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We recently asked our TPG Lounge readers to share whether or not they think young children — in this case, those under the age of 14 — should be allowed to travel in first or business class on long-haul flights. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).
Yes, Let Them Fly up Front
The majority of TPG Lounge readers wrote in support of letting kids of all ages experience the perks of first and business class, as long as they’re well behaved. Sounds fair enough!
“Sure, why not. I’ve seen 60-year-old men and women in first class act like five-year-olds.” — Matt S.
“My sons flew in business to Hong Kong (SIN) and back from Singapore (SIN) when they were 13 and 10. They were so well-behaved that the flight attendant specifically went out of her way to tell us she had never seen children spend hours doing homework on a plane before. Also, when we landed, another passenger told us she had been wary when she saw my kids take their seats, but they had pleasantly surprised her with their good behavior. My kids are not always perfect, but they know how to behave on a plane and they know that business or first is a privilege that can and will be taken away if they don’t act the way they should. They should not be kept out of these seats solely because of their age.” — Nancy D.
“Our two girls only flew in first or business with us. I always took activities, books and treats in case the meal didn’t work for them. They were polite and better behaved than many adults on the flight. It’s up to the parents to set the example.” — Judy N.
“Of course they should be allowed. I don’t know a single frequent flyer that doesn’t own noise-cancelling headphones. Most airlines will provide them in one form or another in this category of travel anyway, so you’re covered.” — Ross N.
“Most kids would just sleep, watch TV and play with toys. Oh, and most parents plan travel around when their kids would be sleep so they don’t have to deal with entitled adults.” — Emanuel W.
“I find the attitude toward children varies widely around the world. I fly in business within Africa and between Africa and Europe and strangers will play with other people’s children, including mine, to entertain and help them during the flight. It is all about mindset.” — Daniel O.
Several TPG Lounge members felt strongly against young kids being able to fly in first or business class, but not without good reasons.
“I’ve seen it all. The worst is when the kids are misbehaving and the parents are asleep — or are pretending to be!” — Blake A.D.
“No. I’ve experienced too many disruptive flights with kids where parents expect flight attendants to control them.” — Joanne S.
“Definitely not trying to sound entitled, but the crying baby directly beside us for more than five hours from Maui (OGG) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in our first class pod was not fun. I don’t know how it could be resolved though. It’s just a bummer when you pay so much money. I guess the parents paid that much, too, though!” — Lizzie R.
“As long as their video games, movies and TV shows are played with headphones on. My absolute worst flight experience was a Mom whose kids were sharing an iPad on top volume without headphones. Ugh. They refused to turn it down and Mom just let them.” — Nechama K.
“As long as they behave and are not screaming and running around. I had a kid around age nine sitting next to me on a Miami (MIA) – Sao Paulo (GRU) flight with his parent two rows ahead. He did not let me sleep the entire night!” — Jorge B.
“I don’t think airlines should allow lap infants in first and business class. [There’s] nothing more irritating than having a screaming baby in a cabin full of paying first-class passengers, especially when the airline allowed the infant into the first-class cabin for free.” — Bill Z.
It Depends on the Parents — and the Airlines
Some folks thought the question all boils down to behavior — that of the child as well as his or her parents — and whether or not the airlines themselves are doing enough to help.
“I just had a two-hour flight in front of two kids who spent the entire time talking at full volume, singing, crawling on the ground and randomly bumping into my seat. And all I heard from the parent was the occasional, ‘Sweetie, you shouldn’t do that.'” — Anna G.
“Many airlines have a policy of not letting their employees bring their children on board in business or first class until age six. It should be the same for all. I had to endure an 11-hour flight from Paris (CDG) to Los Angeles (LAX) in Delta One with two infants in arms. Every half hour, one would start crying and the noise canceling [headphones] didn’t help. The flight attendants thought it was cute and I couldn’t say anything because I was traveling employee standby. I was glad to be there, but a business man or woman trying to get some sleep for a big meeting would be very pissed.” — Matt W.
“The airlines need to do a better job of educating parents on what they can do to make fights better for infants and small children, especially on take-off and on landing. Children need to have something to suck on so they can relieve the pressure in their ears. When I was a kid, the airline used to do all sorts of things for their younger passengers. I remember getting Jr. Pilot wings on Pan Am, American and United; getting a tour of the cockpit; having the flight attendants check on me during the flight, even though I was traveling with my parents; and having an airline-focused coloring book for me to play with.” — Denise K.
“Crying babies don’t phase me. I guess I feel extra compassionate for parents traveling with young children. They have enough on their plate already and I can usually see the embarrassment and exasperation in their eyes, so there’s no need for that and I just go about my business in luxury. Kids who are old enough to act like jerks, with parents who allow them to do so, that’s a different story.” — Theresa K.
Readers Helping Readers
We love it when our TPG Lounge members get so involved in a topic they end up answering each other’s questions with their personal tips. That’s what happened when TPG reader Robert T. debated taking his own little one for a ride in first class.
“In all seriousness though, this is a good question. We are debating flying in business from Dallas to Honolulu (HNL) next year. My son will be six and we’ve taken many flights, but he’s never been in business class and we are not sure yet. It’s different when a child is essentially sitting by themselves.” — Robert T.
“Many airlines have seats in business that are conducive to parents flying with kids. United is a good bet from Houston (IAH) with a nonstop flight and lie-flat seats with four across in the center of the 777 or two at the window if nobody wants a middle seat). We flew this aircraft and had a family with an infant sitting across the aisle from us in the four-across. Not one peep the whole flight. Most flights to Honolulu will connect and offer traditional ‘recliner’ first class.” — Blake A.D.
“Both you and your son will enjoy the extra space. Order a kid’s meal ahead of time, go visit the cockpit before take-off or after landing — just ask the flight attendant to ask the crew when would be the better time. If you tell your son ahead of time that this is a special treat and best behavior is required, he’ll rise to the occasion. Kids also tend to sleep better when they have a bit of extra room. I was eight when my grandmother took me on a ‘special trip’ to meet the extended family and we sat in first class and I still remember it. We got all dressed up — dresses, little white gloves, the works — and it was when I fell in love with travel. Don’t let people’s comments deter you. Family memories are special.” — Suzan L.
Featured photo by Elisabeth Schmitt/Getty Images.
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