Would You Pay Extra for a Child-Free Airline Seat?

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Travelers often cite screaming children as their top flying complaint, and some airlines are responding with sections where small kids aren't allowed.

Too little legroom, not enough overhead storage space. These inconveniences of flying seem barely worth mentioning compared with being seated near a screaming child. Multiple surveys by the Telegraph, a British newspaper, have shown that disruptive children are the No. 1 pet peeve of those who fly.

Would you prefer a child-free zone on your next flight, and would you pay an extra fee for that?

It’s clear that some people would. And thus some airlines are making child-free space available — some free and some not. Consider these developments:

  • AirAsia X has the Quiet Zone, seven rows only for those 12 and older. (Of course a 12-year-old could commence to kicking the back of your seat, but at least a temper tantrum is less likely.) There’s no extra charge.
  • Malaysia Airlines does not allow children younger than 12 in the top deck of its planes and doesn’t permit babies in first class.
  • Scoot Airlines, owned by Singapore Airlines, has the ScootinSilence section behind business class, which comes with extra legroom as well as being a child-free zone. There is an extra fee — about $14.
  • Japan Airlines has designated two regular flights from Tokyo to Honolulu as “most suitable” for preschool kids, wrote Kim Peterson at MSN Money.

Actually, paying extra to sit where screaming children aren’t allowed seems reasonable, particularly if you’re on a long flight where sleep is important.

And why not? There are already so many ways to customize your flight these days. So many choices! Endless possibilities! A few examples:

  • Samoa Air, which flies small planes, charges passengers based on their weight. Some airlines charge you for an extra seat if your seat doesn’t fit in one.
  • Speaking of large seats, it costs an extra $12 to $150 to book a special “Big Front Seat” on Spirit Airlines. (You know fee-happy Spirit, which charges anywhere from $25 to $100 to bring a carry-on bag on board.)
  • On Delta, you can upgrade from Economy to Economy Comfort for anywhere from $9 to $180. For $14, you can have a 24-hour Wi-Fi pass. Or you can bundle the Wi-Fi with priority boarding for $21 —  which is $3 less than if you purchased them separately.
  • Talk about no frills: Bearskin Airlines in Canada allows a carry-on weighing no more than 13 pounds and a free checked bag weighing a maximum of 40 pounds. There are no overhead bins, no flight attendants — and no bathrooms. (I’ll pass.)

And the airlines aren’t done with creative pricing. Ace travel blogger Christopher Elliott explained a proposal by the airlines called Resolution 787, which would personalize pricing based on information the airlines have about you. He wrote:

Resolution 787 would, among other things, allow an airline to collect personal information such as your address, birthday and frequent-flier information and offer you a special or custom fare based on what it knows about you.

Airlines see Resolution 787 as a necessary evolution of their airfares. But consumer advocates warn that such a system might be used to extract more money from passengers and limit their ability to find the best airline ticket by comparison-shopping. For its part, the Department of Transportation, which is being asked to approve the resolution, is staying mum on custom fares.

That doesn’t sound like a customer-friendly idea, unlike the child-free zones. But the airlines seem to be wearing down our resistance to their ever-evolving business plan. The latest J.D. Power & Associates rating found the highest level of customer satisfaction with airlines in seven years.

Would you pay extra for a child-free space? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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