So, about infants in first class…

There are two airline related topics that will instantly turn people uncivil – seat recline in coach and babies in first class. Every time I read an article (or write a post) about seat recline in coach, the commenters on both sides get extreme, typically threatening one another.

My stance with seat recline in coach has always been that it’s a right (that’s why the recline button is on the seat of the person wanting to recline), though people should be respectful about it. I don’t recline in coach on domestic flights (though admittedly I don’t fly coach domestically a whole lot… other than this week) because I think space is already tight enough for everyone. But still, it’s a right. The person behind you could have purchased a seat with more legroom, much like the passenger of size could have purchased two seats, but chose not to. It’s not my fault they’re tall and the airlines design seats to be so small. But like I said, I just don’t recline out of courtesy.

Babies in first class is a tougher issue, though, and one I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into… until my mileage run last week. I won the baby lottery twice.

There were four infants in first class on my flight from Tampa to Chicago, including ten month old twins. The babies were well behaved aside from about 30 minutes of crying, which is understandable. What drove me absolutely nuts were the parents that were obviously very stressed about traveling with infants and constantly yelling back and forth at each other. It was truly painful to watch, especially since the dad was pretty whipped. “MAKE HIM DRINK THE BOTTLE.” “He doesn’t want to drink, honey.” “THEN FEED HIM CHEERIOS.” “He doesn’t want Cheerios, honey.” Poor guy!

On my return redeye from San Francisco to Miami I also had two babies in first class. Even worse, I had one of the nuttiest seatmates I’ve had in a long time. She was an American living in the Caribbean (“I don’t need the US government knowing what I’m doing”), and she was into black magic and a lot of other “alternative” things, which she extensively tried to educate me on. She said to me “if they just gave me five minutes with the baby I’d have him knocked out for the next five hours.” No way I’d trust this lady with my kid!

Even worse than listening to the baby cry for an hour was listening to the lady next to me bitch and moan nonstop for the entire time. Fortunately I managed to convince the flight attendant to pour her steady, big glasses of red wine, so she was knocked out soon enough.

But in both cases I’d say having the babies in first class certainly took away the benefit that comes with first class, which is being able to arrive relaxed. Of course I had upgraded, but what about the others on the plane that paid for first class (including the nutty lady seated next to me, who was going bonkers)? Even more so, what if my flight had been in international business class on a route that’s all about arriving well rested (like the British Airways New York to London Sleeper Service)?

The main issue is that as much as some like to complain about it, this isn’t really any one party’s fault. The babies? Well, it’s certainly not their fault they cried, I remember doing the same when I was a few months old (okay, maybe I don’t actually remember it, but I’m sure I did). The parents? Well, everyone thinks their kids are the best in the world, so when the baby cries some parents just smile and say “isn’t he cute?” Even the most well behaved infants will cry, no matter how hard parents try to prevent it. But ultimately you can’t control the actions of an infant.

A while back Malaysia Airlines announced they would be banning infants in first class, which is the first airline I know of that has instituted such a policy.

Let me put it this way – if you’re paying $20,000 for a first class ticket, you damn well deserve to arrive well rested. At the same time, if you’re a parent and paying $20,000 to fly in first class with your baby, wouldn’t the airline be crazy to turn down the revenue? Keep in mind that on international flights, the infant fare is 10% of the full fare cost of the ticket, so they’re getting quite a bit of extra revenue for nothing.

I don’t know where I actually stand here, but rather I’m just sharing my thoughts. I doubt we’ll see an airline follow Malaysia’s lead, because nobody will change their spending habits based on an infant in first class since the competition allows it as well! Airlines only have revenue to lose by banning babies, at least in the short run.

I’ll close by saying that if I were a parent and had an infant, I would fly coach (though I’m not suggesting anyone else should feel the same). Much like I think seat recline is a right yet I don’t exercise it, I acknowledge that having an infant in first class would be a right, though I’d feel uncomfortable as a parent. People get a lot more irritated by infants in first or business class than in coach, and I would get stressed out trying to ensure the infant doesn’t cry and that I don’t disturb anyone else’s rest. But then again I tend to worry about everything in life a bit too much.

Where do y’all stand? If you’re a parent, do you feel at all uncomfortable in a premium cabin with an infant cause you don’t want to get yelled at? Business travelers, if an airline banned infants in premium cabins, would you vote with your wallet and be more likely to fly with them?

Comments

  1. Macarne says

    Its just like everywhere in your live. You mostly can not select who is your neighbor. Not in a plane, not at your home. Even if you pay multi million dollars for your home you can have bad luck and ashore with his loud family will become your next door neighbor. But I think it is ok. Sure I am bit pissed when I pay a lot of € for a business or first class flight and have a crying baby next to me. But thats bad luck. So we can’t start selecting people. So some don`t like babies, the other don`t like a gay in the first, the other don`t want to have a arabic looking guy next to him. We should stop wasting time and thinking about something we can never change. And I am sure as soon as we guys become fathers we will also fly first class with our family, if we can afford or get good upgrades. Greetings from Germany, Arne

  2. Bruce says

    At first, my knee-jerk response was in favor of a baby-free first class experience, but reading Arne’s comment got me thinking. There are lots of potentially annoying experiences that could make a first class seat less than restful (snoring, loud inane conversations, chatty captains who go a little overboard on the PA, etc.).

    I guess the best solution is just to get a window seat, a good set of headphones/ipod, and an eyemask and tune out. Then, as long as parents keep their baby on a leash (please don’t let them crawl around the cabin as I’ve seen on numerous occasions), I’m good to go.

  3. Ronen says

    Lucky – I haven’t seen a comment from you on the new Pan Am TV series!

    For example how exciting first class was looking back then ..

  4. Morgan says

    A couple of years ago, I started flying with earplugs and a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Best decision I’ve ever made.

    Good quality ear plugs or NC headphones with music playing really can block out almost anything, even crying babies or squabbling parents. I put in my earplugs at pushback. Once above 10,000 feet, I swap them for my headphones (which are more-easily removed for speaking with the FA or a non-crazy seatmate). I reverse the process on approach. I follow the process religiously on every flight.

    It may sound obsessive, but it helps immensely. Even in the absence of babies, I arrive more rested and relaxed due to the absence of engine noise. Pay attention the next time you see off-duty flight crew members on the plane. A significant percentage have earplugs in from pushback to touchdown.

    As a side note, you’re a great writer, Ben. I sincerely hope you can turn this into a real career so you don’t have to be an office drone when you “grow up.”

  5. amitdelia says

    @ Bruce — seriously put your kids on a leash — that’s the most naive and retarded thing I have heard — people need to travel and keeping an infant/toddler confined to an area is hard enough do cut the parents some slack.

    As a father of a almost 3 year old, I understand parents because most are cognizant of what their children are doing and careful about imposing on others — I’m not talking about the
    2% that really don’t give a crap BUT there Also is the 30 year old guy that acts like a prick and a 3 year old — what’s HIs excuse?

    We have traveled with my son to London, Prague, Vienna, Vancouver, new York, Atlanta, cancun, among other places and what ticks me off Is the few times that my son has actually cried I get these god awful looks from people like we should be quarantined or something. Babies cry people! get over it.

    When we travel and we can go business of first why the heck not especially if we have to keep the infant in the lap. Do you know how hard it is to travel with an infant in your Lap? So if I can splurge or upgrade then so be it because it’s in my best interest and my child’s best interest to do so. If you can’t handle a baby crying for 30 minutes on an 8 hr flight and somehow this is cramping your style put on your Bose earphones and go back to your ego centered and self indulgent life.

  6. says

    I didn’t get into collecting points and miles hardcore until the last year. I wish I had done it sooner, but there you have it. It so happens that I had a little boy 1 year ago, too. Before the baby, my husband and I traveled what I thought was a pretty good amount (international) until I found Flyertalk and travel blogs.

    So now I have all these points and a Serious Case of wanderlust. I’m dying for an international trip in a major way. So, this December, we’ll be flying to Buenos Aires. In First Class on award tickets. I even spent the miles and got my son – who will be 15 months old then – a seat. So no one can complain that I didn’t get him his own seat. How much he stays in it remains to be seen, because I imagine he might just want to hang out on my lap for awhile. But when he gets sleepy on the overnight flight, I thought it might be nice to have the extra room for us all to try to get some rest.

    So, for me, what it comes down to is this: we wouldn’t go to EZE without having first class (or business) seats. Just wouldn’t. That long of a trip, in Economy, with a little one sounds like hell. So our miles are making something possible that otherwise wouldn’t be, both in terms of cost and the flying experience. I am VERY concerned about the flights and not disturbing other first class passengers. It’s a serious stressor. But it’d be a stressor in economy, too (if we’d even go in economy) and while my son is usually a happy baby, it won’t surprise me if he gets a bit fussy. It’s usually brief and my husband and I both do everything in our power to help him when he’s having a rough time. I am far more concerned about how the other passengers will treat us than I am concerned about how our son will behave. And if we get the dirty looks, I’ll just have to remind myself that this is a one-time thing for us, and the only way we’d get to do this. I don’t foresee any more int’l trips for many years to come, because we’re not THAT far off from thinking about a second baby. For the domestic trips we have planned, we’ll be in economy – in part b/c domestic first class isn’t worth the extra miles to me, but also because we can be in economy without it being a big hardship. But for a long flight to South America, economy would be a hardship, and I’m hoping first class will work out well for us.

  7. says

    Simple…

    If the flight is 3 or more classes, ban babies in First.

    If the flight is over 5 hours, ban babies in first.

    Otherwise, bring on the baby revenue!

  8. DarrenChong says

    While I can’t stand the continuous crying of babies when I travel, it’ll be in the same position as those parents soon. My wife is expecting our first child in a month. I really don’t know if I’ll get told off by others if my son cries on the flight. After all they would have paid a pretty high fare just to have their time of peace and quiet ruined.

  9. says

    You don’t pay for quiet in business. You don’t actually pay for a guaranteed ‘relaxing’ flight. You pay for bigger seats, better food, free drinks and to get from point A to point B. Anyone is free to fly in business/first, and unless they change that then babies/kids have every right to be there.

    And, fwiw, our 3 year son has flown international business many times and everyone has lived to tell the tale.

  10. John says

    As we know that the flying (including take-off and landing) may bring great discomfort to infants (and consequently their parents), it might be good not to bring infants in the air unless the trips are necessary (ie. family emergency, etc.). Parents should be considerate to their infants.

  11. says

    Lucky – nobody knows what it’s like to have a child until you actually have a child. I’m sure I’ve broken every promise I made to myself about how I’d behave when I had kids.

    If someone needs a kid-free flying experience, they are welcome to fly private.

    Also, I am about 10,000% certain you will fly in first class with your kids. You’re going to turn down the free domestic upgrade just because you’re traveling with your baby? Really? Once you’re used to flying up front, you’re not going to sit in the back just because you have a kid. After all, everyone thinks their own kid is perfect :)

    Oh – and I’ve said this a bunch of times: once you have a child, flying without your kid in coach is like being in first class. 5 hours of quiet – anywhere – is priceless.

  12. david says

    @John – ??? WHat are you talking about… My 3month took 10 flights already including TATL (all in first class, except a domestic Jetblue segment). He actually felt way better on average when in the plane including take off and landing then at home and almost did not cry at all for all of these flights Where at home he does cry often. I think the vibration, noise puts him to sleep like a day at the SPA.

  13. Jason says

    The thing is even back in coach – people give you glares and sighs when your kid cries. We’ve flown first class twice with our youngest who luckily slept all the time – but we were certainly stressed about it. And as others said – should we turn down the upgrade to get the same treatment on coach?

    The more disappointing thing is my wife has flown by herself with all three of our kids under 8 in coach and people not only give her grief they haven’t helped her put carry ons above etc. sigh.

  14. Eric says

    My last infant in first flight resulted in the kid’s juice bottle leaking from the overhead bin all over my white dress shirt on the way to business meetings for the day. So I have experience being directly affected.
    Yet, I have no issue with kids being many places, but with that comes parental responsibility. Your child should not be impacting my experience. This means no excessive noise, we would not let adults sit in their seats and talk very loudly or yell uncontrollably. This means your kids food and beverages should stay contained and be consumed without spilling on me. It means the parents should not require help to get the job done.
    If parents properly execute the responsibilities of parenthood, your infant can be at my next 5 star restaurant and in First Class.

  15. says

    +1 Jared, David, Jason – Have traveled business class with our then 1 year old to Hawaii and Galapagos, and it was much easier to get him to play quietly and sleep with the extra space and less commotion. I was even able to set up a portable crib for the night flight from HNL-EWR (no, not FAA approved, but they were happy to have a sleeping baby). Would have been a much more trying experience for us and everyone else had we been in coach.

    The thing is, I never would let him cry in business and first class-I’d have gone with him to the galley in coach-it’s simply the right thing to do, and especially on a night flight where people paid to be able to sleep properly. But at least for me, it’s far *less* stressful flying with a baby or toddler in business/first because we’re both more comfortable and have more space. The cramped and noisy conditions in coach make a fussy baby/toddler far more likely.

  16. Patrick says

    My vote is for no babies/infants/children under 12 allowed to fly commercial. They should take the greyhound.

  17. Ra says

    @Jared – this is the most precious, sanctimonious garbage I’ve ever heard. Your responsibility as a parent includes making sure your children are not a nuisance. You chose to have ‘em, you keep ‘em out of my way and out of my earshot.

    I say make 1st class always baby-free. Also, can we make P.S. Flights baby-free as well?

  18. Benjamin says

    I’ve flown with my son in first and business class on several international long-hauls and we have two more round-trips booked right now. We could obviously survive flights in coach if necessary, but, since these are leisure trips, we’d probably just skip many of them.

    Flying up front allows my son to enjoy/tolerate the experience and therefore stay in a good mood; in coach, he would become fussy pretty quickly. In premium classes, he can nap easier when lying flat (just like his parents can), we can get up and play in the galley or by the exit doors without being in anybody’s way or disturbing other passengers, and we have the help of the flight attendants on occasion. For example, flying on Asiana in regional business last year, the flight attendants took our son and played with him for about 30 minutes while my wife and I ate; I would never have asked them to do this, but they volunteered. Finally, it’s great having the flexibility to eat when my son is sleeping, not just when the meal cart is coming through.

    As others have said, I can’t believe you’ll be using your miles to redeem seats in coach once you have a family…

  19. mommypoints says

    While I have never flown with our 21 month old in First/Business (because we don’t usually fly First/Business ourselves), it seems odd to me that some feel crying babies belong in coach. I don’t personally feel that people in coach are any less “important” or want crying babies around them any more than those sitting in the first few rows of the aircraft.

    No matter where you sit your baby, it is your job to do everything you can to try and make the experience as good as possible for your baby, other passengers, and yourself. There are tons of things you can do to increase that likelihood, but of course you can’t ensure 100% that the baby will never cry.

    Regardless if you bought your ticket or scored an upgrade, first class is still public transportation. Noise cancelling ear phones are a great idea, as is a little patience and empathy when parents are doing the best they can to ensure peace for everyone.

    I agree completely that you really don’t know what you will do in some situations until you have children yourself. Everyone I know with kids has broken many of their “when I have kids, I will never……” statements. It is just virtually impossible to really put yourself in the mindset of a parent until you are one. For example, I was never, never, never going to use one of those backpack/leash contraptions when traveling with my toddler and guess what, we own a monkey backpack leash because it is what is safest in some situations with our kiddo.

    I feel super bad for the couple you describe that was arguing on the airplane about trying to keep their kiddos calm. While arguing never helps, it is hard when you are stressed, the kids are crying, and you can’t be everywhere at once to try and help. I guess the silver-lining of that story is that at least they were trying.

    I hope you don’t win the baby lottery on your next flight! Or the “black magic” lottery either………. :)

  20. Bgiagg says

    This whole topic and reasoning is pretty low. ‘I am paying $20000 so I deserve to be well rested’, so the people spending $2000 in coach don’t? It’s sad some people associate basic rights with $ — ‘I am staying in lounge so I deserve clean bathroom’, ‘I am eating fancy resaurant so I deserve not to get food poisoning’, as opposed to the people staying in public area or eating in KFC?

    It’s worse when a lot of people think $ also entitles them to violate other people’s rights. ‘I paid $$$ so you don’t deserve to give your baby comfort’?

    It’s the worst when both thinkings are often correct in this society — the only reason you don’t deserve to get well rested by paying $20000, is because that’s what people paying $100k for a cabin or $200k to ride private jet for.

  21. Carl says

    I have kids and I’ve traveled with my kids throughout their lives.

    I strongly believe that kids should travel in coach. Once kids are mature enough to be alone, parents can be in first/business and kid in coach; before that, parent with kid(s) in coach.

    It neither teaches the child the right things about life to be in the premium cabin, nor is it respectful of the adults who have paid (or earned their upgrade) to have the kids in the premium cabin. People in coach have self-selected an economy experience already. It’s discourteous for parents to bring kids or toddlers or babies into the premium cabin.

  22. Scott says

    If I were a parent flying with a baby, just imagine how much harder it would be to travel with him in coach. There’s half as much room (or even less) and now I’m uncomfortable as well as the baby. IMO, you don’t get a guarantee of anything in first class. It’s an improvement over the barebones environment of coach, and if I had children I would use instruments or cash to upgrade every time. Every time I ask the GA to pass me over on an upgrade (b/c my companion hasn’t been) I tell him to give it to someone elderly or with a baby if they can.

  23. AM says

    I’ve never flown first class and don’t have kids. Obviously my view may not reflect those of other readers, but I get this feeling that First Class customers “deserve” the peace and quiet while Economy customers need to “put up with it”. Somehow paying thousands more for your airfare means you should not experience any of the nuisances of flying? Unbelievable. Yes, send all non-desirable people back to the Economy cabin because those people have “self-selected an economy experience already”.

  24. Frank says

    I’ve raised three children and traveled with them on numerous occasions — never in first class until they were at least five years old and quite well-behaved and quiet.

    If I were on an international flight and had paid (in dollars or in scarce upgrades) for a lie-flat bed in F or C, I’d be extremely angry if someone brought a screaming child with them into that cabin. The whole idea of the lie-flat bed is to be able to sleep. Having a crying, screaming child in that environment would be no less rude than playing a movie on your laptop without headphones, or having a non-stop, top-of-your-voice conversation with someone.

    As for children on planes in general, what gets to me — what will really make me angry — are the kids whose parents clearly never set any limits for them at home. These are kids who are used to getting their way, and now they’re on an airplane where, no matter what they might say, they’re not allowed to undo their seatbelt or turn on their DVD player. I was on a recent SEA-KOA flight where the parents two rows ahead of us had two little boys, probably 3 and 5, who were just like this. They spent much of the flight screaming, kicking the seats ahead of them, thrashing around, and even hitting their own parents. I don’t blame the kids, I blame mom and dad for having such lousy parenting skills. Now, in the row between them and us was a family of three with a daughter, probably 4, who couldn’t have been more perfectly behaved. At the end of the flight, my wife and I made a point of complimenting the little girl for being so well-mannered.

    Parents, if you’re going to take your kids on airplanes, for the love of all that is holy, first teach them on the ground that parental instructions must be followed and that tantrums achieve nothing.

  25. Denise says

    You said ‘ People get a lot more irritated by infants in first or business class than in coach,’

    That’s just BS. People in coach are just as irritated, but we just know we can’t pull any sort of ‘don’t you know who I am’ attitude. So in the absense of the ability to actually change the situation, just like I can’t make the linebacker sized dude who is now elbowing me the whole flight vanish, we plebs just choose to ignore and move along with life.

    Please note: I fly across country twice weekly at this point, but its a ‘superstar’ elite laden flight, and I am still at the low end of the wait list, so I AM a freq flier. I just don’t get upgrades much.

  26. chris says

    We have taken our son when he was under two on two different flights in J LAX-CDG on AF and in F LAX-LIH on Delta. The AF flight we got him his own seat and so we had the three in the middle in a 777. There were three infants in J on that flight and all of them had their own seat booked. As a parent traveling in F/J I too want ot arrive as well rested as possible so i think little ones should be allowed in f/J only if they buy a whole seat.

  27. BR says

    It seems like there’s at least one baby on every flight I take. Why do people need to bring their babies on a plane at all? Can’t you leave them with grandma while you go on vacation? I understand there may be some circumstances where you’d have to bring your baby on a plane (e.g. moving to other side of the country), but I think in most cases you don’t need to bring your baby with you.

    I know many parents would disagree, but just my opinion. Leave the crying baby at home and enjoy a peaceful vacation away. If you don’t want to leave your baby at home, don’t go on vacation or drive to your destination instead.

  28. bsmnasr says

    I cannot tell you how many time I’ve flown in First or Business class and been unable to sleep because of a person nearby snoring through the entire flight. We don’t hear near as many complaints about snorers as we do children and on long haul flights there are way more nose/throat bassoons than diapers.

    My 18 month hold has flown 60 flights and over 130K miles in her short life and generally makes much less noise in first, business or economy than the average snorer. Further, on my flight from Houston to Washington, DC this past week, I had to listen to a couple bickering back and forth for almost two hours. They were carrying on like no one else was on the plane. No one said anything to or about them.

    Most children who are flying don’t know what’s going on as flying isn’t an every day experience, cannot communicate their needs and just want love and attention. Can an infant flying in first be inconvenient sometimes? Sure. But the one thing every flyer has in common is that he or she was once a child. Maybe what is needed is patience on our part and an understanding that a child’s need for food, to have his/her ears clear, etc is as important (or more so) than an adult’s need to arrive well rested.

  29. rich (arizona) says

    First I think lap kids should not be allowed on any flight. Secondly I would say on a 3 class flight then kids should be ok in business but not first.

    The bad trend that I’ve been seeing with infants is parents taking them to the MOVIE theater. WTF? They bring in a stroller and try to watch the movie. What idiot does that? No movie theater should allow anyone that young into a theater.

  30. Curious George says

    I guess we have been lucky with our 5 year old. 3 trips to LHR, 3 trips to NBO, One of those TK deals to KUL, all J tickets and never any issues. We plan way ahead for things to keep her entertained, like I’m sure most parents do. Always apologize in advance to people sitting around us in case she does have a meltdown. A couple of times we have had seatmates switch seats upon seeing a child, and they have come back to us at the end of the flight to compliment us on how well behaved our daughter is.

    We did fly a KUL-SIN segment that had a crying baby the entire flight. Someone actually threw a note to the parents telling them to shut their kid up and she got up and made an announcement to the entire cabin asking who did it. It was surreal, I still can’t figure out how the note got to her. So I guess we can see both sides of the issue.

    We just have been extremely lucky and trust me, lounge access (especially ones with kids play areas), fast track immigration at foreign airports, FA’s that go the extra mile and do stuff like on demand dining (so you can eat after your child is asleep), the extra space. It makes traveling with a lot less stressful, and that makes the parents and baby happy.

  31. Mark says

    Lucky, I’m totally with you on both issues — passengers have the right to recline their seats in coach or bring infants into first class.

    What I like most about your discussion, though, is that you don’t take an “it’s all about me” approach. You think about how your actions will impact others.

    I can’t *guarantee* that my two children won’t cry on a flight, but as a parent and passenger I will guarantee that I’ll do whatever I can to make life as pleasant as possible for my children and fellow passengers. If that means travelling coach, bringing enough food or distractions for my children, making sure they’re well rested, or offering to buy fellow passengers a drink when all else fails, so be it.

  32. says

    It absolutely blows my mind that people believe children shouldn’t travel at all, that they should be left at home. First of all, not all of us live near grandparents. Some of us have families in other countries. Some of us want to show our children the world, and teach them for a young age how not to be a snotty adult who thinks kids should be seen and not heard, or even in some cases as shown by these prior comments, neither seen nor heard.

    Let us not forget that every single person in this world was a child once too.

  33. Craig says

    Other than the occasional few minutes of crying on takeoff or landing, I’ve never had a problem with babies on planes…they usually doze off pretty quickly. Kids between 2 and 4 or so – mobile, full of energy, but not yet old enough to understand “knock it off or you can kiss your XBox goodbye for a month” – are much more likely to be a problem.

    I will go so far as to say that some parents just aren’t willing to accept that some kids, for whatever reason, just don’t cope with flying well, to the point where (no matter what class) they cross the line from “understandable” to “unacceptable”, such as kids that kick the seatbacks non-stop. If your kid isn’t ready to fly, don’t fly, unless it’s an emergency.

    Most kids are fine, though – the biggest beef I usually have with kids (or, more precisely, their parents) is when they have a game or movie but no headphones. After my last experience I had with that, I started tucking the headphones that came with my last phone in my carry-on bag just in case a parent needed them.

    I used to fly between NYC and Florida several times a year – my recommendations are good noise-cancelling headphones, an iPod, eyeshades, and – when not driving at the destination – vodka.

  34. Andrew says

    My favorite baby experience happened on a flight from LHR-IAD a few months ago. There was a baby about 12 rows ahead of me, on the other side of the plane. The baby started crying with about 2 hours to go in the flight. The guy in front of my got so agitated, it was PRICELESS to watch him. He called the flight attendand over no less than six times and literally said “It’s your job to go make that baby stop crying.”

    He was all the entertainment I needed for the rest of the flight…

  35. Curious George says

    It’s funny that the CEO of MH tweeted the “no babies in F” tweet. The most child friendly flight we ever took was on MH IST-KUL.

    The FA’s went way above the call of duty with our daughter (she was 3 years old at the time). They would take her hand and take her on a tour of the plane, constantly ask her (by name) if she would like anything, bring special treats and toys to her. My wife and I were blown away by the service they gave her. And all of it was voluntarily given, we never asked for any of it. The return segment was the same level of service with a different crew.

    And making sure my kids can see the world and get exposed to different cultures is very important to my wife and I. We are lucky that we can do it in comfort, but even if it was all Y travel, we wouldn’t change our travel habits.

  36. traveling dad says

    You definately touched on a nerve. I’ve been fortunate enough to have flown all over the world in coach, business and first with my kids since they were babies. They are now teenagers.

    I would argue that you enter into a type of “social contract” when flying a non private jet. You have to expect and accept that you will be with all types and ages of people in all cabins.

    Parents are stressed out enough flying with kids and shouldn’t have to deal with people who think that kids shouldn’t be flying in the “their” cabin. I hate to say it but people here in the US are the biggest a@%holes when dealing with kids on planes. I’ve seen a mother with two young kids struggle with managing her kids and belongings while being bumped around and shunned by fellow passengers only to find out later that her husband is fighting for the US in the Middle East.

    You think its fun when your connecting flight is 6 hours late, everything in the airport is closed, and you have run out of diapers and food?

    I’ve had my fair share of hearing crying and having my seat kicked but that’s life. The only issue I have is when parents just let their kids run wild and don’t care.

    I think that people who don’t want kids with them in certain cabins should be required to fly in and out of Orlando a few times during school vacations!

  37. AS says

    To @BR and maybe @Carl: let’s allow the kids to travel in F/C. If kids inconvenience your ‘premium’ experience so much, maybe you should stay home instead and enjoy the peace and quiet of your own home, where you have the right to decide who comes and goes. An airline is a quasi-public good, not your private club.

  38. Bob says

    I agree wholeheartedly with those who find the idea that those with a higher ticket price, or those more frequently upgraded, are somehow more deserving of a relaxing cabin experience.

    It’s these attitudes of entitlement that I find completely ridiculous. Obviously, if you’re paying for an F or J ticket, you hope to have a good flight experience. Someone paying for coach hopes to have that same good flight experience–although a much less luxurious one.

    You pay first and foremost for transportation, but also for the food, seat, etc. As someone mentioned above, you do not pay for a guaranteed restful flight. Ones hope in flying first or business class should be that they are reducing the chances of having a relaxing experience; babies, loud snorers, obnoxious seatmates, smelly people, etc., etc., can all put a damper on that experience. Tough luck.

    Without strict rules about conduct within a plane–noise ordinances, jacket requirements, etc.–you’re going to have people pleased and displeased. People need to get out of the mindset that they are these god among men who shan’t be disturbed. (Quote from Ra above: “You chose to have ‘em, you keep ‘em out of my way and out of my earshot.”)

    This narcissistic, self-indulgent 21st century ideology is quite pathetic. Basically, every step possible should be taken to be a considerate human being–to refrain from talking loudly, to not wear too much cologne, to select an aisle seat if you have IBS… and this includes chiding ones children if they are misbehaving. But the operative word there is misbehaving: children ought not to do certain things at certain stages. Crying, as an infant, is not one of those things. If a parent makes reasonable steps to accommodate their fellow passengers (not bringing a colicky infant on a flight unless necessary, not letting them run amok, etc.) then a crying child should bring mild discomfort, at worst.

    Half of the time I think if people stopped focusing on these little nuisances, and kept to themselves–being civil, donning some noise cancelling headphones if necessary–there would be much less ill will. And, in the same way that parents should take all reasonable steps to ensure that their infant won’t cause unnecessary distress, passengers (Y, J, & F) should take all reasonable steps to prepare for that snorer, that baby, that whatever.

    If we all were as respectful as possible and took ownership of our own travel experiences, we’d have much less grievances overall.

  39. brian says

    hehe if these comments are any indication, writing about babies in first is like doing a post about tipping on a restaurant blog.

    since there’s really no “winning” on this topic i’ll just tell my parents from hell story. preparing for takeoff, mom and dad have largely ignored the 3+ requests from the FA to please put the child’s toys beneath the seat and retrieve him from the aisle where he was playing so we could take off. it finally escalates to the point where the FA looks at the parents and says, “you have two choices: put the toys away and put him in your lap, or i have you escorted off this plane by security for interfering with the flight. you have 5 seconds to decide. 5.. 4… 3….”. Half the plane erupted in applause. And you know what, it’s THOSE PEOPLE who ruin it for everyone. And a good FA can’t shut up a crying baby, but s/he can shut up a passenger whose empathy and common sense have failed.

  40. Nick says

    I don’t mind babies in first, I do think that their should be a law outlawing lap infants though, it’s dangerous and very intrusive on fellow passengers in coach or first. The babies should be strapped in.

  41. says

    I don’t think there is any legal way to bar children from any class on a U.S. carrier so a lot of this is just venting. Ear plugs, private jet, stay home–those are about the only options available for the “no kids” contingent. Although at times I did think of another use for those large overhead bins…

  42. Golfingboy says

    I have offered many parents traveling with infants an upgrade to F and the amazing thing is that they never say yes right away. They always talk about it and how it will affect their child. Often, they would turn down the offer citing the way the F seats are set up it will be too difficult to manage the child opposed to having a whole Economy Plus row to themselves [parents on both end with the middle seat open]. I tend to think that F would make their trip easier with more attention from the FA, bigger seat, and some other amenities, but that is untrue on flights with domestic F seats.

    I know some who books the entire row just for 2 people [parent and the infant] and it is still cheaper than 1 F seat.

    Makes sense to me.

  43. Rich A says

    Some babies (and older) are spoiled and scream every time they don’t get attention or their way. On a Sept. flight from London to Chicago, a 1 1/2 to 2 year old behind us screamed 80% of the time, with the parents doing little or nothing. This kid was plain obnoxious and her parents could have cared less. Babies in Business and First, absolutely no way. Why would anyone have to pay for a trip from Hell.

  44. PanAM says

    I feel bad for anyone who is that self-important that they feel that only the underclass people in coach “deserve” to have a crying baby! Sorry that you had to “suffer” in coach last week, Lucky. But seriously – get a life!

    I know you like to focus on luxury travel and that’s fine, though I like you analyses of FF deals better than another picture of your sandwich of minibar. But whether it’s coach, or F, window or aisle – I don’t think you and a lot of others really appreciate what you have.

    A baby (or weird neighbor, or seat malfunction, or whatever) bothers you for a few hours? You’re flying through the air, in comfort and speed that was unthinkable not too long ago. Our ancestors braved uncharted oceans to explore the world, the early aviation pioneers gave their lives to perfect air travel.

    I still get a thrill every single flight – though a bit more so on a 777 than an ER4.

    Millions of people don’t have enough to eat, or couldn’t travel past the next village if they wanted to, or can’t even make their car payment. I don’t think we should feel guilty because we can – but imagine how lucky some folks past or present, would feel just to be in the last row in Y. Just get some perspective, is all I’m sayin’

  45. Simon says

    Numerous commenters have made the point that premium cabin passengers do not deserve more. For example, Bgiagg suggested that those paying 20K for a premium seat should not be more ‘rested’ (comfortable) than those paying for a 2K coach seat. He added, “It’s sad some people associate basic rights with $”.

    Comfort is a sliding scale – it’s not a right. The label “first-class” is self-describing. First-class is the best accommodations an airline can provide. Cabin atmosphere is part of that product, noise-level included. I challenge anyone to find an airline that would suggest that crying babies or any unneighborly noise is part of what premium customers should expect. First-class is supposed to be comfortably quiet.

    Quiet babies aren’t the problem. Crying babies, barking dogs and exceptionally noisy passengers are the problem. The spasmodic lululemon-wearing Steven Adler imitator with the dog in her purse who oh so creatively prevented any of those within rows of her on a delayed CO1406 last night from getting any shuteye? Yes. People who fart in their seat, the putridly unwashed, over-fragranced, Angry Bird-playing and all the other people that seem to have no awareness or care that we around them have functioning senses that can be offended? Yes. They are the problem. I call them the ‘flying inconsiderates’, or ‘flidiots’ for short. Flidiots should not be in a premium cabin. Neither coach. A car. They should be in a car. Where their obnoxiousness can go forth, bounce off the glove-like confines of their automobile and sucker-punch them over, and over, and over.

    Flidiots inspire all sorts of things. For example, last night, I thought of an on-board jail cell. And when lululemon inexplicably crawls on the floor uncomfortably close, as in under her seatmate to talk to her bag-bound dog in her loud toilet-brush voice for the sixth time, jail. Asking for crackers and nuts, then taking them to bathroom for 15 minutes for the third time? Jail.

    Or, how about a tow hook on airplanes. Her trailer – connect it to the back of the plane. It’s a win-win. She gets own private airbonre suite, and those crammed into the flying sardine can – they get to fly without worrying about what the hell she’s doing with crackers, nuts and a doggie bag in the bathroom.

    Getting back to my point. It’s flidiots that the problem. They have been and always will be. So, if you can’t beat em, join em. Get a dog, stick it in a purse, buy a lululemon space-suit, medicate, drink, medicate some more, and pick a red-eye flight, where you can relish in the process of sucking the little remaining class out of first-class while you do whatever the hell it is your doing in the bathroom with nuts and crackers.

  46. Simon says

    @PanAM: Your quilt-of-guilt argument reminds me of my grandma, who used to tell me to finish every morsel of food on my plate because people on the other side of the world were starving. Firstly, the other side of the world at the time was the western hemisphere. Secondly, she was trying to use guilt to get me to eat like a pig.

    Implying that those wanting a brochure-like on-board experience are unappreciative or self-important is a shamefully manipulative tactic.

    You tell lucky that he doesn’t appreciate what he has. But, in the same stream you express your lack of appreciation for his posts where he shares photos of a humble sandwich and minibar. No, you prefer his posts that help you. Analyses of deals and other opportunities to help you get yours.

    Lucky is very appreciative. I love that he focuses on luxury travel, deals and unappreciated details like sandwiches and minibars. I also love how differently from you, he doesn’t lump coach, first-class, a window and aisle seat into the same category of desireability. The fact that Lucky can recognize and appreciate that difference is perhaps what makes him so enviously lucky.

    The fact that we have the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of flight is reason to respect it and behave in a manner that does not diminish it to being something less than it can be.

  47. Bluto says

    Im a parent of a 3 year old and now a newborn. I have a crazy number of miles and points but I haven’t used them lately because I am concerned them bothering other passengers. For our next trip I am planning to do Amtrak. I think that could be a good option for other parents on this thread.

    On one trip when my son was 2 he went berserk. Some parents know that when your child gets into that zone there’s pretty much nothing you can do that Child Services wouldnt haul you away for. He kicked and screamed for the whole hour flight. Now, when that happens I just issue frequent flier miles and a voucher as compensation :D

  48. Boraxo says

    Our children (now 5 & 2)always fly in F when I can upgrade them. Like adults, they do better in F – they can both have the window seat and plenty of space for games, stuffed animals, etc. Coach is much more problematic as toddlers try to kick the seat in front (we don’t let them) and there is more space for your DVD players and ipads. We have flown SFO=SYD with a 15-month old and he slept most of the way.

    Really, it is not children that are the problem it is parents who don’t anticipate their children’s needs.

  49. mark says

    You write: “the benefit that comes with first class, which is being able to arrive relaxed.”

    Since when is that a published benefit? What about economy plus sections? Does that benefit come with economy plus, as well?

  50. Simon says

    @mark: “Experience the luxury of United First” it reads. It continues with, “your oasis of privacy, comfort and choice.” If United intends for their First Class passengers to be comfortable, then arriving relaxed is part of that elevated experience. So, to answer your first question – united.com.

    To answer your second question, no. Economy Plus is a coach seat. You get extra legroom, and “extra comfort at the best value.” So, while you should be more comfortable than those in standard Economy seating, it’s not remotely the comfort of First.

    When you look at airline’s, it’s clear that their premium cabins are intended to be incomparably comfortable, and quiet. While reality and people may impair the ability for airlines to deliver, it’s inarguably their intent.

    And make no mistake, airlines strive for quiet cabins, especially those in premium spaces. Just look at the Lufthansa A380. The First Class cabin has special sound insulating curtains on the galley, walk ways the surrounding the cabin. This is in addition to the existing sound reduction efforts throughout the aircraft. The special effort given to reduce First Class cabin ambient noise by 7 dB was to improve comfort. As was increasing the humidity to over 20%. These seemingly small, but special details are implemented to make First Class passengers exceptionally comfortable. And according to the New Oxford American dictionary, to make comfortable is to provide “physical ease and relaxation”.

    When passengers aren’t negating those extraordinary attempts at improving comfort, the opportunity to arrive relaxed exists.

  51. BR says

    @Andrea – I don’t have a problem with kids flying on planes. It’s babies I have a problem with. You say kids should be able to see the world. I agree, but your 8 month old screaming baby certainly isn’t going to remember your trip to Hawaii. Save some money and leave the baby with grandparents or a babysitter. Then when they’re old enough to actually appreciate the experience, take them with you on vacation.

  52. Patrick says

    These comments are so full of logical fallacies that any semblance or reasonable discussion fled long ago. Still, I’m unable to resist throwing another log on the fire:

    Let’s split the difference: babies (or parents with babies) should never be upgraded.

  53. Tee says

    Wow, Lucky’s post has sured touched a nerve. I’m not a parent but I travel weekly for work and have been on plenty of flights in coach and first in which there were babies (not kids). I wouldn’t say I’m annoyed by babies crying; instead, the sound creates a lot of anxiety for me. Their cries make me want to help and there’s not a lot that can be done for a poor child who’s ears are killing them as we ascend and descend.

    I recently sat next to a mom with an infant in her lap on a Jetblue redeye flight from OAK to JFK. It was an eye-opener, to say the least, even though I was beyond exhausted from the workweek. First, more than a dozen babies were on this very full flight, making it the first in-air nursery I’d ever seen!

    Secondly, and the most surprising turn of events, all the babies on this plane fell asleep before we taxied except for the one sitting next to me. The baby was overly excited by the in-flight entertainment system and wouldn’t go to sleep even though the cabin lights were dimmed. She bounced around her mom’s lap poking the screen for about an hour or so, with her mom visibly upset. I usually wear earplugs and a sleep mask during my flights but I could still feel the poor thing bouncing around and kicking my armrest.

    From my vantage point, there wasn’t much mom could do (a bottle and stroll through the aisles didn’t seem to help). After about the 5th stroll down the aisle, mom came back with a huge smile on her face. One of the parents at the back of the plane had given her some Children’s Benadryl — who knew! It was a godsend, that’s for sure, and probably explains why all the other babies were out like a light.

    It took about 30 minutes for the baby to fall asleep and I’ve never seen such a look of relief as I saw on mom’s face. Baby remained asleep for the rest of the flight and was still knocked out when we landed. I wonder how prevalent the Bendaryl use is? It certainly came in handy on this trip.

    On this flight I learned to have compassion for traveling babies and parents. I saw this mom make extraordinary efforts to settle her daughter, and saw another parent reach out to help another in need. That’s pretty cool in my book, and was worth the exhaustion to witness.

  54. says

    @BR – I love how you think it is so easy to say to hire a babysitter or have grandma come stay with the kids. Some of us have no family around, and have to travel to see them. Why is this concept hard to grasp? If we want to see family we HAVE to fly to see them, and they live in another country.

    But putting that aside as long as I am spending our money it should make no difference to you whether or not my 8 month old remembers an experience. I don’t appreciate sitting next to fat, smelly, obnoxious, sleazy, nosy adults, but I wouldn’t suggest they stop traveling for my convenience.

    And, as people seem to forget, not every baby cries on every flight. My son has been to more countries than many of my friends, and has been flying overseas since he was 2 months, and has never cried on a flight.

  55. Just Me says

    If you’ve paid $20,000 for a first class ticket, plus 10% more for your baby, you damn well deserve to sit in first class with your baby.

    Same goes if you’ve paid 200,000 frequent flier points for your seat.

    In YEARS of flying, I’ve never – not once – had a problem with a baby’s incessant crying. Yes, they cry; yes, sometimes it’s a bit disturbing; but usually they stop when they’re made comfortable again.

    I’ve been far, far more irritated by neighbors talking too loudly, or someone’s music being so loud that I can hear it across the aisle even though the passenger is wearing headphones.

  56. aisleorwindow says

    The no babies in F argument is ridiculous.

    If you travel without earplugs and/or noise-canceling headphones, then you have nobody to blame but yourself.

    It’s not like the parents are poking their kids with needles to try and get them to cry. They wan’t their kids to be just as quiet as you do.

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