Time to ban children under 2 from premium cabins, or are children just children?

AA 772 Converted

I have recently completed an 8 hour flight, during which two children (under 2) sat two rows behind me in Business Class screamed or cried loudly for 7 hours of it. This is no exaggeration for the sake of effect, (or a good headline), but represents an accurate report of the experience. Ear plugs and Bose headsets had no impact to the screaming. The parents seemed unable or perhaps incapable of stopping them. No amount of ‘shushing’ had an effect in reducing the volume nor frequency of the noise.

Looking at the cabin, of about 40 seats, 15 were occupied by children of various ages. The rear cabin was overtaken as a sort of children’s party from what I could see when I ventured to the loo.

So when I chatted to one of the flight attendants, she asked the question ‘ Should we be limiting children in premium cabins to those 14 years or older?’

At the time it seemed a possible solution to the latest wailing episode from the kids in Row 5, but in all honesty is that possible?

After all, the other side of the story is that the parents money is as good as mine. As it was a holiday flight and fares were cheap, why should the parents not be able to take their kids in to Business Class? Well, of course, there is no reason. American, of course, doesn’t see any difference between dollars. Updates were copious and if parents want to use their certificates or miles for upgrades, why not?

I wrote to American to express my concern, and whilst I got a reply pretty fast, it failed to understand the points I was making in the email as seems common with their Customer Service since the merger. Their reply contained the paragraph below:

Because children are children and we recognize that occasionally youngsters might become restless during a long airplane ride and may inconvenience other customers, we make every effort to reserve an adjacent seat for those customers traveling with infants or small children. However, when flights become full, we can’t guarantee that the seat next to a child will remain empty. While most parents are able to maintain control over their children, clearly this was not the case on your flight, and I am very sorry that the enjoyment of your trip was diminished as a result.

What do you think? Should there an age limit for kids to sit in premium cabins on long flights?



  1. Oh please. Self entitlement is great in your domain, but not when flying. Charter a private jet.

  2. @Fred – or perhaps the families should. Better value if you spread the cost over the whole family. The entitlement issue – entitlement is a peaceful flight.

  3. Oh Please, get over yourself. If you’re going to use what is essentially public transport, then these things will happen. If you have a problem, stop outsourcing your travel requirements, and buy your own plane.

  4. Of course, just as you would restrict kids from fine dinning restaurants, they should restrict children from premium cabins. I think 10-12 is a reasonable age to start at, I don’t think kids that age still go about screaming do they? I certainly did not…

  5. While we’re at it, why don’t you do another article on everyone else you think should be banned from business class. It seems as though families are the only segment of society that we can discriminate against and get away with it. Bottom line: the policies you suggest are not only bad for business (for the airlines) but also are in poor taste.

  6. I have to say I agree with Fred here. They have just as much as you to be on this flight, I really think it’s poor form to be suggesting they should impose limits. I’ve flown with many adults who have behaved worse; just consider what alcohol does to people!

    Did you consider the 2 young children may have been unwell? There’s many reasons they could have been crying etc. so don’t be so quick to judge.

  7. Ugh. Sorry about your flight; that sounds nightmarish. I’d rather deal with violent turbulence and a non-working lav than screaming children for seven hours. And no, it doesn’t matter why they were screaming.

  8. Absolutely, though I think the FA’s suggestion of 14 is a bit high. I think 8 may be more appropriate. It used to be that people cared about individuals other than themselves. When I was a child, my family would leave a place if me or my siblings were crying or throwing a fit because of the disturbance and inconvenience it would cause for other people. Today, nobody gives a damn about how they affect the 12 or 130 other people around them – so long as their little special snowflake can sit in first. It’s shameful.

    From an economic standpoint, implementing such a policy would make sense for the airlines. With the changing of FF programs to focus on revenue rather than butt-in-seat miles, the airlines are clearly focussing more on business flyers paying full fare through their company’s travel accounts. Many of those people will go elsewhere if the product is degraded past a certain point, and crying children certainly pushes us closer to that point.

    @ Jane – That cuts both ways. If the child was unwell, they shouldn’t have been on the plane – and that’s the fault of the parents. I’d never take a toddler on a plane if I knew that the change in pressure would exacerbate their illness and cause them pain.

  9. Tell me. Last month on QF in F, DXB-SYD 2/3 year old wouldn’t settle down throughout the entire 13-hour flight. Even noise reduction headphones were little help!

  10. I see it both ways. It is business class. When my child was 6.5 years old, I new he was ready based on his previous flights. Until then I was not comfortable taking him to premium cabins. He does well now (7 years old). That said when you are trying to maintain sleep patterns and a schedule it is frustrating to have screaming kids, especially with clueless parents that are ill-prepared for flights.

  11. I agree with the comment comparing it to fancy restaurants. If I paid thousands of dollars for a business seat – the main benefit of which is getting some decent rest during your travel – I would be very upset with this.
    I have a rowdy 2 1/2 year old, and sometimes he just won’t stop screaming, for whatever reason. I would NEVER consider subjecting other passengers in a premium cabin to his outbursts. Sure, money is money to the airlines, but why does THEIR money automatically give them the right to be disruptive and I get called uncaring and told to “charter my own flight” when I dare to complain about it?

  12. You know what should be banned from business class? Farting. Who wants to smell other people’s gases in business class while I’ll enjoy my “fine dining” food experience. Also, I am also pretty sure at other “exclusive” establishments, shoes are required. Please people, can we leave our shoes on. smelly!!! Am I right people?

  13. What about dress code? Who wears shorts and slippers in “business class”. It’s called “business” for a reason. Am I right people?

  14. Parents can get used to tuning out their own children. Strangers cannot tune out other people’s children.

    Nobody blames children for acting like children. We blame parents who cannot (or will not) control their children.

    It is not “entitled” to want a reasonably quiet flight. It is entitled to let your child ruin a flight for others.

    An age limit is a reasonable way to virtually guarantee a better Business Class experience. I would gladly support such an airline.

  15. Totally agree with the proposal, but would set the limit a bit lower, age of 7 would do and limit “bad business” for airlines.

  16. I think it should certainly be looked at. I hate the fact that parents cannot control children or don’t want to at the risk of upsetting the child further. Perhaps exclude under 16 year olds from collecting frequent flier miles and there might be less in premium cabins as parents would have less miles to play around with. Alternatively, child-free travel planes would be great!

  17. Passengers with infants in premium cabins should be seated near award travels and non- rev premium travelers and kept away from full fare paying customers if at all possible. But to suggest that a full paying customer with a child should not be allowed to fly in a premium cabin is absurd.

  18. You all are a bunch of whiny, entitled brats. It’s a plane with all ages. You can’t ban people to the “back of the bus” that you don’t like. As long as parents are trying, there is not much else that can be done. If a parent is ignoring their child, by all means, be annoyed at their lack of compassion or empathy, but if they are, be ashamed at your own deficiency. Kids cry on a plane. It happens. It’s life. You’ll LiVE!! Life is not fair.

  19. No, we shouldn’t ban children from premium cabins.

    We should try not to understand everyone is just as entitled to fly as anyone else. And they are entitled to do so in the cabin they paid for. Every once in a while you may not have a perfect flight. It happens. Get over it.

  20. @adam I think YOUR suggestion is absurd, everyone who flies, has gotten there somehow, miles is money….they did not get there for free… it should be equal across the board. Age restriction is the best.

  21. You’ve written some good articles however this one reeks of self-entitlement. Who is to say that my son cannot sit in business class or first class on my lap or my wife’s? yes, some parents do a horrible job with their children on planes but the same can be said about adults. I’m hardly bothered if a baby is crying and the parents are doing what they can. I am however easily annoyed by those who get drunk, or the guys who think flights are open season to pick up women or the passengers who are slobs. There are more adults on planes that misbehave then there are kids.

  22. So 2 weeks back I flew IAD-LHR with my 3 year old twins in Club on BA A380 upper deck. Amazingly my kids were asleep before doors closed and did not wake until the captain came on the tannoy just over Dublin to say an hour left at which point they had some juice and watched a cartoon. Perfect.

    But while we are excluding people from public transport for our own gains may I suggest the following who could have ruined our flight.

    The mid 40s gent in the aisle seat who had not changed his socks in a few weeks. The smell was foul I even caught an stewardess gag as she came through.

    Then we had the 20+ stone chap who from the middle of the cabin was able to pass wind and be heard anywhere else in the cabin. I admit, I did smirk at the first one but he had a few more before falling asleep. At this point he transferred the escaping wind to his mouth where he snored all the way home.

    Again the above is a fair description of our flight and is a good example that there are more annoying and disgusting adults in business class than crying kids.

  23. @Tom – totally agree – adults can be just as annoying as kids. The days of class have long gone – when First and Business was special. These days everyone, including everyone’s kids can travel which is, I suppose, democracy in the skies.

  24. Why premium cabins? Why not ban children from all cabins since the parent cannot remove them from the public space mid flight if they have a meltdown? Regardless of cabin, a child crying for 7 hours is intolerable. Airlines should refuse to carry children to young to take direction … say age 5 years?

    Adults who are drunk, obnoxious or whatever can also be warned of future bans if they can’t behave in flight.

  25. I’m flying Buenos Aires to JFK in business class this week with my wife and two kids (age 5 and 2). It’s an 11 hour flight that we’re taking with 12 suitcases and 2 dogs in tow. We picked business for the comfort factor on such a long flight and to get the extra luggage allowance. Now my kids are seasoned travelers who have made this flight multiple times in coach, with very minimal screaming – even as infants. We walked with them when they were cranky as babies and fed them as necessary. Now, we have tablets and some toys to keep them entertained, extra snacks and a pacifier for the 2 year old (along with a backup). Kids will be kids, but I’d put more of the blame on parents who do not at least do what they can to calm or plan for a screaming child.

    My only worry about flying them in business class is the best seat layout in American’s new herringbone configuration. I decided to place them in window seats across the aisle from us rather than over the wall in the middle seats as it seems this will make it a lot easier to help them as needed. We’ll see…

  26. First class, business class, even economy class, THE TYPE OF CABIN DOES NOT MATTER. People pay good hard earned money to fly. Complaining about rowdy kids on an airplane is no different from complaining about rowdy kids on a bus. You know what they will say: “Get a car.”

    There should be some sort of control for kids behaviour, but if it’s a crying baby where the parents can’t do much, then everyone will have to live with it, or get a private jet.

  27. You are absolutely correct. You are paying a good bit extra, whether in miles or money, to have a better experience. Very young children screech and wail. It’s what they do. This severely detracts from the experience for everyone else, so the simplest way to address this problem is to not allow very young children in premium cabins. As to what age to allow, that could be determined by the individual airline. Jim seems to have a sensible take on things. I’d say that his solutions would be reasonable.

  28. I wouldn’t hesitate to take my four year old in any class. He is a very seasoned traveler and very very rarely has any issues. My three year old is also a seasoned traveler but she is more prone to unconsolable meltdowns when she gets overtired. I do my best to schedule flights that will prevent that but we all know that planes get delayed and things can change so there is always a chance.

    I would urge everyone to do your best not to judge parents of screaming children. You never know who is traveling for a parent’s funeral, how long they have been on a plane, how late their last flight had been delayed, etc.

    I have been in more than my fair share of situations where I was as prepared as I could have been but the meltdown still happened. Of course I did my best to stop it but children are humans just like drunk adults are still human…

  29. Yes. Keep the little basatards out, or fully compensate me for the flight if they disturb me.

  30. Cant believe my eyes when reading this. What a selfish b1tch this blog writer is? Use the word ‘ban’ for children? And why premium seats? Are you saying people in economy seats are less qualified for a quiet trip? You think you are something special in premium cabin? Kids are kids because sometimes they cannot control themselves. When you buy the ticket, there is no guarentee that in the premium seats there are no children. The noise control only applied to those that could be avoid, not applied to children if everything is tried to calm them down. Maybe you do not have kids or will not ever- when you do you will need all kinds of favor from other people: good luck with that if all others are like you. If you want a 100% quietness guarenteed premium trip, book your charter flight.

    What a loser

  31. Our children have traveled with us since babies. We have had mostly good flights and a few iffy ones. We do bring things with us to pacify them with much success but there will be times. Now are girls are older and travel as good or better than many seasoned travelers.

    One of our daughters is autistic and can be prone to some issues. We know how to handle it and stay right on top of it. We do fly first class for most long flights.

    Just like any other public space parents have a responsibility to help their children acclimate to the enviroment. Just as adults should not treat planes like their living rooms or local sports bar. We have all seen the passenger shaming pictures.

    To tell me our family we should not fly or we have to sit in coach because someone else was not able to manage their children is like me saying they should not serve alcohol on planes because some people are noisy drunks.

  32. I have been contemplating taking my 4 yr old and newborn business or even first bit been hesitant due to what others may think.

    Having read some of the comments here from those who want to dictate what I may or may not do with my money, I am just about to book a return first trip with them in tow, I hope some of the anti kid brigade here are aboard!

  33. Ban them. And a lifetime ban for parent, regardless of cabin class, who allow their children to use PED without earphones on the plane.

  34. They should arrest the dumbass parents who cannot control their children (some people just should not breed) nowadays parents expect teachers to raise their children flight attendant to babysit them and nannies for everything else when does simple answer is don’t have a child if you do not know how to raise them or comfort and entertainment then

  35. It’s going to be truly scary when Gen X become parents. From the comments on this page, it appears some already are!

    Bring on the Mumsnet brigade!

  36. How about multiple business class cabins? On BA 747s, there’s a downstairs and upstairs business class cabin, I feel it’d be a good comprimise to restrict the upper deck to adults.

  37. I read the comments on here with amusement. I can see both sides as from a purely commercial perspective, the airline doesn’t care who is taking up the seat that has likely cost the same regardless of whether it is a child or adult. Having said that as many have indicated, we don’t allow children into high end bars and restaurants and I personally would prefer that there was an age limit although I would happy with it being around 8 as has been suggested. Not everyone who flies business is rich or a business flier. Some of us have saved up or invested a lot of time and effort to travel hack the system. It is therefore a special occasion for us which can be totally ruined by a screaming child (and I do nevertheless accept that children scream because they are unwell or experiencing discomfort). With other forms of public transport, it is generally shorter and I can move seats – no such luck on a plane although some of the disgusting adult behaviour identified above is also gross. Here’s an idea – how about an airline who make their USP, child free zones then all the parents who think their screaming child is delightful can choose not to fly with them and leave the enltitled ones to do otherwise? Or how about one flight a day being touted as child free. I think there would be a lot of demand although there would also be outcry from parents who think that just because they chose to have children, and choose to sometimes overlook bad behaviour, we should all just put up with it. That’s just as entitled!

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