Why business class is for adults

Airlines should provide some child-free premium cabins, says Richard Quest
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The Independent Travel

It is one of the most unthinkable ideas you can entertain when travelling in business class. A thought that dare not speak its name, guaranteed to provoke both widespread approval and outrage at the same time. A hornet's nest that few travellers dare to stir up. It is: why is that noisy child allowed in business class?

It is one of the most unthinkable ideas you can entertain when travelling in business class. A thought that dare not speak its name, guaranteed to provoke both widespread approval and outrage at the same time. A hornet's nest that few travellers dare to stir up. It is: why is that noisy child allowed in business class?

Anyone who flies regularly at the front has a view on this. Indeed, a recent correspondent to Business Traveller magazine insisted that parents travelling up front should "pay for someone to travel with their child in economy class, where children belong."

All right – let me come out of my middle seat and go to one side or the other. I am also against children being allowed to sit in the premium cabins, for one very good reason. They have no business being there, and I have just endured another flight where the offspring of the rich and spoilt annoyed those who work and travel.

It was everything from the crying infant awaiting a feed to the toddlers who insisted that the aisle was the proper place to play space wars.

And it was not the children's fault. After all, eight or 10 hours in the air is enough to get anyone shrieking and wailing. But the fact is that most of us older travellers do not shriek and wail – not, at least, unless our flight is late, our connection is missed or our first choice of meal is unavailable.

I have nothing against children or babies per se. I just do not see the need to have them cluttering up premium cabins, which were designed for those working or sleeping between business commitments.

And the child doesn't actually have to make a huge noise to get everyone else on edge. A grizzle or two is more than enough, as the rest of us wait expectantly for the inevitable wailing. It's like waiting for the dentist's drill. You know the noise is coming; it's just a question of when.

The reason I am getting so excited about this is that the situation seems to be getting worse. As travellers accumulate more air miles from thousands of non-flying sources – car rentals, hotels, the weekly grocery shop, even by putting school fees on credit cards – more parents can say: "We'll upgrade the kids, too." And the rest of us get lumbered.

The standard answer given by the airlines and parents is that if the family pay for the seat, or redeem the miles, then that is that. Rubbish and rot. Many venues, such as top restaurants and bars, do not admit children after a certain hour. I do not see why there should be any difference in the air.

The worst routes are not to the East coast of the US, where business prices are high, discounts negligible and children rare. It's on flights to Asia, Australasia and the US West coast that wealthy parents inflict their offspring on the rest of us. Surely some business cabins on these flights could be "child free". Airlines: be brave and do it. Regular business travellers will support you.

Some parents are very well aware of the problem – and happily sleep while their children play, so that they can avoid the glares ofangry passengers. Others are bold as brass and stare back, challenging you to make a scene, which of course you don't. Because that is the problem. What do you do about a wailing child? Speak to the parents and a very nasty scene can follow; after all, you are basically telling them that their child is a menace and they don't know how to look after them. The crew will do what they can – but that's not much. So the rest of us suffer.

When I recently expressed these views in a commentary on the CNN website, a torrent of abuse arrived from guilty parents. Richard Quest was clearly never a child, said one. Richard Quest was born in pin-striped nappies, another. My worst nightmare, commented one reader, is not sitting next to a baby, but next to Richard Quest. One can only wonder about their children!

On the other hand, the best example of a caring parent came some years ago when I was flying red-eye from New York to London. As a parent with a child waddled towards the empty seat next to me, the look of horror on my face must have told the story.

"Don't worry," she said. "I've had him running around the park all day. I want to sleep tonight, too."

Richard Quest is a business anchor and the presenter of 'CNN Business Traveller' on CNN International, which airs on Sundays at 8.30pm

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