Should Toddlers Be Banned from Business Class?


If you had asked me in my pre-parent days whether toddlers should be banned from business class, I would have pushed for child-free flights, period. However, I return—tail between my legs—with a rather active two-year-old, having done a complete U-turn. I would very much like to continue my love affair with travel, and am hopeful that it becomes a more tolerant space for families. Battling fidgety toddlers and judgmental fellow passengers in a confined space is enough of a challenge, so if I could afford an upgrade with my son I would jump at the chance. The extra space would guarantee a quieter child—and aren’t economy passengers just as worthy of peace as their business-class peers? — Jessica Rach, Global Content Planning Manager, Condé Nast Traveller

I don’t have occasion (or pocket change) to fly business class often, and when I do, I really relish the experience. Which is why I’d be pretty devastated if I were to book an expensive seat, hoping for comfort and peace, only to have to contend with crying babies or children who run through the aisles wreaking havoc. But let me be clear: I’m in no way against having children fly business class. In my view, everyone should be welcome to it—although I do think parents have an obligation to do what they can to try and make sure their kids remain calm and occupied, be it with an iPad, a personal gaming system, books, or snacks, so that the experience can be equally tolerable for everyone around them. That should be the case no matter their seating assignment, though, whether business class, first class, or coach. The bottom line, however, is that parents flying with children deserve to indulge just as much, if not more, than the rest of us do. If and when I become a parent, I’d want that same respect—not a sneer and a whine upon seeing my kids enter the cabin—afforded to me. – Betsy Blumenthal, Editor, Features and Franchises

Make it a kid-free class

This is a tough one. I want to answer that it depends on the child, but that gets squishy. So, as someone who traveled very frequently with my children when they were toddlers (sometimes—and I’m still traumatized even thinking about this—someone who flew solo with multiple children under the age of three) and someone who now occasionally flies business, I have to say: sorry, but no dice. I’ve been that sleep-deprived parent who would have killed for more space and a nearly horizontal surface on which my child and I could nap as we crossed the Atlantic. But even assuming you have a mellow toddler (does anyone, truly, and are they predictably so?) and are paying for them to have their own seat, the truth is (and I’m talking averages here, so don’t come back to me with the story of your angel-nephew), toddlers and toddler parents are pretty disruptive. Toddlers, unless they’re asleep or plugged into a device, which isn’t something that all two-year-olds will do for longer than a few minutes, or all parents of two-year-olds are comfortable with doing at all, are full-on. They require a lot, especially during a long-haul flight. Now, I know the retort: toddlers are equally annoying to coach travelers. And this is true, but flying isn’t a purely democratic experience: It’s more of a pay-to-play. You pay for everything these days—more leg room, priority boarding, food, checked bags, and where you sit on the plane. When I pay to sit in the front of the plane, I’m paying for more. More space, more quiet, more service. I don’t do it often and it’s always for a reason that, well, involves business: I have an 18-hour flight and then have to go directly to work, or I need the space and time during the flight to actually get work done. I think if someone is paying significantly more to sit in business class, often so they can either sleep or work, they should have the best possible chance of making those things happen. And no parent, if they’re being honest, can guarantee a toddler’s behavior on any given day. – Rebecca Misner, Senior Features Editor

“Think of first or business class cabins as if they were fancy restaurants. You book your favorite table, make the effort to dress up, anticipate good conversation, and expect the experience to be special and memorable (and justifiably expensive). Wouldn’t you, too, be dismayed to sit next to an infant in bib in a high chair? Or a fidgety toddler rolling around on a banquette and playing with his or her plate of plain spaghetti? Premium travel, like fine dining, simply isn’t relevant to the needs of even the most well-mannered tots.” —David Jefferys, contributor 

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