Airlines Are Making Child-Free Zones on Planes—Should That Be a Thing?

We've all been on a plane with a screaming child—and hopefully it isn't our own! But should airlines keep kids out of certain parts of the plane?
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People freak out more about babies on a plane than they did snakes on a plane in Samuel L. Jackson's action flick. And that's added extra stress to every flight for every parent, as they worry and wonder if their kids are going to tick off the people in the seats around them (added on to the crazy stress of figuring out if they've packed enough diapers, entertainment, and treat options for their kiddos, and worrying about whether their formula or breast milk might be confiscated at security). It's led some parents to take drastic measures to avoid all this judginess, like creating gift bags for people in the surrounding rows to apologize in advance if their little one makes a peep. (If only all flights were like that awesome JetBlue one, where they offered free travel vouchers if babies cried on the flight!)

Now comes the news that certain parts of the plane could become off-limits to families. Several Asian airlines, including Malayasia Airlines, AirAsiaX, Scoot, and now Indian budget airline IndiGo, have designated "child-free" zones on every flight. In IndiGo's case, it's cordoning off eight rows on each flight, along with delegating any seats that offer extra legroom only to passengers over the age of 12. The company says the seats are meant for "business travelers who prefer to use the quiet time to do their work."

And apparently, lots of people here are warming up to the idea—a Today show quick poll associated with the story shows that 75 percent of people would rather kids were relegated to another part of the plane. And in fact, some child development experts are in favor of child-free zones—for both the other passengers and the kids themselves. "It could be a win-win," says Matthew H. Rouse, Ph.D., MSW, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. "Travelers with low tolerance for children don’t have to sit near them, while parents of children can breathe a little easier knowing they’re surrounded by travelers who can accept their kids’ behavior."

Creating child-free zones can help us contain heartless, cranky fliers to a certain part of the plane. But it seems like it's just another symptom of the decreased tolerance and compassion in our society. "We have raised a generation of entitled adults," says Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. "Too many folks expect to get what they, when they want it, the way they want it. Anyone who turns and sits in judgment about parents either has no children or has no empathy for others."

I've traveled pretty extensively with my kids, and other than one horrific flight when they were 4 and 18 months, they have been model passengers—certainly much better than many of the adults I've encountered in my flying days. (Hello, dude wearing too much Axe body spray, lady leaning your seat all the way back, guy manspreading way over onto my seat.) In my experience, most parents really try their absolute hardest to keep kids entertained on the flight, but babies cry, and kids get bored. It happens, and we should all be grown up enough to deal with it—without having to be bribed with candy or cocktails like a cranky toddler.

Lisa Milbrand is Parents.com's In Name Only blogger and the mom of two girls.

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