Child-free flights? They come with a price

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Peace in the sky: The first seven rows in the economy cabin are off-limits to children under 12 on flights from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Australia, China, Japan and some other destinations. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

London - For many long-haul travellers, it is the nightmare scenario.

You are just settling down for a nap or to read when a young child in the row behind starts screaming or kicking the seat, and doesn’t stop.

Now a budget airline has come up with a solution for passengers who find their journey spoilt by crying babies and toddlers’ tantrums – by introducing child-free zones.

But selecting a seat in the “quiet zone”, which will also have softer lighting, costs up to £22 (about R300) extra.

The idea, which is likely to anger parents as well as appeal to child-free travellers, is being marketed by AirAsia’s no-frills long-haul carrier AirAsia X.

The first seven rows in the economy cabin are off-limits to children under 12 on flights from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Australia, China, Japan and some other destinations.

The airline, which uses the advertising slogan ‘Now everyone can fly’, said the section on its fleet of Airbus A330s, which is separated from the rest of economy by a set of toilets and a curtain, now offers a “more relaxing cabin atmosphere”. Passengers booking in this section must pay between £8 and £22.

The airline is owned by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, the owner and chairman of Premiership football club Queens Park Rangers, who since buying AirAsia in 2001 has transformed it from a loss-making business into Asia’s largest budget airline. Chief executive Azran Osman-Rani said the idea “allows our guests to have a more pleasant and peaceful journey with minimal noise and less disturbance.”

He added: “The airline is not banning kids from travelling, but instead, is enhancing the array of product offerings on board to suit its guests’ individual needs and preferences.”

There are no immediate signs of UK airlines bringing in a similar system, however.

Easyjet said: “We don’t have any plans for anything like this. We have just changed over to a system of fully-allocated seating so customers can choose where they want to sit and don’t plan any more changes.”

British Airways said: “We welcome families in all our cabins and have no plans to offer child-free zones.”

Virgin Atlantic also said it had “no plans” to follow Air Asia’s lead.

A poll by the Tripadvisor website last year found that over a third of Britons would be prepared to pay extra for their flights if they did not have to sit near children. Another survey found 53 percent supported child-free flights.

Last year Malaysia Airlines created a child-free zone on the upper deck of the new Airbus A380 on some of its long haul flights.- Daily Mail

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