Child-free flight zones: what do you think?

(294 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 07-Feb-13 10:26:32

Morning. We've just seen this article in the Telegraph about a Malaysian airline which has launched 'quiet zones' on selected flights, where children under the age of 12 are not permitted to sit.

It seems that a recent poll of Telegraph Travel readers also found that nearly 70% would support the introduction of child-free flights.

What do you think?

Should people have the right to travel without being 'disturbed by noisy children'? Or not?

Backinthebox Tue 12-Feb-13 21:19:39

OK, I'm going to bite here. I pass through airport security up to 4 times a day (the job, you see,) and have experienced pretty much every kind of security-caused inconvenience going, in dozens of countries across 4 different continents. I am also a mother of 2 small children, and thanks to the perks of the job I have had the delights of taking them all over the place. I know a bit about airport security. I'd say I am a frequent flyer!

Sadly, the massive increase in security over the last decade is almost entirely down to the desire by Al Quaeda to blow Americans out of the sky, and the rest of the world now lives with that. It also means I am now locked in a small bullet-proof box for up to 12 hours at a time. Thank you America!

The first thing to bear in mind about security is that there are rules. They are to be followed by EVERYONE. I fly the damned plane, and even I have to give up my bottle of suncream etc if I have the wrong sized bottle. (The excuse that I am ginger and neeeeeeed suncream is of no interest to them. Neither is the rational that I will be flying the plane and could crash it and kill everyone on board with my bare hands if I wanted to and the suncream will not help me in any way.) The quantities allowed are published and displayed prominently in every airport. It IS an unfortunate fact for Americans that most of the world measures their liquids in metric - however the TSA have thought about that and do display quantities in mls and ozs. For future info - 100mls is 3.4oz. A frequent flyer ought to know that kind of thing.

The next thing to address is the fact that your bags are likely to be searched - there are random checks, and anyone who is found to have liquids in larger than 100ml containers, for whatever reason, will be subjected to a more in-depth search. The more stuff you have with you, the more stuff the security staff will have to search through. Millions of passengers a year pass through the world's airports - they are working fast as they have a lot of people to get through. So they are unlikely to be delicate with your stuff, and they are definitely not going to allow you to stand around and unpack it slowly and methodically yourself. It's worth considering packing light. Even with a child, you do not need that much guff - what did you need 4 empty bottles for? Could you not wash them? I live in constant amazement at the amount of stuff people feel they need on the plane with them for what is actually less than one day. I see families who have everything but the kitchen sink with them - they always seem quite stressed. And I've seen the opposite end of the scale - the flight I operated last night had a woman travelling with her 3 young children, she only had one bag with her for the whole family. Our cabin crew said she was chilled and calm and her children a delight to have on board.

One of the things to remember about security staff is that it is a mind-numbingly boring, repetitive task with very little job satisfaction. They have very little to entertain themselves with other than to exercise their power with people who piss them off. I make it a golden rule never to piss off security. I've seen it happen with airline crew who get cross at them, and even if they are the captain of a flight going in half an hour, they will take as long as it takes to conduct a search. Telling them they are delaying a whole flight will only make them go slower and ensure your pants are waved around in public. Telling them to go fuck themselves is about the best thing I could imagine you could do if you wanted to find your belongings being raked through and thrown around, although you seem to have found this out for yourself!

At 11 months old, it is unlikely your child will need everything to be sterile. I am bemused by your 11 month old needing gripe water - my 2 both suffered from colic but grew out of it by about 3-4 months. I'm also quite amazed that you have an 11 month old and are 4 months pregnant. A medical miracle! Wittering on about travelling in First/Business doesn't impress me much either. Every flight I do has lots of people travelling in them. Some of them are lovely normal people, and some of them are over-privileged, self-important twits. Two out of the 3 occasions I have had to call the police to meet passengers on landing have involved the behaviour of Club passengers. On one of those occasions it was to separate 2 VIPs who were having an argument about who was the most important VIP! You had to see it to believe it.

I think what I am trying to say is calm down a bit, read the rules, and don't expect to be treated like a princess. Having children should not entitle anyone to behave in a poor manner anywhere. But neither should it mean that you are excluded from public transport, which is what the thread was initially set up to discuss.

RedToothBrush Tue 12-Feb-13 21:52:07

I have to say backinthebox, that is one of the best posts I've seen on MN in response to someone.

Want2bSupermum Tue 12-Feb-13 22:28:00

What you miss is that I didn't have a problem with them taking the cream. I had a problem with them dumping everything out in a very disrespectful way. Ziplock bags are clear and I had everything neatly packed. Is there really a need to open up every single diaper? I am no princess but I do expect respect. I dropped the f bomb because she was totally out of line and I was furious. Instead of a relaxed stroll to the gate we left running around trying to replace the contents of our diaper bag.

If you go through security 4 times a day you are on short haul flights. I tend to fly in increments of 2500 miles. NY to Seattle/Vancouver/LA or NY to UK/Denmark/Germany/Spain/Italy. I do carry a bottle brush with me just in case our bags are delayed (which happens all to frequently). It came in handy when we didn't fly direct and we had to wait 12hrs for the next flight. At that point DD was off formula and the starbucks staff kindly offered to wash the bottles for us through their dishwasher. On that trip we were down to the last diaper when we got to our destination so I know I don't overpack. As I often fly on my own DD and meet DH at the destination I can't be washing bottles on the plane. It is also not hygenic to be washing bottles in a public bathroom. I carry the ziplock bags because if DD ends up with a poop exposion it smells really bad. If I double bag in a ziplock then others are not offended by the smell.

My initial post was about being excluded from occupying the seats I had booked for myself and DD. It was discrimination and I lost out financially. It was wrong but apparently the airline were well within their right to put me in a cheaper seat and not refund DD's seat (she sat on my lap instead of getting her own seat) because 'they didn't want to have to move me if the baby started to cry'. I think in general the airlines could do more to accomodate those with babies. Having diapers would be a start. If they can carry sanitary towels I don't see why they can't carry diapers.

Also, the reason I mentioned DD having colic was because she had lactose free formula which we couldn't buy at the airport. They only had regular formula and I wasn't quite ready to sit through an 8hr flight with a screaming baby. As it was she did cry at the end of the flight because she was hungry. I would have fed her milk at this point as we didn't have that long to land but the crew wouldn't give any food or milk to us because they needed it for 'other' passengers. As DH pointed out to the staff person, our DD was a passenger and would 6oz of milk really leave you short when you have 1.5hr left on a flight?

Want2bSupermum Tue 12-Feb-13 22:40:32

We use the gripe water if she gets diahrrea. It worked well when she had foam coming out when we flew to Seattle. The crew found another passenger with a baby who had some and we gladly tried it with DD. It worked so I included it.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 12-Feb-13 22:48:45

The difficulties with carrying nappies would be that they come in lots of sizes and are a fair bit bulkier than sanitary towels.

Backinthebox Tue 12-Feb-13 23:08:11

"If you go through security 4 times a day you are on short haul flights. I tend to fly in increments of 2500 miles." You shouldn't presume to know anything at all about whether I fly SH or LH from the statement I made about passing through security up to 4 times a day. I'm on what is called a medium haul fleet - we fly both long and short haul flights. My flight tomorrow will be over 10 hours long. My flights last week were 55 minutes each.

Security are within their rights to open EVERYTHING YOU HAVE. And if you tell them to go fuck themselves, they probably will open everything you have. I think you are actually quite lucky they didn't ask you into a side room whilst putting on their rubber gloves! I suspect that the Danish lady you were abusive to was far more laid back than a typical TSA operative would have been - I'd love to be a fly on the wall if you told a JFK security staff member to go fuck themselves! I suspect I'd hear the fallout on the other side of the Atlantic.

I have no experience at all with flying on SAS. It would seem from what you write that they are a terrible airline to travel with. I'd be thinking about travelling with someone else in the future! If you have genuinely paid for 2 business seats and are moved into one economy seat you have a very valid case for compensation against the airline. From your post they seem rather bad with delays too. Which is a puzzle to me as SAS have a reputation as being one of the most punctual airlines in Europe.

It does also seem to me though that perhaps your baby isn't really ready to be a frequent flyer. She seems quite high-needs, and perhaps it would be kinder all round if you maybe waited till life was a little easier to be making so many long flights? I know sometimes I find it tiresome, and I get paid to do it!

As for airlines putting nappies on all flights - there simply isn't the room. As parents of children we are expected to be able to make provision for them while we travel. It is not an unexpected occurrence for a baby to need a clean nappy putting on during a flight. It could well be unexpected (and embarrassing) for someone to suddenly need sanitary protection. Only a small number of basic items are generally stocked, and they take up very little room. But if airlines were to stock nappies - how many would you supply? And what sizes? You would get passengers not taking nappies because they expect the airlines to provide them, only to find that someone has pinched the lot of them because it beats buying them once they get to their destination. Then there would be more complaints!

Far better to expect parents to do their jobs and ensure they have packed enough nappies. I appreciate you packed enough, but somehow failed to notice you had left most of them at security, but the airlines can't be held responsible for what you do at security. I am surprised that you felt so rushed though - having got to the airport 3 hours before your flight (which is not a mandatory requirement, btw. Heathrow has some of the strictest security conformance procedures in the world, yet only requires you to present yourself at the airport 40 mins before the flight, and to be at security 35 mins before it.) I've been to Copenhagen many times, and it's large, but not enormous in the way that eg Washington or Rome are.

I would be winding my neck in if I were you, as you sound peculiarly inexperienced for someone who protests how much they fly, and every time you post you make yourself sound a bit more precious. How DID you manage to be 4 months pregnant with an 11 month old, btw?

HollaAtMeBaby Tue 12-Feb-13 23:19:37

Erm, I am thinking that she conceived DC2 when DC1 was 7 months old. But otherwise, your posts are spot on and I am impressed and a bit envious of your glamorous pilot life!

Backinthebox Tue 12-Feb-13 23:26:04

Ah, yes, you are right Holla! Don't know what I was thinking there. blush You're envious of me having my pants waved around in front of all my passengers and my suncream confiscated...? grin

StillStuck Tue 12-Feb-13 23:27:55

If you are a frequent flier you would have known fruit purees are classed as a liquid by security. It is why I take purees in the pouches with a screw on and off lid.

By the time ds was 11 months he would happily lick anything he could reach, fretting about a bit of hand contact seems excessive.

Having to buy some diaper cream is hardly the end of the world

(I have flown very regularly with ds since he was 2 months old. He has severe allergies (some anaphylactic) and eczema which mean I have to take all his food and drink for any journey and special formula. I also have to take a collection of other medicines and skin creams for him so I do know about complicated travelling. )

StillStuck Tue 12-Feb-13 23:44:04

Back in the box I meant to say thank you for your sensible post. Agree with it all. Except re copenhagen where we experienced nightmare queues for check in and security and nearly missed our flight despite being there 2 hours before.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 12-Feb-13 23:59:29

I'm pretty sure when we've had our change bag checked, they've "flicked" through all the nappies, which are presumably a really good place to hide things. I definitely have to open all the zips to wipes compartment, sippy cup compartment etc.

I don't think she had much choice if doing a full check but to access all sections of your stuff ie go through your Ziploc bags.

Want2bSupermum Wed 13-Feb-13 03:19:44

Accessing ziplock bags is not the same as pouring them out into a huge pile. I tried to put a tray down and was told to back off which I did. It was at the end when I told her to go f herself when she told us we were taking too long and shoved our stuff to the side causing it to fall on the floor. We had 45mins until our flight was due to take off which left us about 15mins to sort out food for DD. Not a surprise that we left some diapers on the floor at security.

The lady was not a government employee. She was supervised by a government employee and was wearing SAS uniform. SAS operate CPH airport and rather a lot of the agents are not directly employed by the government.

We have never had any issues with the TSA or going through security here in the US. In fact it was a TSA agent who suggested the applesauce pots. He said that if something is still sealed by the manufacturer they don't have to open it and won't because it opens them up to being sued if the child is sick or doesn't have enough food for their trip. Considering that I had flown to Seattle, Vancouver, Manchester and Madrid with these containers and had no problems I really wasn't expecting it to be such an issue. Also, a 4oz tube of cream is just over the limit and I had travelled with these tubes for the preceeding 8 months. It is easily done when they don't have ml on the tube and it is stocked in the travel section. I don't know how many times i have to say that I did tell the lady to bin it after she denied my points about it being for our DD and that it would probably be all spent by the time we arrived.

It isn't as if they didn't know a child wasn't going to be travelling or their age. I wouldn't expect the plane to have more than 2 or 3 diapers in a uniform large size. You can always fit a smaller baby into a bigger diaper.

As for washing bottles while travelling... words fail me. There is a reason why that isn't allowed. It is extremly unhygenic to wash bottles in a bathroom and given that our daughter has had issues in the past with flying plus the global mix of germs that you get at an airport, I would never take the risk.

Finally, SAS have managed to get their flights ontime by extending the length they are supposed to take. It was DH who noticed they added about 5% on to the flight times a couple of years ago now.

FellatioNels0n Wed 13-Feb-13 03:28:45

I'll be needing a no BO zone please.

Trills Wed 13-Feb-13 08:18:34

a 4oz tube of cream is just over the limit and I had travelled with these tubes for the preceeding 8 months

"Nobody else carries out the job according to the rules" is not a good argument.

rubyrubyruby Wed 13-Feb-13 08:26:15

They took my exercise hand weights once in case I smashed the pilot over the head with them.
It was awful, I had to sit by the pool and do fuck all for 2 weeks <<sigh>>

Thankfully, because we didn't pay for early boarding I couldn't get seats anywhere near my DCs so spent the flight reading.

LadyClariceCannockMonty Wed 13-Feb-13 08:28:25

A frequent flyer like yourself really needs to get over the obsession with hygiene and the 'global mix of germs' you're so terrified of.

Want2bSupermum Wed 13-Feb-13 11:15:22

Clarice I don't think I am being obessed with hygine for not thinking it suitable to wash bottles in a public bathroom. Think about it..... Restaurants are not allowed to wash crockery in bathrooms for a good reason. Why would food hygine be any different for a child?!?

Trills If you read my posts you will see that I told the lady to bin it after I raised the point. I didn't know 4oz was more than 100ml and I was indirectly asking the lady to make an exception based on the fact that 120ml of diaper cream isn't a lot for someone who has a longer journey. When she denied this I said 'Bin it.' I wasn't arguing with her or being rude. It was after she dumped out the contents of our diaper bag, touched all of DD's foods with her bare hands and then scooped everything to the side that I lost it. We were left with no food for DD for the flight as at least the applesauce ended up on the floor and the rest had been touched. We were then told to hurry up because WE were holding people up. If anything the security person had held everyone up by being totally obnoxious. Also, she didn't follow the rules or maintain safety. The rules say that we should have been asked to open and taste the food. Also, DD didn't have a boarding card for the flight. We should never have made it through security for that reason. Instead we made it all the way through to our destination.

I think the responses to my experience highlight the discrimination that many parents of young children face when travelling. I also feel sorry for the disabled when it comes to air travel. It is no wonder you don't see many wheelchair bound people on planes.

LadyClariceCannockMonty Wed 13-Feb-13 11:24:11

I'd wash drinking bottles in a public bathroom. I don't think it's a child/adult thing. I always thought restaurants weren't allowed to do it because public health/safety/hygiene rules are very stringent.

Also this 'By the time ds was 11 months he would happily lick anything he could reach, fretting about a bit of hand contact seems excessive.'

and this 'At 11 months old, it is unlikely your child will need everything to be sterile.'

RedToothBrush Wed 13-Feb-13 11:36:42

Want2bSupermum you are funny and definitely one of those who would entertain me.

I can't blame security staff for the way they do things. Nor for being difficult with the 80th person that day who hasn't followed the rules about liquid limits and think they know better than security.

Its funny, you can spot with a certain degree of accuracy miles before you reach security who is going to get stopped. It does make me smirk as you can tell how these people are going to react in abject horror and disgust and when they carry out a text book execution of how not to do security. Its priceless.

When you no longer get free food on a flight as standard and even those who do are having to cut costs at every opportunity, I think expecting the moon on a stick and nappies to be carried by the airline is living in the past and in cloud cuckoo land.

I've flown with SAS a few times. They are well above average in my experience. And definitely not the most strict by a long shot.

BoffinMum Wed 13-Feb-13 11:48:15

The wheelchair people are there actually - we get to go through a separate screening place a lot of the time, and many of us can actually make it up the stairs if we're not being jostled, if not, they hoist us on before the other people board the flight.

When I am with kids I have started paying to use special lounges and fast track facilities as I am rubbish at coping with airport stress.

Backinthebox Wed 13-Feb-13 21:01:31

If I were that worried about washing a bottle in a public loo I'd stick a couple of Milton tablets and a tupperware tub in. See? there's a way round most things!

And yup, we had a wheelchair passenger on today's flight. Treated with care and respect, as usual.

As for SAS adding about 5% on to their flight times - would you like me to give a really long and detailed explanation as to how airlines calculate flight times, to include debate on airport weather, air traffic slots, the North Atlantic Track system, headwinds and tailwinds, and a myriad other issues that mean only an imbecile wouldn't add a couple of extra minutes on to a schedule here and there to ensure the passenger can have some degree of certainty that they will arrive by the scheduled arrival time? Let's face it, if you were drive 50 miles at 60mph, it would take you 50 minutes if you were not slowed down by any other traffic, had no junctions to negotiate, and went from 60mph to parked without having to consider your parking place. But you'd most likely tell anyone who asked that it would take you about an hour to drive. You've just added 12% to your journey time. This does not make you dishonest - it makes you realistic.

Want2bSupermum Thu 14-Feb-13 18:21:10

Boffin Didn't know you were disabled. Great to hear that you are able to make it through airports and are able to board the plane first. With DD when we have flown from CPH/ Madrid and Rome we were not been able to board first unless we are in business. It drive me nuts when I am trying to put the activity bag under the seat and find a spot for the diaper bag above while holding DD. It is a major pain when the diaper bag is 2 or 3 bins away (and always in the wrong direction from the bathrooms too).

back Flight durations shouldn't increase by 5% when you are travelling the same route at the same time. 5% of 8hrs is 24 minutes which is an awful lot of time to be adding to a flight where all the variables have already been taken into consideration. As I said, my timings were gate to gate, not wheels up to wheels down.

As for milton tablets and tupperwear... you tell me I have too much stuff with me and then suggest a way around bringing 4 bottles is to bring Milton tables (which I have not seen for sale here in the US) and a tupperwear tub! So, if I were to be able to source milton tablets here in the US (I am sure amazon sells them), I would then be walking around with a tupperware tub full of water. That is a great work around, especially when I am travelling on my own with DD. I think I will stick to bringing 4 clean bottles.

Red I do blame security when they don't do things properly. Our DD had no boarding pass yet the big issue was a 4oz tube of diaper cream. Also, the rules are that the parents are supposed to test the food, not the security person. So I did one thing wrong.... I carried a 4oz tube of cream with no ml markings on it. It doesn't justify her failures to ensure DD had a boarding pass and that proper procedures were followed with regards to searching our belongings.

BoffinMum Thu 14-Feb-13 18:48:10

I travel incredibly lightly, even with babies/toddlers/tinies on long haul flights. My tricks for anyone over 6 months are:

Two bottles, just rinse with a bit of hot water when necessary. They survive. Roll up disposable bottle tucked away in case of disaster. I've even used Fruit Shoot bottles for formula when stuck. The world didn't end.

Break all the rules on formula - take 7 scoops per feed in a container with compartments, add 7 fl oz hot water or Evian as required. Shake. Again, they survive, amazingly.

Take nappies for 24 hours in case we're stranded, full pack wipes.

Take 2 day outfits as well as 2 babygros that could just about pass for daywear.

Big carrier bag tucked away in case of big mess.

Packet of raisins, one or two Farley's rusks.

Soap leaves and smallest size travel towel.

Spare t-shirt for me.

Extra blanket for on the plane.

That's about all I take. Food wise I just feed them bits of whatever they have on the plane, than I am eating (I chew it up for them, if necessary).

Backinthebox Thu 14-Feb-13 18:57:44

Flight durations DO vary by more than 5% though. I can't be bothered to explain it to you, because I have a feeling you won't take it on board anyway.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Thu 14-Feb-13 19:17:49

Eh? Wind, holding patterns, runway slots, offloading passengers, taxi time if you are at the furthest gate? Loads more that passengers are never even aware of? One of these alone could give a variation of more than 24 mins.

Many flights I've been on, not just SAS, say they've caught up time en route after an hour 's delay on take off - I simply assume the schedule contained considerable delay allowance in the first place.

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