoying as hell. Another truth is that sometimes, fellow passengers just won't hide their displeasure at other people's kids. If they can pay more money to be ensconced in another area of the plane, isn't it a win-win situation for everyone?
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