Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter, recently prompted a strong reaction from Twitter users after he suggested that flying babies “belong in the hold”; polls by Telegraph Travel have shown that the majority of readers would support child-free flights; and the unveiling of adults-only zones by Malaysian carrier Air Asia X in February was met with nearly unanimous approval.
And, even with the arrival of a Royal baby imminent, it would appear Britons have not become any more compassionate.
A survey this week suggested that unruly children remain the biggest in-flight annoyance for the majority of travellers – ahead of drunken passengers, surly cabin crew and over-talkative neighbours.
As for a solution, more than half of those questioned said they would welcome the introduction of in-flight crèches, and nearly a third said they would pay more to sit in a child-free zone. A quarter would pay up to £50 ($75) per return flight for the privilege, and seven per cent said they would pay even more.
“It’s perhaps surprising that airplane passengers are generally less bothered by drunks, rude cabin crew and talkative neighbours than they are by children who may just be bored, excited or even anxious,” said Caroline Lloyd from the website Gocompare.com, which commissioned the research.
Beleaguered parents might consider taking the advice of Christina Diaz and Michael Rubinstein. The American couple, concerned about taking their twin boys on their first flight last September – a five-hour hop from San Francisco to Washington DC – handed out “apology bags” to other passengers. They contained sweets and a note declaring: “We’re twin baby boys on our first flight and we’re only 14 weeks old! We’ll try to be on our best behaviour, but we’d like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and our diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them.”
Benji Wilson, writing for Telegraph Travel last year, suggested an array of diversionary tactics to keep young fliers in check: “lollys for ear-popping at take off; pre-rolled balls of Play Doh; stickers (sorry, cabin crew); post it notes; (ditto); a much-loved old book; a couple of colouring pens and a note pad; a small Russian doll. Plus an iPad – a combination of episodes of videos, photos, interactive books – or just bashing the screen repeatedly – killed hours.”
Jeremy Clarkson’s recent comment – “When will British Airways realise that babies belong in the hold?” – came following a flight to Scotland. Justine Roberts of the website Mumsnet responded by asking when “British Airways will realise Jeremy Clarkson belongs in the hold.”