Just how hard is it to sit through a flight near a child under 12? Well, AirAsia thinks some folks will pay for the privilege not to. Starting this week, kids are banned from the first seven rows of economy class on AirAsia X, the airline's long-haul arm. The rows are now rebranded as the "Quiet Zone."
Passengers can book the seats using the same fees ($11 or $35 U.S.) charged for picking specific seats in economy class and in the "hot seats" section, which provide more legroom, according to CNN. The airline also announced it was "adding three baby bassinets to the other two economy cabin sections," it reports.
Quiet zones appear to be a transportation trend these days. A pilot GO Transit program just announced in Ontario aims to create music- and cellphone-free areas for commuters who want to work or sleep en route.
But when a quiet zone comes with an age restriction, many observers suspect quiet isn't really the point at all – a loathing of children is.
In a post called AirAsia We Need to Talk, Canadian travel blogger Kelly Ouimet says the policy is discriminatory and based merely on the chance a child may be disruptive.
"We've encountered drunk passengers who have been rude, surly and more than disruptive. How many flights have you heard of that have been diverted because of unruly children?"
She points to the recent story of a family – the youngest member was 22 – who caused a flight to be diverted and land short of its destination.
It's hard not to interpret the move by AirAsia – and Air Malaysia before it – as a further erosion of the right of families with young children to fly. For one thing, It's becoming all but impossible for parents to count on an airline seating them next to their little ones. You want disruptive? Try the delicate seat-swapping game that parents have to do every time the board so that their toddler isn't sitting between two strangers.
But Ouimet offers parents a reminder that there are other airlines ready to woo parents and kids. Brilliant ideas out there include play areas on Air New Zealand planes, on-board nannies from Gulf Air, and British Airways' feed-kids-first policy. Singapore Air has teamed up with toy maker Hasbro and also has a policy that seats parents and kids in bulkhead seats, she writes.
Now that's service.