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Fri, Aug 15, 2008

Poll Shows Most Fliers Want Separate Section For Children

But Idea Is Probably Unworkable In Practice

Not that we're against children flying... but many on the ANN staff admit to a sense of dread whenever we see a family with a baby or young child seated near us on a commercial airliner. Apparently, we're not alone -- a new poll by airfarewatchdog.com reveals the frustration most passengers feel when seated next to an active child or crying baby while flying.

When asked "Should airlines have a section of the plane reserved for parents with babies and smaller children?" 10,170 or 58% of respondents answered, "Yes, they should have done this long ago," while 27% answered, "Yes, but they never will and it'll never work." Only 15% answered, "No, this is a bad idea."

The group also notes in comments posted on the Web site's message boards, some parents with small children said that they would be in a more understanding and supportive environment were they to sit with other families rather than next to business travelers and adults traveling without children.

Admittedly, such seating would be almost impossible to implement in practice. Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter tells the site children-only sections would be "logistically difficult" to implement, such as in cases where a passenger requested and paid for a seat in an adults-only section of the plane but was forced to sit in the children's section due to an oversold flight or the substitution of a larger plane for a smaller one.

Officially, airfarewatchdog.com remains neutral on the issue... but site creator George Hobica adds that "even a kids-only section would not prevent truly unruly kids and their parents from being booted off a flight, as happened on a recent Southwest Airlines flight to Phoenix when a mother traveling with her four children was unable to keep them in their seats."

If you want to take steps to avoid having your flight interrupted by a screaming toddler, or hyperactive five-year-old, airfarewatchdog.com recommends adult passengers bring a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, and sitting either in the first of two exit rows available, or in the row ahead of an exit row. Granted, you won't be able to recline your seat (not that you should anyway, really) but you also won't have tiny feet pummeling your seat back, as little ones can't sit in exit rows.

Business travelers and other should also take very early morning flights (5:00 am or 6:00 am, if they're available) since parents can rarely manage to dress, feed, wash, and otherwise organize infants and toddlers in time to catch flights that early in the day.

The site also guardedly recommends speaking up. "Talk to the guardian of the offending child, politely but firmly. Admittedly, this doesn't always work. Ask a flight attendant to speak with the parent, or to reseat you. If the situation is really horrendous and only business or first class is available, ask to be upgraded if seats are available."

If all else fails, Hobica says, "Just grin and bear it. Or start wailing, kicking and screaming yourself."

FMI: www.airfarewatchdog.com/link/kidssurvey, www.smartertravel.com/

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