Should babies be banned from business class?

An English television host has attempted to kick off a Twitter campaign to have babies booted from the business class cabin, arguing that they constitute an intrusion into a designated working space.

Richard Quest, the anchor of the CNN network's Quest Means Business program, asked his followers to help get the #BIBB tag trending, which refers to “ban babies in business class” (but probably should have been #BBIB).

His mission was linked to the news that Singaporean budget carrier Scoot is now offering a kid-free zone: five rows in at the front of economy class where no passengers under 12 will be allowed to sit.

A ticket for the “ScootInSilence” section costs $US14 ($15.70) extra, and includes an additional 10 centimetres of legroom.

Quest said on Twitter he wanted to encourage airlines to retain the business class cabin as a working space, and that he didn't mind babies and children being seated in first class.

Could the idea of segregating babies and children from higher-paying passengers catch on?

David Flynn, the editor of the Australian Business Traveller website, says he would like to see more airlines attempt to separate families from other travellers in the business class cabin.

“Every now and again there are such brilliant tykes who fly a lot and they have got their little routine down pat, and they are the most wonderful kids, and I compliment the mum and dad at the end of the trip. But those are the exceptions to the rowdy rule, and that's the problem,” he says.

“I do feel that with an increasing number of (international) aircraft having business class divided into two or more cabins, one of those cabins should be set aside as a primary dumping ground for parents with kids. That should be where they go.


“I really think airlines should have a priority where 'if we've got a smaller cabin, this is the one we'll put parents with kids into'. If you're a solo traveller or a couple, you should book in the other cabin.”

Pauline Frommer, the publisher of travel guide Frommers, says segregation might be popular but wouldn't work for practical reasons:

“I don't know how they'd do it from a practical point of view, unless they can cordon off one entire section of a plane (bathroom area to bathroom area) for adults only, which seems unlikely,” she says.

“Here's why I don't think it will work: because if they make, say, the first four rows of economy adult only, someone who paid extra could still spend the flight listening to a toddler chatter in the row behind him (or worse, getting his seat kicked by that toddler).

“With the way planes are now designed, I don't think it's possible to truly segregate in this fashion.”

George Hobica, the founder of Airfarewatchdog, agreed the scheme wouldn't gain traction.

“Just like smoking sections on planes of old when the smoke would drift throughout the aircraft, child-free zones are hard to isolate from child-friendly zones,” he says. “A wailing baby with strong lungs can be heard far and wide across many seat rows. So I don't see how they'd work, and they'd be a nightmare logistically.”

He argues economy travellers would not want to pay a fee for the child-free zone, and that “segregating people because they've procreated is no better than any other type of segregation and would backfire, fee or no fee.”

That is backed up by a survey commissioned by Skift, which found 64 per cent of flyers would not pay extra to sit in a child-free zone.

Flynn says Malaysian Airlines surprised many in the industry when it announced it would no longer allow children in its first class cabin. “That was a really ballsy move,” he says. “At the pointy end of the plane people are paying big bucks, and if it's a family you don't want to turn that sort of money away.”

He says business and first class passengers expect their extra spend to buy a quieter cabin than economy, but that turning away children would continue to be a fraught issue. “If you're paying for two seats – one for your child – do your two seats outvote someone else's single one? Possibly.”