(BBC Magazine) Should there be child-free zones on planes and trains?

An airline says it will offer baby-free “quiet zones” on its flights. Should all planes and trains follow suit, or do adults need to learn to live with child passengers?

At 35,000ft, the klaxon-like howl of a distressed toddler screeches through a pressurised cabin.

For travellers already stressed by lengthy security checks, crammed into cramped seating and unnerved by the very fact of being so high above ground, it’s almost enough to make them shatter the Plexiglas windows and jump.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Theology, Travel

10 comments on “(BBC Magazine) Should there be child-free zones on planes and trains?

  1. Sarah says:

    Man, this is an idea whose time has long come. I’ve been saying this for years — and for restaurants too.

    Increasingly as American culture fails to expect civilized behavior from various groups and categories — including children — other people who just want some peace and civilization are saying “where can I go to get away from those who really don’t give a fig about peace and civilization.”

    The more the divide in expected behavior and consequences grows, . . . well . . . the more it grows.

  2. Frances Scott says:

    I don’t mind child noise…except when the adult who should be in charge is not. It isn’t that difficult to control the noise level of children; well, maybe when the child has a slight cold and the air pressure in the plane causes excruciating earache.

    What I am looking for is a grocery store that doesn’t blast “music” on its speaker system! Many times the racket gets too much for my ears and I leave the store about half way through my grocery list. I speak to the management, but the local management really has no control over what the chain management dictates: the “music” is supposed to cause people to buy more!

  3. Yebonoma says:

    Let the free market decide. Have you ever taken an L.A. to D.C. red eye and sat next to a screaming baby the entire flight? I have on a number of occasions and it is not a pleasant experience.

  4. Northwest Bob says:

    I always carry a set if ear plugs–the same kind I use in entering noisy refineries. Cuts the sound by 30 deciBels. Experienced air travellers often also resort to noise cancelling headphones, a bit dear at $300 but effective. Add a glass of wine or two and you are good to go. Take direct action says NW Bob the engineer. Cheers!

  5. Yebonoma says:

    Northwest Bob,

    The secret about noise cancelling headphones is that they do not block out sounds like human voices. They do, however, work very well at blocking out jet engine noise. I tried a friend’s very expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones in my “ant farm/cubicle farm” environment, and it did not do a thing for blocking out my co-workers’ conversations.

    I find that a good pair of ear canal headphones playing pink noise or something like ocean waves works best. Even with 32 db reduction from foam earplugs, you still hear people making noise.

  6. Ad Orientem says:

    There was a time when adults did not take small children to public restaurants or similar venues until they were old enough to behave civilly. To some degree this was not an option for travelers. Buses trains and planes were too crowded, though on ships there were often separate dining facilities and play rooms for children, at least in the first and second class.

    Sadly we just don’t live in an age when parents feel any responsibility for controlling their children. I don’t expect silent saints. Kids are after all kids. But I do think some consideration of others is in order, especially if the others are paying good money for a nice meal or transportation.

    So yes, I do think this is an idea whose time has come as Sarah noted.

  7. Cennydd13 says:

    4. Northwest Bob, you hit the nail right on the head. DITTO from me.

  8. KevinBabb says:

    I used to think that parents with children should be banned from air travel. I have, however, changed my thinking on this matter, and it is now my opinion that parents with children should all have to travel together–flights that have ONLY parents and young children. That way they can careen through the air in glorious lugubriousness, led by a chorus of “sympathy criers.” I can only imagine the pay premium that the flight attendants would demand for staffing such flights–and they’d earn every penny.

    (I am in that stage of life between having young children and having grandchildren, in case you couldn’t tell. And a glorious stage of life it is.)

  9. Sarah says:

    RE: “Sadly we just don’t live in an age when parents feel any responsibility for controlling their children.”

    Hear hear!

    Nor their pets.

    Nor their cars.

    Nor themselves.

    It all basically goes together, and it’s just a sign of the breakdown of culture that, essentially, good behavior is no longer required for public interaction.

    I’m convinced this is one reason for the demise of the movie theater, as one example. People really feel that it is their right to talk loudly on cell phones during movies, or have their screaming children in movie theaters, etc, etc.

    I could name instance after instance of people who are simply unwilling to control their kids or their pet creatures while taking walks in parks — this week was a perfect example for me when my dog was attacked while minding his own business, running with me, right next to my side, on a trail with nobody in front or behind me. The other dog was enjoined to “be good” by the leash-holding master, but he lept down a 3 foot wall, crossed my path, and leaped on my dog, biting and snarling, while the owner just screamed. She *knew* he was inclined to attack other dogs and she simply did not control him one whit, other than the plea to “be good” before he launched himself on my dog. She then yelled after me indignantly to hold on and not leave while I fled the scene, the dog snarling and pursuing, with the owner doing essentially nothing to control him other than shrieking and cawing after me.


    These types of incidents of out-of-control humans and their children or cars or animals or whatever are rampant. Pretty much weekly or daily occurrences, all around me. Kids annihilating coffee shops and beating on people and just crazy stuff, while the bemused parents sit idly by.

    From my perspective, you’re not *owed* appearances in public places among civilized people. You have to earn it by demonstrating that you are capable of comporting yourself properly in social groups.

    That’s just no longer considered to be something necessary any more.

    All that means is that people just partition themselves off and try to separate themselves from the badly behaved, whether it’s people’s dogs, or children, or individual adults.

  10. Uh Clint says:

    On a flight from Rome to Dallas (10+ hours) there was a child who screamed constantly from before take-off until within 1 hour of landing. The mother was unable to quiet the chlld, and anyone within 10 rows had to endure the constant screaming. The child was about 3 years of age, and kept repeating over and over again how his mother hated him.

    If I, as an adult, had made even 1/100th as much noise, I would have been pulled off the plane upon arrival and placed under arrest. As it was, the 200+/- people who had been forced to listen to the noise for many hours were simply expected to deal with it. I’m more than willing to be a good sport, but being held hostage to nearly half a day of unceasing noise is just too much.

    And for those who think I just don’t understand what traveling with kids is like – we specifically held off flying with our daughter until she was of an age where she could deal with the flight reasonably. That meant avoiding planes until she was 4+, but having been a frequent business traveler myself I knew that it’s unfair to expect dozens of passengers to put up with a child who is causing a major disturbance,