Banning Babies from First Class

by Nancy Bestor

Our hotel on the island of Caye Caulker in Belize listed that no children under 10 were allowed as guests. Several years ago, when my girls were under the age of 10, I would have been outraged. Now that my daughters are teenagers, I thought to myself, “You know, that’s not a bad idea!” This leads me to the issue of allowing children (even those paying full price) to sit in first class on an airplane. Malaysia Airlines announced recently that they are banning infants from first class of their Boeing 747-400 jets (full story here). I’m sure most everyone has a story to tell about being on a long flight with a crying (or even screaming) baby. I can’t forget the time we flew to Paris from San Francisco with a baby who DID NOT STOP CRYING. And whose parents DID NOT TRY TO STOP HIM FROM CRYING. True story. But such is life. Babies cry. We don’t have to like it, but when flying on an airplane we certainly have to deal with it.

But a ban on infants in first class…..hmmm…..Malaysia Air CEO Tengku Azmil says the airline has received many complaints from first class customers who have paid a lot of money and are not able to sleep, due to crying infants. But aren’t the parents of said infants paying a lot of money too? While I would like to fly without crying babies, or overly talkative passengers, or people directly in front of me who put their seat in the full reclining position the entire flight (RUDE, RUDE, RUDE), I can’t help but think if a traveler is willing to pay for a seat, they deserve that seat. Whether they are a crying baby, or a talkative seatmate, or an unbathed traveler. Yes, it stinks (sometimes quite literally) to sit near someone who might not be an ideal traveler. And yes, it is inconsiderate when parents do nothing about their annoying child who runs up and down the aisle. But banning children? It seems a little extreme to me. I’d be surprised if U.S. airlines follow Malaysia’s lead and adopt this policy. I would not be surprised, however, to see airlines doing away with the discounted children’s rates for some international fares. Nor would I be surprised if airlines stopped allowing lap babies under age two to fly free. But is there a way airlines can profit from odiferous or annoying passengers? I’m sure they’re looking into it.