International budget airline AirAsia’s slogan “Now Everyone Can Fly,” is about to become obsolete.
To be more accurate, the company should change it to “Now Everyone Can Fly (Unless You Are a Parent Who Wants to Sit Up Front).”
As a marketing gesture to frequent fliers, the carrier just announced that the first seven rows of its coach seats will be designated a “Quiet Zone,” an innocuous euphemism for banning children under age 12. The policy kicks in on February 1, 2013, but those seats can be reserved now.
AirAsia is based in Malaysia, with additional hubs in Thailand and Indonesia. To sit in the Quiet Zone, passengers must pay the same extra seat reservation fees they would to guarantee themselves exit row seats with more legroom. Rival Malaysia Airlines already broke ground on the anti-kid front by banning babies from their first class sections last year.
On the AirAsia website, the kid-free rows are touted as a place for “some peace and quiet for a more pleasant journey with us.”
Only time will tell if this move will be a savvy marketing decision or if it will prompt a massive backlash from young families. Traveling with young children can be stressful enough without having extra inconveniences added to the situation.
In a somewhat encouraging online poll at ABC News — Would You Pay Extra to Fly on a Child-Free Flight? — only 7,381 of 24,932 respondents (or 30 percent) said they would go the extra mile to fly with adults only. If general consumer sentiment matches that, there is little chance that any of the airlines would move to total child-free travel. Not to mention the potential of being slapped with age discrimination suits.
Candidly, parents and nannies must acknowledge there are times when even the most patient caretakers want to pull their hair out over their children’s behavior — especially when there is no place to go for a “time out” and the embarrassing conduct is magnified due to the cramped quarters.
But according to frequent flier Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, there are two inexcusable moves that many parents make that irritate fellow passengers:
“Exercising zero control over kids. This is a major complaint of passengers: Parents who are unwilling or unable to get the little darlings to behave. We get it. Kids act up, they throw tantrums, but nothing is more maddening than parents who just sit there and stare at the meltdown. Sure, sometimes there isn’t much you can to thwart crazed kids, but at least fake it. That’s right, if parents merely look as if they’re trying to stop the insanity, they’ll have the sympathy of fellow passengers.”
“Mistaking any part of the plane (beyond the lavatory) as a changing station. Harried parents have been known to change infants on empty airline seats and – brace yourself – on tray tables. Need I say this is totally unacceptable?”
So there you have it. We were all kids once and certainly even the grumpiest people on the plane will understand that as long as parents and nannies don’t turn a blind eye.
Yet, there’s also something extremely naive about AsiaAir promising a Quiet Zone based on just removing children from the area. Haven’t they ever encountered obnoxious adults, who certainly are not a rarity these days?
(Thanksgiving season, one of the busiest travel times of the year, is here. Do you have a traveling with children story to share? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org)