April 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM ET
A humorous commercial showing kids flying cargo may have been an April Fool's Day joke by Canadian airline WestJet, but many travelers do harbor hopes for child-free flights.
Now Malaysia Airlines is taking steps to create a no-child zone on its flights.
When the airline’s first Airbus A380-800 takes to the skies on July 1, flying the Kuala Lumpur–London route, families with children won’t be welcome in the airplane’s upper deck, which will have 70 economy and 66 business class seats.
Instead, those passengers will be asked to book in the 350-seat economy class zone on the main deck, which the airline has designated as its child-friendly zone.
In a statement, the airline cites the availability of extra family-friendly facilities, including eight toilets for the lower-deck economy section and a dual aerobridge that offers “speedier/faster embarkation and disembarkation for this group of passengers.”
But the policy may have more to do with the comfort of its upper-deck fliers.
“Malaysia Airlines is trying to make its premium product on the A380 more appealing to the high-yielding business passengers,” said Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying, a company specializing in airline branding and customer engagement. “They value their peace and quiet and [this way] can rest assured that they won't be disturbed by kids on long-haul flights.”
Along with the new Airbus A380-800s, Malaysia Airlines has already reconfigured the first class cabins on the airline’s Boeing 747s to no longer accommodate bassinets, effectively making that section baby-free. Bassinets, however, are available in business or economy class.
Some have called Malaysia Airline’s plan discriminatory to families. But child-free sections on airplanes would be “no different than the ‘quiet cars’ provided by train companies,” said Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor-in-chief of WeJustGotBack.com. “My guess is that many parents would opt for kid-free zones on planes when they're traveling without their children.”
Kelleher said many family-friendly hotels and resorts now have designated spaces, such as spas, adult-only pools, fitness rooms and formal restaurants, where kids are not allowed. And most cruise lines offer adult-only areas such as pool decks and quiet restaurants. “Even Disney Cruise Line does this, much to the delight of adults on board,” said Kelleher.
Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the business-travel website JoeSentMe.com, understands those who would want babies and young children banned from the premium-class cabins. But he suspects that when it comes to other carriers following Malaysia Airlines' lead, dollars may overrule toddlers.
“I doubt anyone will match, although Asia is a unique market,” said Brancatelli. “But it comes to this: If a parent wants to pay to bring a child in a premium cabin, well, it's hard to turn away the money.”
He may be right. In a memo clarifying its policy, Malaysia Airlines states, “Where there is overwhelming demand for seats in economy class from families with children and infants, resulting in full load in the main deck, we will still accommodate such demand in the 70-seat upper deck economy class zone of our A380.”
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