Why child-free zones are great news for parents

Calm before the storm? Child-free zones on planes might not be the chaos we imagine.
Calm before the storm? Child-free zones on planes might not be the chaos we imagine. Photo: Getty Images

A number of airlines have recently offered to segregate their favourite customers from their most offensive.  The noisy, the smelly and the anti-social will now be herded into designated zones and locked up in pens at the back of the plane. Hurrah! No more drunk backpackers belching in my ear.

Oh no sorry, it’s not backpackers they’re targeting it’s children.

The under 12s are banned from certain sections of the plane because they act like rabid baboons, or something equally as unacceptable to people who’ve paid good money not to be bothered by other human beings (unless they’re serving them glasses of Cristal).

When travelling with airlines that view your family as second-class citizens you could carry your seething sense of injustice on as hand luggage, or you could consider that being treated as sub-human can have its upsides:

1. No more death stares:

If you’re a sociopath and take pleasure in making people’s lives an utter misery, holding a bawling child 5 cm away from a total stranger’s ear is the definition of joy. Most parents are not sociopaths and very much care that their child’s screams are loud enough to drown out engine noise. It’s annoying. We get it. There’s really no need for the passive aggressive tutting or the mental disembowelment of our entire family.

In the child zone no one will wish us dead. Our fellow passengers will be too busy grappling with their own brood or using rare periods of peace to inhale the economy class leftovers served as in-flight meals in the child infected part of the plane.

2. Built-in play dates:

Airlines’ define a ‘child’ as anyone who is zero to 12 years. This means little kids will have a ready stream of older kids to play with. Older kids love younger kids, so why not arrange a play date with the sulky pre-teen in aisle D.


11-year-olds are great. Not only do they think your snot soaked toddler is adorable but they are yet to master the art of feigning sleep when asked to play eye spy for the fifteenth time in a row. Your toddler will reciprocate the love because 11-year-olds have a zest for life that daddy only has for 10 minutes after a large coffee. It’s a win win! Not least of all for us parents who can sit back, relax and enjoy the benefits of exploiting under aged carers for hours on end.

3. Extreme comfort:

Kids are hell on wings from the ages of zero to about five or six. After that they can be placated for very long periods with the holy trinity of screens, sleep and sugar. When checking in, ask to sit near children over the age of six. Not only will you have lots of extra room but if your baby kicks off mid-flight the child next to you will be too busy watching whatever piece of animated violence passes as kids’ entertainment these days.

Even if they do mind, who cares? If modern airlines have taught us nothing it‘s that a child’s right to be heard is less important than giving the very drunk, belligerent man in the child-free zone another vodka.

4. Adult avoidance:

Adults can be way worse than their tiny counterparts. I recently had the pleasure of taking a long flight without kids. For the first time in history someone was excited about the prospect of being wedged in an economy class seat for nine hours. Unfortunately I was sat next to a six foot five backpacker who hadn’t showered in two weeks (his proud boast, not my sniffy assumption).  

His legs were too long for economy so he made a quasi business class seat for himself out of my legroom and a good portion of my actual seat.  As I was a parent (and by his definition more or less dead) he coloured my empty existence with endless details of his European shagathon. After the first 30 minutes I wished I were flying with my kids. And your kids. And your neighbour’s kids. After they’d all had no sleep following a 24-hour lolly binge.  

5. Your time will come:

At some point in the next 10-15 years (after your kids have left you and before they gift you with grandkids) you too will board sans children. You’ll take your seat in the nice smelling part of the cabin and try to avoid making eye-contact with terrified parents who shuffle their way down to pariah class. If they look a bit lost, tell them keep going until they find the seats encrusted with dried sick and bits of broken spirit.  

Make sure you keep this list handy in case any of them start crying. You too can try and convince them that they’re not victims of a discrimination that no other member of society would have to endure – no, just tell them in your most convincing voice that treating them as sub-human definitely has its upsides …

… albeit mainly for those without kids.