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'Scoot in silence': Singapore Air budget carrier offers kid-free zone

Aug. 23, 2013 at 12:17 PM ET

Passengers on the inaugural Singapore to Gold Coast flight disembark at Gold Coast Airport on June 13, 2012, on the Gold Coast, Australia. Scoot, the ...
James Morgan/Gold Coast Airport
Scoot, the budget offshoot of Singapore Airlines, now offers a kid-free zone for passengers who want to pay for it.

Would you pay extra to be able to scoot your seat away from small kids on a plane? Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier, Scoot, is betting you will.

The airline, which currently flies from Singapore to 11 destinations in Asia and Australia, has created a premium “Scoot in Silence” section at the front of its economy class cabin.

There, passengers can pay about $14 extra per ticket in exchange for more legroom and the promise that “the under 12s will be someplace else.”

“I’d pay to sit in an adults-only section,” said Keri Coull, an “unemployed mum/graduate” from San Francisco now living in Scotland. She thinks others would too. “I loved my 2 1/2 year-old, but returning from Mexico was traumatic for other passengers.”

Scoot is not the first Asian airline to set aside a cabin section that is off limit to kids.

In February 2013, long-haul, low-cost carrier AirAsia X introduced a kid-free "Quiet Zone" on its A330 aircraft. And last year Malaysia Airlines declared the upper decks of its A380s kid-free. The airline also bans kids from its first class cabins.

“These quiet zones are part of a wider trend that sees airlines providing passengers more choice and control of the onboard experience without having to pay a lot to upgrade to a different class,” said Raymond Kollau of Amsterdam-based AirlineTrends.com.

Of course, in the close quarters of an airplane, a quiet zone can be hard to define.

“What about the passenger seated in the last row of the kid-free section when an infant begins screaming behind him or her?” said Anya Clowers of JetwithKids.com.

For now, representatives from American and Delta said they have no plans to introduce kid-free zones. And the no-kids-allowed idea “doesn’t quite fit the overall familial vision Lufthansa is embracing,” said Christina Semmel, the airline’s corporate communications manager for North America. (In fact, the airline recently introduced new family and kid-friendly amenities, including boarding passes — but no special seating — for stuffed animals and dolls.)

But in the modern unbundled-amenities world of airlines, having the “opportunity” to pay to sit outside a kid zone on a domestic carrier may just be a matter of time.

“I can see airlines such as United and Delta, who already offer separate zones with extra legroom seats, trialing whether they can turn part of these zones into a quiet zone, depending on the configuration of the aircraft,” said Kollau.

The audience rushing to buy these seats might be business travelers, who are “universally in favor of kid-free zones,” said Joe Brancatelli, who runs the business traveler newsletter JoeSentMe. “(At least) until they have kids and are banished to the kid zone when they cash-in miles to take the family on holiday.”

Harriet Baskas is the author of the forthcoming "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You" and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.

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