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Kids in first class: yeah baby or no way?

Categories: Push my Button, Wanna Fight About It?


Despite having spent 12 years of my life with an airline pilot and traveling all over the world, I can count the number of my first-class flights on just two fingers. One. Two. That’s right, as a member of the traveling class of airline employees and families of airline employees we had to show comportment and respect to the passengers paying full price (that’s you), which meant No Kids in First Class. And because I always had anywhere between one and three kids with me, I sat in back in steerage. With the kids. And with everyone else’s kids. Your kids, my kids, conspiring to drive other passengers crazy.

Just for fun, let’s talk a moment about Things Kids Do On Planes:

  • Turn around in their seats to peer at the people behind them.
  • Repeatedly kick the seat in front of them.
  • Scream.
  • Drop things.
  • Require frequent snacks.
  • Talk constantly, usually in a loud voice.
  • Require four times the amount of gear and therefore the overhead bin space of a non-child.
  • Make frequent trips to the bathroom, “just in case.”
  • Walk slowly up and down the aisles to alleviate the crushing boredom, touching everyone on the way.
  • Cry upon approach as the altitude drops.

Quite a list, isn’t it? I’d love to do at least half those things myself, but I doubt I could get away with it for long. But kids can, and they do. And we’re stuck up there in a sealed tin can with them for hours.

My second first class trip was just a few months ago. Air mile upgrade. You know the drill: you fly 687 times at regular price and you get a free upgrade. Woo hoo. And after sitting in steerage 687 times with Junior kicking the back of your seat the whole time, you really feel you DESERVE first class, you know? Peace, quiet, those nice warm towels and a sundae. Sure, you could get all that at home by locking yourself in the bathroom, but this is First Class we’re talking about here.  The magical land on the other side of the curtain.  You’re going to enjoy every second of it.

That’s what I thought, except there was a kid behind me. TWO kids.  Who kicked my seat until I turned around and peered between the seats and fixed them with my basilisk stare.  But still, the magical unicorn world of First Class had gone. The spell was broken.

It’s ironic, my chagrin at being seated in First near some children, because for 12 years I wished myself up front to that magical world, telling myself that MY children were so much better behaved than most and that MY children would be quiet and that MY children wouldn’t throw things and certainly that MY children would never annoy any snooty First Class Person.


There’s a reason why my ex-airline prohibits employees from sitting “up front” with kids. Like the time my younger daughter cried all the way to New York from Ireland because she had emergency dental issues and Tylenol and non-stop breastfeeding just weren’t cutting it (luckily they were able to reseat everyone and create a wide berth around her ear-splitting shrieks).

But some airlines do. The question is — should they? Should kids be allowed in First Class?  There’s a thoughtful post about this that proposes what I think is a great solution: allow kids but only older ones.

Still, weary parents deserve perks, too, and it seems unnecessarily unfair to blanketly ban parents from First Class simply because they’re parents.  I know I longed to sit there for years (we sure put a lot of meaning into a bowl of microwaved nuts, don’t we?).

Traveling this summer? Thoughts about First Class? Kids — yea or nay?

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4 comments so far...

  • For the most part, no. If I paid the big bucks for traveling in First Class, I would not want Dennis the Menace sitting behind me, kicking my seat and flinging boogers at me when I give him dirty looks. But ya know, its not really the kid’s fault. Its the parents. My daughter took her first flight at 9 weeks old. And has flown at least twice a year since then. She is 4 1/2 years old now. Every single time, I’ve had numerous compliments on how well behaved she was on the flight. But that’s because I prepare. If you have an infant? You wait til takeoff to feed the baby so their ears won’t hurt. Got a toddler? Make sure you have PLENTY of things packed for entertainment and snacks. And if your kid is kicking the back of someone’s seat, you stop them, and let them know that they better not do it again, or you’re going to have them sent down to cargo.
    Of course, I’ve got the sweetest, best behaved little girl in the world, so maybe I just had it easy ; - )

    Erica  |  June 24th, 2009 at 11:45 am

  • Sure, as long as they are my kids, lol!

    Honestly, I’ve never had a child be obnoxious around me in First Class. Kids who are used to traveling, eating at restaurants, etc., generally know how to behave. It’s also harder for them to bother others with the seats farther apart, and easier for them to get comfortable. I am more likely to be bothered by kids in the cattle car part of the plane (which is, of course where I normally sit). Because more of the kids in that part - and more of their parents - aren’t used to travel and they are out of their element.

    SKL  |  June 24th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

  • I agree with SKL - some kids are fine in 1st class as they are very used to travelling. We travelled in 1st class as kids when we were flying unaccompanied minor (in the days where there weren’t as many of us) becuase the flight attendants found it easier to keep an eye on us there than in coach.

    Too me it is a nuisance in coach or 1st class to deal with kids who parents aren’t even trying though. In your case, you were obviously trying to deal with your daughter’s angst and I’d be sympathetic. My daughter had plane terror for a while and it was tough but I tried everything. But the parents who put on their eye masks and plug in their earbuds while their kids kick seats, run around and wreak havoc; grrrr…..

    Mich  |  June 24th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

  • My husband just got a email that I was upgraded for my flight wed to ATL. I am so the mom who thinks of others and makes my child behave and am worried about the others on the plane BUT my thing is the same thing is going to happen in the back or front. I’m going back and fourth about it but since I never get to sit in first class and have no room in the back…I think it might be easier for the both of us if we have more room and space to keep her griddy little hands off the seat in front. :) Great post!

    Tara Bucci  |  May 3rd, 2010 at 12:37 pm