There have been several recent surveys that enumerate how loath the general flying public is to sitting near children on planes. One found a whopping 86% of respondents wanting family travelers to be sequestered to a special kiddie section (read far away from them). Maybe they’re on to something.
Rather than being a punitive annex for parents and their charges, why doesn’t some enterprising airline create a supportive, enriching, amenity-filled environment that catered to the needs of this niche (and profitable) clientele? Allow me to indulge in some pre-airline-cutbacks/pre-global-macroeconomic-meltdown fantasy.
Those with infants would sit together in a private nursing zone, complete with rocking chair backs, complimentary Boppy Pillows and soothing Mozart tunes. A few Excersaucers would be securely bolted to the floor at the back of the cabin so little ones could bounce and stretch their legs mid-flight. Fuzzy dangling toys would auto-release from the oxygen mask compartment to surprise and delight children when they cried at a particularly piercing decibel.
A few seat rows would be converted into basinets, cribs and toddler beds so young travelers could have a proper air-nap. An in-flight entertainer would regale the tykes with sing-a-longs, magic shows, story time and tray-table arts and crafts. A range of kid-approved cartoons, movies and video games would be available on demand via seat-back entertainment systems (blissfully a reality on some airlines like Jet Blue, Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic).
Bathrooms would be more plentiful, spacious and regularly sanitized, with a sizable pull-down changing table and handy shelves for your diaper supplies. A shower stall would be available do deal with those inevitable episodes of projectile vomiting and diaper explosions (don’t laugh, Emerates Airlines offers in-flight shower spas).
A menu of tasty and nutritious airplane food would appeal to both kids’ palates and parents’ standards, so even the pickiest eater could find something tasty and nutritious to munch on. Flight attendants would serve snacks and drinks at need rather than making cranky kids wait until some arbitrary mealtime. There would be complimentary organic fruit lollipops for take-off and landing to help prevent ear discomfort. Of course, there would also be an in-flight barrista to fix you a low fat soy decaf latte with a basket of assorted baked goods, so you could quite literally have your pie in the sky.
With kid- and parent-friendly features like this, the journey may indeed be more memorable than the destination.
Come on, airlines! Step up and reinvent the wing, so to speak, much like the recent “family-fication” of the cruising industry – if Nickleodeon and Disney can sponsor and theme up a cruise ship, why not an airplane?
However, with such basic amenities like headsets, blankets and even suitcases being an a la carte, pay-for-the-privilege luxury on many airlines today, I won’t hold my breath.