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My thoughts on AirAsia’s baby- and kid-free “Quiet Zone”… and yours?

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Wake up, AirAsia. When you keep the right passengers happy, all of the passengers are happy.

I was asked earlier this morning what I think of AirAsia’s new kid-free coach section they’re calling a “Quiet Zone,” and if I think it’s a case of discrimination. I have to say, after reading over the details from AirAsia, I think it’s more a case of really, really foolish marketing.

First of all, I think they’re silly not to charge an extra fee for passengers sitting in these rows 7 through 14, which remain the standard fare of all coach seats on the flight, other than a few that may have extra legroom for an extra fee. But the reason they haven’t placed a higher premium on these seats may be explained away by my next point.

What are they going to offer those passengers every time they fail to provide a quiet flight? And to what lengths will they go to try and keep the rest of the aircraft–and the couple of rows of first class in front of them–quiet? Gag screaming babies? Tell parents they can’t take their fussy infants or restless toddlers for a stroll around the cabin to calm them–because a passenger in row 10 might hear them?

And did anyone looking at the airplane plan notice the infant bassinet positions on the aircraft are in first class just two rows in front of this quiet zone, and also on, you guessed it, row 15? Click here to see the layout.

Now, I understand that there are passengers who might be desperate to get some sleep or finish a report before a business meeting. And they probably don’t want spit up or strained carrots on their suits when they arrive. As I’ve said before, let’s make business class about business, and business travelers can get what they pay for.

I also understand some people are more sensitive to getting their seat backs kicked repeatedly by toddlers during flights. And there are those who, for whatever reason, just generally do not like children no matter how adorable, inquisitive, or well-behaved they might be. I’d prefer they not sit next to my family either if possible.

Here’s my question:

Why didn’t they instead designate that section as the “Family-friendly Zone”? Not only would that put a positive spin on their move toward segregation–an effort to make happier family travelers as well as happier travelers without kids, but it would likely improve the very situation they’re only dodging with this change: crying, unhappy young children.

Did it ever occur to anyone at AirAsia that by seating families–and those who appreciate them–together, those with babies and toddlers would find themselves in a less hostile environment, in a place where breastfeeding and eating Cheerios are par for the course, where young kids may enjoy each other’s company, and easily pass and share toys? Just think, when parents are doing all they can to get seated in rows 7 – 14, that leaves a whole ‘lotta kid-free rows throughout the rest of the plane, doesn’t it?

Not to mention, AirAsia could let all the other passengers seat themselves first as a show of good customer service–while at the same time allowing families a little more time to let their children burn off their energy before settling into their seats. When they finally board at the front of coach, there would be no need to juggle babies, toddlers and car seats through a sea of already seated passengers. Everybody wins.

What’s more, by seating the youngest passengers at the front of coach, they’d be the first to receive snack service–not the last. And as any parent knows, there’s no faster way to quiet a kid than to break out the snacks.

What do you think about AirAsia’s “Quiet Zone”? Do you think it will help make for happier travelers — or more loyal customers in the long run?

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby 

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