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Majority of Flyers Want Child-Free Sections on Planes

Are children the smokers of the 21st century skies, so annoying to their fellow passengers that they need to be quarantined  in their own special section of an airplane?

According to almost sixty percent of respondents to a recent poll, the answer is yes.

The Internet fare comparison website Skyscanner asked site visitors about the topic  following a recently highly publicized incident where a woman received a monetary settlement from Qantas after she was seated near a small child who screamed so loudly, she claims she suffered hearing loss.  Not only did a significant majority support the child-free and family-only sections of the plane, a further 20 percent believe that the airlines should offer “adults only” flights where, presumably, not only would they enjoy a scream free environment,  the in-flight movie might actually be something worth watching.

Before everyone gets all tied up in knots, know that the industry analysts USA Today interviewed said that bringing a family-only section into existence would be near impossible to pull off since the airlines often do not know how many families they will have on a flight and who they are when they board a plane. If that explanation sounds dubious to you, recall that we are talking about an industry where seating children and parents several aisles apart is considered perfectly acceptable so it’s quite likely these analysts know what they are talking about.

The commenters over at Consumerist had a lot of fun with this survey, with more than a few suggesting that perhaps the airlines should go into the business of selling earplugs, and others speculating that if the airlines implemented such a policy, they would soon begin charging child-free passengers more money to not be in the aisles closest to the new kiddie section.

So what do you think? I, for one, don’t think it such a bad idea, provided someone could figure out a practical way to make it work without raising fares for families. As someone who found flying with my older son as a toddler so trying that my younger son didn’t so much as see a plane anywhere but in the skies above our house till he was in elementary school, I would have welcomed a family-only section. It certainly would have made the red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York when my then two-year-old son was the only passenger who appeared uninterested in sleep much easier if I were surrounded by sympathetic parents instead of angry businessmen. It also would have saved me the grief of — in the days before I had children — being trapped on the tarmac one row in front of a parent who got into a prolonged argument with his rather fragrant three-year-old son about whether he had gone “poopy” and, if so, if he could have permission to change his diaper.

I get my fellow blogger KJ’s argument over at Slate’s DoubleX that this is just one more instance of family bashing, but the fact is that flying with children  – in fact, flying period — can be a difficult experience in 2010. Why not try to make it a bit easier? Really, what’s so awful about a special family section? Then again, I see the need for many special sections. Here’s one other: how about a dedicated seating area for those who insist on bringing too much baggage on board and hogging the bins. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could fight with one another over space instead of with the rest of us?

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Photo: FlickrMa/1974

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