According to a story I recently read in The Economist, 74% of business travelers consider children the most annoying component of business-class travel.
The idea that, having paid top dollar for better seating and food, their comfort should be compromised by fidgeting, chatting and even crying youngsters is enough to make some flyers blanche.
One solution proposed was a child-free zone in first and business class, sort of like a quiet zone on a train, except instead of prohibiting cell phones, it would prohibit…well, children.
I have a confession, and it is this: each time I hold a business or first class ticket in my grubby little paws, I somehow morph into a completely different person. Now, admittedly, each time I’ve flown first or in business class, I’ve been traveling on business or with my husband (honeymoon!) – i.e. my children were with their father or grandparents, and I wasn’t toting a single crayon or Star Wars DVD. But I have to say that with my golden ticket in hand, the other mothers with children on the plane were no longer my fellow brave soldiers in parenting. Instead, these beleaguered women transformed into mere instruments of irritation whose carry-on luggage of a screaming child threatened to interrupt my tranquil viewing of a Nancy Meyers flick. How dare they??
I’d see these poor mother-creatures stumbling down the jetway, folding their strollers, hoisting the diaper bags, and looking miserable (the fathers usually look somewhat human, in one of life’s many misogynist cruelties). And you know what? I looked at those mothers the same way the girl who finally made it into the popular clique looks back at her former cafeteria table of AP nerds and mathletes. There’s that same sense of shuddering–I am really one of you wretched people!–and fear–please don’t make me go back there!
Surely the only people who are even more obnoxious than I suddenly become (note: my elitism recedes as I return to the world of the proletariat at baggage claim) are those who pay top dollar so that their kids can bother the crap out of honeymooners in first class.
I am a strong supporter of the optional quiet zone section idea (which not only applies to children, by the way, but also obnoxiously loud people), but despite my snobby irritation, I find that I just can’t agree to a blanket ban on blanket-toting kids in first and business class. To do so would be a formalization of my internal elitist betrayal of my fellow parents. No matter how much we may look like bedraggled pieces of flotsam and jetsam, even people traveling with children remain people, with (shudder) equal rights. I was proud to read the letter received by the Economist written by Jessica Morley, age 6:
“Sir, you are wrong when you say that children are like cigarettes or mobile telephones. No one has to smoke or use a mobile phone, but EVERYONE has to be a child, and you were once one too. You need children to pay for the pensions of miserable old people like you. Now pick on someone your own size.”
Plus, with all that legroom, it’s actually significantly harder to kick the seat in front of you.