Why you should care
Because you were a screaming baby once too.
If you’re smugly reading the headline and nodding, this isn’t about you. People who complain about babies on flights deserve the same amount of sympathy as people who complain about overweight people sitting next to them on planes — i.e., none — and if you are one of those gripers, consider this an exhortation to shape the hell up. If a parent isn’t literally changing their baby’s diaper on the little foldout tray table that the next person in that seat will unwittingly eat off, they’re probably doing their best. Put in your headphones and chill.
But seriously, there should be flights just for families. Because it would be good for families.
Imagine, for a moment, what it is like to use an airplane bathroom. You’ve done it, we’ve all done it, we’re all in the same miserable club. Now imagine trying to change a baby’s diaper in there. “I used to laugh when the big headline was child-free flights or special sections just for families,” says Corinne McDermott, who runs an advice blog on traveling with kids called Have Baby Will Travel. “The intent behind it was sort of derogatory, but I thought it was funny because: Yes! We would love a special section in an airplane.” Such a section could be designed around the needs of little kids — show kid-friendly movies, have a changing table in the bathroom, maybe have some seats designed for smaller kids or infants. It could stock kids meals and a bottle warmer — though most airline food is so bland and snacky it’s basically a Happy Meal anyway.
The airline industry has doubled its revenue over the last decade, according to the International Air Transport Association. Profit margins are often thin, but with the epic tumble of oil prices — and thus jet fuel — many airlines are posting record profits. So now is the time to make some experimental moves — run a few flights popular with families to places like Disney World, and discount kids’ tickets on flights aimed just at families. It would likely keep kids and parents happier — and maybe even build airline brand loyalty with kids, a challenge in such a ticket-price-driven industry — and keep parents from feeling like they have to offer earplugs to everyone around them just to keep from being treated like lepers every time they board a plane.
And hey, grumpy adults traveling alone, it’d be good news for you too: If there’s a flight aimed at making families happy, that crying baby and his parents are less likely to be sitting behind you keeping you from enjoying Friends reruns.
To be sure, there are problems with this approach. Redesigning plane space to make it easier for families to sit together or to accommodate baby seats would be expensive for airlines, and they might not be open to offering discounted children’s tickets, as Air France already does, when they can squeeze the full price out of each and every kid. And why should parents and families get specially designed flights? After all, everyone’s uncomfortable, squished and miserable on a plane; why exempt kids? Children are people too, right?
Children are indeed people. But they’re people who’d probably be a lot happier on a flight full of people their age who also really want to watch Ratatouille instead of Fargo.