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Children on Airplanes?

The subject of children on airplanes is sure to elicit conflicting opinions. Every so often, one airline or another threatens to ban children from certain flights or from being seated in certain areas of the plane.

Do you board an airplane hoping no babies or small children will be seated near you?

I admit to an involuntary scanning of my nearby seatmates when I board a plane, hoping not to see any wee ones. As anybody carrying a baby or with a toddler in tow struggles up the aisle, my brain starts silently intoning, “Please don’t sit here.  Please don’t sit here.  Please don’t sit here.”

I feel really badly I do this. That used to be me with the diaper bag and a cute little blonde toddler on my hip.

My worst trip as the parent of children on an airplane happened some 28 years ago on a flight from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to visit my in laws. We must have bought tickets at the last minute because my seat was in the last row, between two businessmen, with an almost two year old boy on my lap. They weren’t smiling. I tried not to let any cheerio dust or apple juice get on them. I don’t recall any smelly or leaky diaper scenario, but maybe I’m just repressing the memory.

Mercifully, the flight was only an hour and the kid (remember, we’re talking about an almost two year old here) managed to keep it together.

In 2012, Malaysia Airlines banned all children under the age of twelve from the upstairs seating on its double decker planes—even from the upstairs economy class. This was an extension of the policy it implemented in 2011, barring children from the first class section.

Prior to a 2011 Travel and Meetings trade show, a survey of 1,000 business class fliers found that 75% of business class airplane passengers are “irritated” by children on airplanes in business class.

Newsflash:  You could have saved the money you spent on the survey.  I’m willing to go out on a limb and guesstimate that 75% of all airplane passengers in every class have at some time been irritated by a child on an airplane (sometimes, their own offspring!).

I’ll go even further. On every flight, in every class, someone is being irritated by another passenger — and many of the irritants are well over the age of twelve.


If you fly with any regularity (once a year is sufficient), you will be familiar with the following scenarios:

  • The yakkers seated behind, in front or next to you who just WILL NOT SHUT UP;
  • The guy next to you who hogs the armrest — for six hours;
  • The large husband and  large wife (we’re talking seat belt extenders) who have chosen window and aisle seats, leaving you squished in the middle;
  • The person next to the window in your row who had more than one beer in the airport and has now learned that you can’t buy beer, you can only rent it. Accordingly this person needs to use the bathroom every time you just manage to fall asleep;
  • The person who, without warning, slams their seat back, propelling a hot (or cold) beverage onto your lap;
  • The person who decided there was no need to shower just to get on an airplane; and,
  • That same person who slumps over onto you every time they fall asleep. This person also drools.

Rather than penalize fliers with children, I’m thinking the answer might be drugs. No, not for the babies – for the grown ups!


From time to time, I’ve read about other airlines, in addition to Malaysia Airlines, contemplating child restricting policies, but the move is controversial. If this is an important issue for you, it’s prudent to check an airline’s policy before plunking down your money for a non-refundable ticket.

Where do you stand (sit?) on the children on airplanes” issue? Would you be in favor of prohibiting children under a certain age from sitting in first class or business class? Should children on airplanes be restricted to certain areas or even to certain flights?

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

Don't forget trains. Parents feel much freer to allow their small children to eat, talk at a higher decibel, whine more and move about on trains as they aren't as confined. And although Amtrak dims the lights at night (hint, hint kids...and parents), it seems quiet time and courtesy for the other riders has become non-existent.

Anne Parris

Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

I love the Quiet Car, if I can get a seat there. It's so much more peaceful in general.

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