Time for Family-Only Sections on Airplanes?

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Did you hear about the restaurant in North Carolina that bans crying babies? Yes, Olde Salty's in Carolina Beach, N.C. has a big sign that reads: "Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated!"

Maybe it's turned off some families, but Brenda Armes, the proprietor, says, "It has brought us in more customers than it's ever kept away." Apparently when kids begin acting up and making noise, they and their parents are ejected.

Now what about doing something similar on airplanes?

No, I don't mean mid-air evictions; for one thing, you can't open an airplane door in flight.

But what about family sections on planes? Is this an idea whose time has come?

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If you think family sections on planes are farfetched, well, it's worked elsewhere. In church, for instance.

You've heard the term "cry room," right? Children erupting in full voice during solemn services seems to be an interfaith dilemma, prompting many houses of worship to add soundproof rooms to keep the decibels down.

Let's look at other "family only" activities. Example: families get their own sections -- or special days -- or togetherness-type events at ball games. Take the minor league Jacksonville (Fla.) Suns: this summer, the team offered such promotions as "family faith" night, "family feast" deals and evenings of "family fireworks" (hmmm -- not sure I like the sound of that last one -- hope it was simply a celebratory affair).

Want more examples? Look at cruises and resorts like Club Med that have vacations geared just to the families -- including special kids-only activities, for teens, and even babies.

Screaming Kids on Planes

Look, I'm a parent myself and families on planes have my sympathy; I know firsthand what's it's like when a little one decides to exercise his or her constitutional right to express his or her unhappiness at the top of his or her lungs. Believe me, we parents usually feel a lot worse than those of you who have to listen to it.

Which may explain an unusual incident aboard a Southwest flight earlier this summer: A flight attendant saw a mother allegedly slap her child, and according to initial reports, the flight attendant then took the child away. The Southwest employee later explained she only offered to help calm the child down; police met and questioned the child's parents once the plane landed, but no one was held and the family continued on their journey.

Still, it shows the frustrations that can occur with family travel. Kudos to the flight attendant for getting involved in an apparently sticky situation (and the police agreed she did the right thing).

How about another parent's take on family sections on planes? Los Angeles-based freelance writer Suzanne Robertson, who recently flew with her two daughters (aged five and two), understands fliers' frustrations but contends a family section simply wouldn't work.

"The area would have to be hermetically sealed," Robertson said. "Remember when the smokers sat in the back of the plane? It was still smoky." In other words, we'd still be serenaded by those screaming kids.

Another thought: if we have family sections on planes, why not sections for adults who overindulge in alcohol? Or those who bring their beloved pets onboard? Or those who (how shall I put this?) may have neglected to shower the day of their flight (or on many of the days preceding their flight)?

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