Ed Hula likes kids. Really, he does. This Atlanta-based frequent flier even likes sitting next to them because they take up less room than adults. But don't get him started on the "shriekers."
On a packed, nine-hour Delta flight to London recently, Hula sat near a number of youngsters of varying ages who were, well, shrieking. "There would be 10 minutes of silence in between outbursts," he noted, before the screaming would start up all over again. Would he pay a fee for an adults-only section? You better believe it. Put him down for $25 each way.
"I'd pay 50 bucks," said former model Ginny Kaneen Quigley, a Los Angeles-based leisure traveler who's had her own ordeals with children behaving badly. Separate sections on planes, anyone? Or how about separate planes altogether?
Maybe it was an April Fools' Day prank, but when European low-cost carrier Ryanair recently announced it would start adults-only flights in October, you could hear the cheering from Dallas to Dublin. According to Ryanair's press release, "When it comes to children we all love our own but would clearly prefer to avoid other people's little monsters when traveling."
Sure, it sounds crazy ("little monsters" in an official press release?), but so did the airline's earlier idea of installing pay toilets on its planes. In fact, Ryanair floats so many attention-getting balloons that I sometimes think of it as the Donald Trump of airlines. Still, this one struck that well-strummed chord on kids-and-planes.
A recent TripAdvisor survey noted that about a third of the fliers it polled would willingly pay to avoid sitting with children (most of them also gave a thumbs up to "kid free zones" at pools and restaurants). However, it should be noted that special interest flights don't have a particularly good track record.
Think of Hooters Air, the Myrtle Beach-based airline that lasted only from 2003 to 2006 (and was actually aimed at -- don't laugh -- golfers). Or maybe you remember those all-nudist flights that were trumpeted by a German charter a couple of years ago. Those planes never got off the ground (maybe the pilots were nervous about spilling their hot coffee). Then there was Smintair, the all-smoking airline for business travelers, another idea from Germany that apparently went up in a puff of ... well, you know.
Anything on the horizon? Maybe. A three-year-old company called Satisfly has plans to use Facebook and other tools to allow passengers to choose "compatible" seatmates (example: chatty types vs. snoozers). Maybe this is an idea that could be taken a step further.
How about a Match.com for the skies? You could call it SeatMeet.com (well you could, if GoDaddy hadn't already laid claim to that name). It might be fun to while away a 10-hour flight with someone who could turn out to be Mr. or Ms. Right. Maybe we could get Virgin America in on the act -- it already allows you to upgrade via your seatback screen and perhaps it could work something out so you could look around the plane and request a specific traveling companion.
On the other hand, if your "match" turns about to be a loser (or thinks you're the loser), a screaming kid or two might be a welcome diversion.