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Babies Get Their Own Zone on AirAsia

by on February 8, 2013 · 36 comments

in Air Asia

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A crying baby at 30,000 feet is a common, much-documented travel experience (some might say nightmare) that every traveler has had to put up with at one time or another – or sometimes it feels like on every flight! In fact, almost one third of plane passengers say they would be willing to pay extra to be on a child-free flight according to a TripAdvisor UK survey and there is even a section on YouTube of plane passenger reacting to shrieking babies.

No one is saying it’s parents’ fault (well, not usually) – after all, babies cry. A lot! So do a lot of toddlers. But it’s tough being enclosed in a small space for hours at a time with a screaming child, let alone several of them.

That’s why Malaysia-based AirAsia has come up with its own approach to try to make the most passengers as comfortable as possible. It has created a “Quiet Zone” that will be offered on its long haul-flights starting this February, specifically on AirAsia X flights to China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and Nepal. The zone is a 7-row section of the plane where no one under age 12 is allowed. According to the company’s website, the area offers minimal noise, few disturbances and dim lighting for a more peaceful trip. “Because we know that sometimes all you need is some peace and quiet for a more pleasant journey with us,” AirAsia says on its website.

Sitting in the “Quiet Zone” has no extra charge other than the standard fee that applies for picking a seat anywhere on the plane, which can range from $11 to $35.50 depending on the section.

AirAsia cabin with designated Quiet Zone

AirAsia cabin with designated Quiet Zone.

If you’ll remember, Malaysia Airlines banned babies from its First Class cabins (babies are defined as passengers under two years of age) last year, later deploying a child-free upper deck economy section on its A380 service, leaving many to wonder whether this pioneering move would… take flight.

Malaysia Air's solution is a baby-free First Class.

Malaysia Airlines’ solution is a baby-free First Class.

Now this can be good news or bad news, depending if you are the parent, or the one stuck in the seat next to a screaming child or in front of the toddler who’s prone to kicking them.

No such rules or sections are available on US carriers yet, but I wonder whether it’s only a matter of time.

Is designating a child-free quiet zone on an airplane fair?

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  • Antonio C.

    I like the idea, it is democratic and up to you yo stay with kids or move. Tony Fernandes (Air Asia chief) is a pioneer and always a step ahead. I am a father of twins and I know the faces :)

  • http://twitter.com/windycityf Windycityf

    Having been stuck on several flights, with crying babies, sick babies and just badly behaved children, I would be all for the options to purchase a “quiet” zone.

  • http://www.batteredluggage.com/ W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian)

    Smart!

  • RakSiam

    as you say though, it’s an enclosed space. So the screaming child or baby can be one row away or 20 rows away and you still hear it.

  • mikes

    Being a parent of 3YO twins who have flown dozens on times (domestically), I am all for this. If someone is willing to pay for the option, by all means sell it to them.

    I did not vote “yes” however because putting all the kids together is a totally different thing than making a small section of the plane ‘child free’. It is a bad thing when all the kids are very each other because they can set each other off. In that case, even a child free section 20 rows away is not safe!

    Also, I’d like to see it made clear that the zone is not guaranteed noise-free, such that people will next be asking to have a child 5 or 10 rows back moved, or will complain about kids using the front lavs… and sometimes kids REALLY need to go, right?

    That said, this is no guarantee they would not lose my business in certain circumstances. We have chosen not to do a few things, including a scenic train ride at $70/person, because kids were not allowed in the premium cabin. In this case, the premium cabin was climate controlled and steerage was not.

  • Nic

    Seems like a good idea in theory, but the previous posts about sound traveling makes sense. My biggest issue typically isn’t with the under 2 babies as they only cry for short periods of time. The real issue is the 2-4 year old terrors ( I have two of my own) that are irritating the entire flight! Which these changes won’t address

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.gray.96558 Jonathan Gray

    I can say as a matter of fact that the sound of a baby crying can carry much further than 7 rows. And…what if you are in the last row of the “quiet zone”? Does that mean a baby can be in the row directly behind you? If so, it’s not really a quiet zone.

  • charlie

    I am traveling first class next month with my 18 month old.

  • http://twitter.com/DWJustTravel Charles Rahm

    I do like this idea but if you have paid the supplement to select your seat and end up in the 7th row then I guess you are likely to have babies or toddlers kicking your seat directly behind you? Generally I find that while most babies cry at take off, half an hour later they tend to fall asleep anyway.

  • mikes

    I think they have been pretty smart about this implementation: it is a quiet zone but no additional fee over what is already asked. ie: ‘no guarantees’

    As far as noise: between the mass of the seats and bodies, most jet dampen noise pretty well. Even being attuned to crying children, a kid more than a few rows away is a non-event for me. Of course, there is the psychology of being ‘trapped’, and since I’m already trapped every day I do not experience that. :)

  • mikes

    “half an hour later they tend to fall asleep anyway.”

    Where do I get one of those?!?!? :)

  • no babies

    u shouldn’t be allowed

  • Derik

    I hope a baby projectile-vomits on you in your next flight. And I hope it’s when the seatbelt light is turned on.

  • hotcrab

    I suspect this would be a civil rights issue if US based carriers did this. It sounds a lot like “the back of the bus” to me.

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  • http://www.milestothewild.com/ Miles To The Wild

    I think the kid-free zones just need to be spun differently so it is not perceived as negative. Quiet zones should be sold as simply that – quiet. Not “premium” because then it upsets people who say “I paid for a premium class and I want it”. Family zones should be marketed as a “fun experience for the whole family” – private cabin, toys and Playstations on offer, Disney channel and kid friendly meals. Of course I would be opting for the Quiet Zone!

  • Steve

    What happened to the Koh Samui post?

  • thrylos98

    Interesting move, but I think that peace and quiet in a flight should be a right not a privilege that requires extra money. Lots of kids are behaving fine in the flights but some don’t. It should fall to the parents and they should get the same treatment from the airlines as drunk obnoxious passengers who bother others do…

  • thetravelplaybook

    The Travel Gods have shined down upon us with their ever-increasing grace

  • mikes

    You don’t have a “right” to peace and quiet on an airplane any more than you have that “right” to peace and quiet anywhere else. Try complaining to a cop about a crying baby at your local park and see what happens with that.

    Heck, you don’t even have the “right” to fly in the first place. You have to submit to security screenings and generally pay some of that “extra money” for the privilege of getting there quickly.

  • mikes

    I’m sure “no babies” doesn’t worry about pesky little things like the seatbelt light. Or using actual words and punctuation to express himself, for that matter.

  • Mikes

    The problem there is:
    (1) This would be a ‘back of the bus’ situation… unless they put us up front!
    (2) Let’s not kid ourselves: they would want an arm and a leg for the ‘family zone’
    (3) Disney would want a controlling percentage of the airline to allow the Disney Channel in flight. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/t.nick.knight T Nick Usalis Knight

    Why not discriminate against old people, maybe minorities. Why limit the fun.

  • Arcanum

    The title is a bit misleading. It’s not the babies that are getting their own zone, it’s the people who want to avoid the babies.

    Personally, I’m all for creating a true “baby/family zone”, and yes, I want it at the back of the plane. Let them board early so they’re all settled in and not blocking the aisles with children and baggage when general boarding starts. You can have a dedicated mini-cabin with different decor, different catering, etc. Maybe you throw in some retractable armrests or extra footrests like Air New Zealand has on their Skycouch so families can share space. There are lots of things you can do to make it feel special.

    Oh, and a preemptive reply to all the parents who are going to flame this…. Get over yourselves. First class on an A380 isn’t a city bus in Montgomery and you’re not Rosa Parks.

  • SS

    Did you have to pay extra for the baby? Last time I traveled on an international segment (LAX-TPE) on business and I had to pay about $850 in baby tax @_@ (I bought an economy ticket for $1100 and used miles to upgrade.. but then the $850..)

    FYI for others… my 18 month old was actually soo good on the plane I had 2 couples come up to my at US immigration (while waiting for luggage) telling me how well behaved my 2 yo was :)

  • http://www.milestothewild.com/ Miles To The Wild

    But there is logic in making the family section in the rear. Families board first because they presumably need more time to get themselves situated in their seats with all their stuff. It makes sense to have this group moving to the rear so that others can board more easily. It is the same with other passengers such as those in wheelchairs who need extra assistance, which takes more time and attention from the crew. Upon deplaning, once again it takes families more time to gather up all their stuff. I can’t speak for all adult travelers but my husband and I can toss our convertible backpacks on and be off the plane in a flash causing no inconvenience to anyone behind us. I do think both the quiet zone and the family zone should be priced equally. If not Disney, then some other family channel but I would think Disney would jump at the chance to load the programming with “visit Disney World ads” to a captive audience.

  • Charles Clarke

    Now for a perfume and cologne free area. :-)

  • Hotcrab

    It’s not the parent who is being discriminated against its the child. If you had the money to buy a 1st class seat and the airline said you were too old, would that be discriminatory?

  • jonny

    I have a little one who is very well behaved on flights.. better than some drunk moron that I’ve had the mispleasure of flying next to. But I do understand peoples concerns regarding babies flying, but toddlers are worse, and I’m not looking forward to flying with her when she’s running around.
    Regarding boarding early, I don’t really understand this, as you get the toddler into their seat early, then you have to wait until everyone else has boarded. By that time the toddler is fit to explode! I think toddlers would be better off boarding last. I will be boarding last with her once she’s that age.

  • bclare

    My son, now almost 3, has flown on close to 200 flights and many of them long-haul and international. It isn’t always easy, but as a parent I am not sure I would like the family friendly zones, either. To be honest, I can’t see an easy solution here– but I do agree with many that it’s not usually the babies, it’s the toddlers. There are a lot of disruptive and, frankly, offensive behavior we have to put up with on planes in close contact with each other. Children are only one of many and shouldn’t be penalized. That said, it can’t be airline policy, but parents should learn how to engage their children to keep them busy / happy as much as possible. For the record, we have had a complete nightmare 4 flights. Horrible, embarrassing, everything you could imagine. The other 180+ flights have been very good and often nearly perfect. But I do feel for the people on the 4 nightmare flights!

  • Arcanum

    Absolutely yes, it is discrimination against the child!

    Children have a tendency to be noisy and disruptive. If an adult carried on the way many children do in flight, he or she would be restrained by the crew and likely charged/arrested upon landing. As a society, however, we are expected to tolerate this behaviour from children simply because “they’re kids”. That’s the double standard!

    If you could guarantee that children would behave appropriately throughout the flight, it wouldn’t be an issue. For what it’s worth, I don’t think a senior with advanced dementia should be up front either!

  • nilaydon

    Malaysian carrier AirAsia on Wednesday said, it is–seeking approval to establish a joint venture involving unlisted Indian firms Tata Sons and Telestra Tradeplace Pvt.”

    “We have carefully evaluated developments in India over the last few years, and we strongly believe that the current environment is perfect to introduce our

  • Avallery

    I think having an area specifically for people with young children would be great. Having had some very bad flights with small children, who were with me, I’m very sympathetic to the other passengers. The fact is, very young children cry and get upset when they’re trapped for hours at a time. So I have much sympathy for the adults traveling with them!

  • Avallery

    I agree that parents need to plan for keeping their children engaged and entertained. But on long flights it all gets old – they know they’re trapped and at two there’s no reasoning with them. I’ve been on a couple of nightmare flights where I was very sorry and embarrassed but there’s a limit to what you can do when they’re very young. I like the idea of a family zone because you would be among people who would at least understand. I agree with the comment before that they shouldn’t board that area first!

  • http://www.facebook.com/simon.verdon.1 Simon Verdon

    I’ve flown Air Asia quiet zone and can tell you that this facility alone would ensure they get my business in future. It was all peace and quiet. In addition to the absence of noise, the lighting was of the restful blue Dreamliner variety. And the absence of parents hopping up and down to retrieve things for the kids and the kids themeselves getting hyper was incredibly civilised. I hope more airlines introduce quiet zones.

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