It’s time an airline was brave enough to introduce child-free flights

Traveling this summer will be a nightmare for everyone. No one more so than parents: contending with sky-high airfares, packed passport controls and missing luggage, all while herding hordes of screaming children through airports.

It must be hell, boarding a long-haul flight worrying if you’ve got enough crayons to keep your child entertained for 12 hours in the air; praying that the food they’re serving will be bland enough for Tommy to agree to eat it and there’ll be the right episode of Peppa Pig to keep Jessica entertained.

As if managing the children isn’t enough, meanwhile you’re negotiating the irritated looks of other passengers waiting for their mistakes: ready to complain the moment the baby starts crying, the toddler throws up or your 11-year-old decides to spend the whole journey kicking the back of the seat.

A modest proposal

It seems terribly unfair, that on top of paying double to try and manage a family on holiday parents should also have to contend with the consternation of other passengers annoyed about traveling with children. And so, I’d like to make a modest proposal to make traveling more pleasant for everyone: child-free flights. This summer in particular, designating some flights as ‘adult-only’ would spare a lot of travelers a lot of pain.

It’s a plan that would be pretty simple to put in place. Families could have their own comfortable flights, where kids can run up and down the aisles screaming, kicking seats, throwing tantrums and food, without anyone batting an eye-lid, being served a standard meal of burgers and chips while cartoons play in the cabin on repeat.

Meanwhile us boring childless folk could have our own boring planes, where we can drink champagne and eat caviar canapes in silence, or with some in-flight Vivaldi playing through the cabin as we’re served by unhurried air stewards not exhausted by people begging them for help warming milk.

On adult-only planes, there’d be more room on the in-flight entertainment, once the kid’s shows have been deleted. And more room in the hold too, without all those Pampers, soft toys and push-chairs taking up all the space.

Child-free planes could serve more interesting foods, suited to a more sophisticated grown-up pallet: local dishes, bespoke cocktails, things containing actual spice. Without so many fussy eaters on board there’d be more scope to provide a menu of meals that aren’t just mush but things grown-ups like.

These flights could offer sophisticated adult entertainment – I’m not talking about a strip show – but perhaps an on-board wine tasting, a meditation, a whiskey flight, a DJ. (As absurd as this sounds, I did actually once board an all-adult plane for a rave in the sky, on which a DJ played a live set while we danced in the aisles).

Imagine on-board bars where you could drink cocktails, stare lovingly at your fiancé or have interesting conversations with other passengers, a chill-out area, a spa! Or just somewhere to sit and read Danielle Steele in peace without someone asking you if you mind swapping seats so Sophia can sit by Tarquin.

Of course, in theory, this is what First and Business Class are like, which is why it’s especially galling when you spend a fortune to upgrade only to find a child sitting next to you. I personally don’t think any children should be allowed to turn left on a plane until they turn 18.

Ode to an existing market

Child-free flights might sound outrageous, just like banning child-free travelers during the summer holidays, but we already have adult-only holidays, adult-only cruises and adult-only nights, all of which are hugely successful. Sandals Resorts tell me this year they’re expecting their best ever sales. “Adult-only resorts are becoming increasingly popular because they offer the sort of relaxing, luxurious experience that hotels catering for kids can’t match,” says Karl Thompson, Managing Director of Unique Caribbean Holidays, Sandals Resorts’ UK tour operator.

“We have a very high repeat visitor rate – currently 40 per cent year-on-year – because guests love the experience so much, they keep on coming back. Even some customers who have their own children or grandchildren opt to go on Sandals adult-only holidays at least once a year to have a break without kids in tow. It means that they can really indulge and not spend their well-earned holiday thinking about someone else. 2022 is expected to be our best year of sales for Sandals Resorts, which speaks volumes about how popular the adults-only concept is. “

Obviously, all this adult-only freedom comes with a price tag – a week at Sandals Barbados costs from £ 2,072 per person – but if I had to pay more for a flight on which I was guaranteed that when I took my seat there wouldn ‘ t be a screaming baby beside me, I’d pay twice as much.

The fact is that now selfish millennials like me are leaving it later than ever to have children and don’t want to spend our holidays with other people’s. For us, child-free flights make perfect sense. The only thing I’d like more are flights that accept my dog.


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