INDIAN airline IndiGo recently announced new Quiet Zones on its flights, barring children aged 12 and under in rows 1-4 and 11-14.
While some applaud the move, others call it age-based discrimination. But, like it or not, the move toward adult-only flights or zones on-board is gaining fervent support.
Simply look at the hashtag #childfreeflights on Twitter and you’ll find scores of people begging for the idea to catch on with the airlines.
This attitude is made very obvious not just online, but on-board. When a baby starts crying on an aeroplane, there’s always someone who will inevitably turn around and glare, make a snide comment in passing to the family, or get the attention of the crew to demand that we somehow do something about it.
If we were capable of instantly and consistently stopping babies from crying, we would likely not be flight attendants.
We would have religions devoted to us.
I’m a flight attendant, but also the mother of what was, at one horrible time, a screaming baby on a plane. I’ve certainly been on all sides of this situation, and I have to say I love the idea of a “Quiet Zone.”
However, banning children from entire flights is discriminatory.
Parents, by choosing to fly with their children, have committed no wrongdoing, and this needs to be absolutely underlined.
Many parents do their best not to bother anyone, and have the same right to travel as others.
I’ve seen some families even offer bribes like these to other passengers out of fear of upsetting anyone should their child start crying, but it makes me cringe, because again — travelling with a child is not a crime.
By apologising, it is made to be one.
So a Quiet Zone, like quiet cars on trains, offers those who really can’t stand being around a child the option to avoid them, at least directly. It puts the onus on the person who knows they want quiet, and not the family.
For those who call the idea of Quiet Zones mean-spirited or discriminatory, I have this to say — it is the result of the age of entitlement.
The current culture which demands that the world must cater to one’s own needs and wants alone is why people are drawing a line in the sand.
It’s not the fault of the exasperated parents who are trying their hardest to keep their children’s feet off the seat, their volume down and for “please” and “thank you” to be spoken.
It’s the families (who have grown in number over the years, in my experience) who let their children run up and down the aisles, have their tablets on at full volume without headphones, use the fuselage as a sticker book.
The parents with children for whom rules and social mores don’t apply believe they are “just children”.
It has limited the patience of fellow travellers, and for good reason. It has now caused the first babble or whimper of any child to be viewed as a prelude to a flight of misery, whether the parents are guilty or innocent. It’s a shame.
I can’t blame people one bit for wanting a quiet space. It doesn’t feel good to have judgmental eyes cast on you when it’s you carrying your beloved child down the aisle, but experience is teaching people to expect the worst.
As a parent, shouldn’t it be a comfort for people with the least amount of patience for children to sit elsewhere?
That said, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who go completely mental over a baby’s cry when they have not prepared for this to potentially be the case.
For those who don’t have or want headphones, earplugs, or tolerance. To me, this is like being angry about a passing rainstorm but refusing to bring or buy an umbrella.
You are in public, where families are allowed. You cannot expect a baby to “behave” because they simply can’t yet. Babies cry and children are children, and you have chosen not to fly private.
If an errant foot smacks into your seat back once or twice in a flight (with the intervention of a parent), it is what it is. Flying commercially means people aren’t excluded, and, like it or not, children are people.
The concern I have for Quiet Zones and child-free flights is that it may likely lower the already low tolerance level people have for families.
Should child-free flights not exist on a specific route or time of day that one needs to fly, for instance, will a crying baby send that person over the edge because it wasn’t an option to be isolated from him or her?
If Quiet Zones come to pass on more airlines, it should be viewed as a luxury, not a requirement.
It all boils down to being considerate towards one another on both sides.
Families should understand that the crew and all adults seated nearby are not babysitters, so children acting as if they are home is unacceptable.
This means no running, no swinging on the armrests, no kicking the seats or making a mess.
Conversely, those staring daggers at parents trying to console an upset child are also upsetting the parents, who in turn will make the child more upset.
Try to be understanding, and maybe even be of assistance if there’s a way you can help.
But since tolerance and caring are in short supply, the best thing we can do is offer Quiet Zones.
This article originally appeared on FlyerTalk.