Recently I read about a plan by Malaysia Airlines to offer a kid-free economy upper deck aboard its first A380 service starting July 1. Although this feature is only being offered on its nonstop flight between Kuala Lumpur and London (a route I unfortunately would never have reason to travel), I do hope that this bold and controversial offering will expand to other airlines.
While I do not have children, I have cared for babies and small children in the past so I have great respect for all the parents who travel with their children on long flights. At any age, long distance air travel in economy is neither an easy nor a comfortable experience. However, for the baby or small child it is that much more hard and unbearable.
An article on CNN.com stated that “here’s hoping Malaysia Airlines’ next move will be to designate a special zone for drunks and passengers who forgot to take a shower before their flight.” This I feel is a completely valid point. While thankfully I have not encountered many inebriated individuals on flights I’ve been on, I have encountered more than my fair share of obnoxious fliers so I would much prefer the antics of a baby or a well behaved small child than the former. Whether it is the person feels he is every bit entitled to fully recline his seat even though it forces the occupant directly behind him to sit like a canned sardine the entire flight, or the “too large” passenger who does not fit fully into her seat and whose body spills over into the seat of the person sitting next to her; these are actions more obnoxious and obtrusive than any baby who cries for a couple of minutes but then settles down again. On my flight back to the United States from Ireland, the person sitting behind me did not quite understand the touch screen concept (you are supposed to lightly tap buttons for technology to work) of the individual TVs on the seats. And so for the almost six hour flight, my seat was roughly pushed forward every time she wanted to change the volume, pause, play or switch movie offerings. Being the passive person I am, I said nothing and simply endured it and yet were it to happen again, I would want to speak up.
What most intrigues me about this new offering, and why I don’t see it as a bad thing, is that Malaysia Airlines is offering this in their economy class, not just for first and business class passengers; granted, the airline did make the decision to ban infants from first class on its 747-400 routes last year but how many things do airlines do with their economy class passengers in mind that don’t cost extra? While airlines like United began offering economy plus seating (five extra inches of leg room), it’s not free and total cost depends on the distance of your trip, so if you’re flying from Chicago to Hong Kong, it’s not going to be cheap to obtain that extra legroom.
Malaysia Airlines has said that on the new A380s, 350 economy seats on the main deck will be “enhanced and designated as a family and child-friendly in-flight zone.” To the people who take umbrage over what Malaysia Airlines will be doing, do you not see the benefits to this? There are countless parents who, when traveling with their babies or small children are scared and concerned over bothering fellow passengers when their child starts to get fussy or needs to be fed. These are obviously parents who are courteous and respectful fliers for feeling this way. It’s not “segregation” so much as a way I feel for fliers to be more comfortable and relaxed on what are usually unpleasant experiences (at least those traveling in economy for long flights). Families can sit among other families, while those sans children will only need to worry about the much less well behaved and obnoxious older passenger who insists on reclining his seat fully back in the kid-free zone above deck.
Although it would cost me a small fortune to fly to Kuala Lumpur from Pittsburgh and then another small fortune to fly from Kuala Lumpur to London, Malaysia Airlines’ newest offering is definitely something I would like to experience should the occasion ever present itself. I think other airlines should take their cues from Malaysia Airlines in terms of realizing that while economy class fliers seem insignificant from a financial standpoint to the airlines CEOs and other top executives, planes would operate half full or even less if those economy class fliers were not paying a lot of money for such an unpleasant and certainly unmemorable experience. And so it’s nice when once in a long time, an airline is actually offering something to its “steerage” passengers without it costing extra.
Julie is a librarian by day, die-hard travel fanatic and writer by night. When she’s not traveling, she’s either testing out a new recipe or being a foodie in Pittsburgh. If you're interested in seeing where she travels to or what she makes next, follow along via the links below!