Not long ago we posted The Best Airlines for Kids and Families, with details on the discounts and perks available for infants and children on some of our favorite kid-friendly airlines. Many of the kid-friendly airlines we recommend are Asian carriers, such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Malaysian Airlines, however, recently made news when it announced that infants are now banned from first class cabins on their Boeing 747-400 Kuala Lumpur-London, Kuala Lumpur-Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur-Sydney flights.
Ostensibly, babies are not allowed for safety reasons, because there are no bassinets, but other airlines do equip their similar 747-400 cabins with bassinets, so that couldn't be the whole story.
in a June 20 Tweet Malaysia Airlines CEO Tengku Azmil admitted that the airline has received complaints from childless first class passengers that they can't sleep due to crying infants, prompting the ban.
At this point, some of you may be rolling your eyes–who are these parents that are flying first class with a baby, anyway, and if they're that wealthy, they must have some pretty good other options, right? But before we dismiss this as affecting .1% of traveling families, let's remember that some other “innovations” such as a fee for even the first piece of checked baggage were originally introduced by just one carrier (American) before other airlines (United, then US Airways, etc.) followed suit. So be sure that other carriers will be watching Malaysia Airlines.
Similarly, why stop at First Class? Or at babies? There are certainly plenty of business class (and even coach) passengers who would no doubt welcome baby-free flights, or even child-free flights, since realistically, kids 2-5 years old can create even more noise and disruption while tantruming than most babies.
As a parent who has traveled business class with and without kids, I can see both perspectives, and the most strident voices on both sides are not only doing their cause a disservice, they're wrong:
Stridently in favor of infant/child ban: Kids and their parents should be relegated to the back of the coach section, so as not to disturb any of the premium passengers, who have either paid or booked an award ticket expecting a comfortable, quiet experience, especially on a night flight.
Our take: Parents want that too, and from personal experience it's much easier to get most babies or toddlers to sleep in a dark, quiet environment, making business or first class a much better environment for them, their parents, and other passengers. And by the way, we've seen adults in premium cabins who behave badly and are more disruptive than babies.
Stridently against infant/child ban: Babies and even little kids can and will cry; they're not machines, and it's not a reflection on our parenting if we can't get them to instantly go to sleep or be quiet. If I've paid to fly in a premium cabin with my child it's my right to stay there. And no, I am not going to drug my kid with Benadryl or give him a shot of whisky!
Our take: Agreed, you can't always stop a child from crying, but that's where common courtesy plays a role. Just as you would ask (or have the flight attendant ask) a boisterous, perhaps slightly drunk first class passenger to either be more quiet or go have their conversation in the galley or back of the plane, it's your responsibility to take your baby or child to the back of the plane (if seatbelt signs are not on) to try to soothe and calm him.
We'll have to wait and see whether other airlines also start to ban infants or children from premium cabins, but as a parent who works hard to ensure her son's good behavior on flights and appreciates how much easier traveling with a child can be using business class award bookings, I hope the ban won't spread and common sense courtesy can prevail.
What do YOU think? Should babies and kids be banned from First Class?
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Photo: Lance McCord