Should Babies Be Banned from First Class?

Should Babies Be Banned from First Class?

A year or so ago a friend of mine wrote a story for the website of a national women’s magazine that was something along the lines of “How to Dine at a Four-star Restaurant with Kids.” It was one of those list articles that magazines love, the sort that websites love even more, and her editor had asked for 10 tips. By tip #8, she had run out of ideas so she threw in “don’t breastfeed at the table.” She was envisioning dinner at a super high-end restaurant, the sort of place that you would probably never take a baby in the first place, but that would have a lovely women’s lounge nursing mothers could retire to just in case. Two days later there was a Facebook page dedicated to getting her fired for daring to say anything against breastfeeding in public.

This morning’s news that Malaysia Airlines has banned babies from first class struck me as a very similar sort of story. The airline has actually had the policy in place for awhile, but just officially announced that it will be expanding it across all of its flights. The general public and the media have just caught wind of it, and it’s turning into quite the hot-button issue. On the one hand, we’ve all been the passenger stuck next to a crying baby on a long-haul flight…it’s no fun, and I can imagine feeling even less positive about it had I dropped several thousand dollars on the ticket. Still, parents are outraged at infants being outright banned from anywhere. Is this some sort of Baby Jim Crow?

Eh, no. But demand for child-free flights, or at least child-free zones on planes is increasing. British Airways and Virgin America both floated the idea of child-free flights earlier this year, and a recent survey found that 60 percent of travelers were in favor of creating “family-friendly zones” on planes that would essentially contain all the crying babies and fidgety toddlers to one area. Which, in the end, might make moms more comfortable too–most parents I know feel terrible when their kid is the one getting the stink-eye on a flight, and if they were surrounded by other parents and kids, it may not feel like as big of a problem.

As for the First Class thing, to me this is indicative of a broader trend toward integrating children into absolutely every experience and space. I see babies at cocktail lounges, in the lobbies of swanky hotels, at high-end restaurants, and in designer boutiques. These are clearly not people who can’t afford a babysitter so much as people who seem to think that having a kid shouldn’t change their life at all. But you know what? It does. Much like my friend’s suggestion about babies in high-end restaurants, there are just some places that aren’t baby-appropriate, and maybe people need to change their lifestyles a bit during the baby and toddler years. Is flying Business Class for a couple years really such a tough compromise?

Amy Westervelt is a freelance journalist based in Oakland, Calif. She writes about tech, health, and the environment for a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. In 200 ...read more

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