For those who have cried foul over the concept of “child-free zones” on airplanes, Deborah Tan has something to say.
I woke up yesterday morning and saw on Facebook that a friend had liked an article shared by her friend. It was a report by Mirror titled, “Airline launches child-free zones on flights – and parents are furious”. You can read it here.
My first thought as a childless person? “Oh, okay. That’s fine. More seating options for those who want to be assured of a quieter flight.” But then I clicked on Comments and found myself blown away by the furore. Many people lambasted the move as an act of “child-hating”, saying it is yet another sign that society has become more selfish and less tolerant, and asking why supporters of such policies cannot see that “kids can’t help be kids”.
Let me just put it out here before I delve further into this topic:
1. I don’t hate children.
2. No one hates you, your kids and, for that matter, every single little human being under the age of 12.
3. No one is saying parents are lesser human beings and that families should be seated in the worst sections of the plane.
4. No one is saying kids are horrible and should be caged up at home, and barred from flying until they turn 13.
What “child-free zones” represent is not discrimination against children. Rather, they represent CHOICE.
Why can’t we choose to be away from your kids?
For the longest time, airlines have been dividing their planes into First Class, Business Class, and Economy. If you can afford the ticket, you can fly First or Business and be rewarded with better food, better services, and more space.
Would you say First Class and Business Class are a form of discrimination against those who can only fly coach? If your answer is No, why is the child-free zone a form of discrimination? You have to pay more to be seated in a child-free zone and the supposed “peace” is the additional perk. As it is, on low-cost carriers, you can pay more for a seat upfront or near an emergency exit to get more legroom.
First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy, Child-free, ScootinSilence … these represent different seating options in a plane. Nothing more, nothing less.
People who want to be away from kids shouldn’t have to explain themselves
From a personal point of view, wanting to be seated away from a child does not make me a horrible human being. I won’t (and will never) make you apologise for flying with a child so, I refuse to apologise or make you feel better about why I want to be seated away from one. I also don’t owe anyone an explanation why I want to be seated in a child-free zone (“Oh, because once I touch down I have to head straight to work … so a child-free zone would ensure I get some sleep …“).
Would you expect someone to explain why he’s paying extra for a seat with more legroom? I didn’t think you would.
It’s time people come to realise that there are adults who just don’t want to be in the company of children and, it doesn’t make them horrible people.
When I walk my dog in the neighbourhood, he receives adoration and annoyance in equal measures. Some people see my dog and scoot off like it’s the hound from Hell. As upset as I may be, they have every right to not want to cross paths with my dog. Should I be offended that lots of places in Singapore bar pets from their premises? If parents believe they should feel outraged by the concept of child-free zones, pet-owners should also feel that way when it comes to places that don’t welcome animals.
Your child is special to you … not to the rest of us
Finally, let’s flip this scenario on its head. What if, instead of a child-free zone, airlines come up with a family-exclusive zone where parents can pay more to upgrade to a section where soft toys are placed on every seat and the inflight entertainment screens only Disney movies? Just like how many parents go out of their way to look for kid-friendly restaurants, I’m sure this would be a popular way to fly for them.
But what if child-less adults cry foul over such a move? Would these same parents go, “Why are these people unhappy about a child-friendly zone? Do they hate kids so much they can’t bear to see them be treated special?”
Well, until airlines launch Family-friendly zones, please just be happy that the rest of us can choose to sit away from children. Not your children; just children in general.
I get it that a zone that explicitly states, “KEEP OUT”, is not as “nice” as a zone that says, “You can come in as long as you can pay a bazillion dollars for a ticket.” It is, however, all the same. Remember that once the plane takes off, the flight attendants would, without fail, draw curtains to keep the economy-people away from the business class. If you should attempt to pull open these curtains to use the toilets just behind them, you’ll be told, “Sorry, sir, please use the toilets at the back of the plane.” Although it doesn’t say, “Poor people, stay away”, the effect is there. And if we have all come to accept that this is the way airlines run their business – segregating the haves from the have-nots – then, a child-free zone is just a seating option for people who prefer to not be caught in the middle of a kiddie meltdown, should it ever happen.
28 Oct 2016