No babies in first class? Well no chronological babies anyway.

by Janice Hough on June 29, 2011

Few issues are more contentious in the air than the subject of children on planes. As a parent I can see this both ways.

When my son was under two, (he’s now 22) we mostly flew in coach. But we were lucky enough on some occasions to upgrade to business or first. I must say, it was especially nice to have the extra space and better service.

Fortunately he was a relatively easy baby and well traveled enough that he was almost always quiet. But as a fellow passenger with a baby once said, “We have become the people we never wanted to sit next to on planes.”

I’ve traveled over the years on planes next to babies who were far better behaved than many adults. Still, I can certainly see the point of passengers who spend a lot of money on their tickets, and don’t want to even have the chance of ending up next to a baby crying nonstop.

Now, Malaysian Airlines is doing something about it. The airline has decided to ban infants, under the age of two, in first class on its Boeing 747-400 jets, and has plans to do the same in their new Airbus A380 superjumbo jets.

Apparently many first-class passengers complained they couldn’t sleep. In this case, money not only talks, the airline is listening.

CEO and Managing Director Tengku Azmil has even tweeted a defense of the move saying, “That’s true. Has bn 4 a while now” and “Also hv many complaints from 1st class pax dat dey spend money on 1st class &; can’t sleep due to crying infants.”

The ban applies for lap babies (children not occupying a seat) and for anyone rich enough to try to buy a seat for the infant. Babies under two will still be allowed in business class as well as coach. The airline, unlike many U.S. domestic carriers, still has bassinets in both coach and business.

So far, no other airline has followed suit. Although, if Malaysian Airlines starts filling up their first class cabin with paying customers, it’s hard to imagine they won’t start a trend, especially in competitive Asian long-haul markets.

Then again, with all the competition across the Atlantic, banning babies could be a way for a carrier to differentiate themselves in appealing to business travelers.

What if a CEO, elite frequent flier member, or celebrity wants to pay for bringing their family up front with them? In this era of Youtube.com etc, this wouldn’t be one of those policies where an exception would go unnoticed.

So what do you think Consumer Traveler readers? Is this a good idea? Would you be more likely to fly, (or for travel agents, to sell,) an airline that banned babies up front? Or is the policy discriminatory and wrong?

Or, is it discriminatory and you don’t care because people should be able to pay for peace and quiet?

Unfortunately, no matter which way this policy plays out, airlines probably won’t be able to ban the other scourge of peace and quiet in first class — passengers who act like babies.

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  • Michael H

    Really, bury the fact that there’s no bassinet positions deep in the article so you can get away with writing the rest of this article – that’s low but starting to be expected for Chris Elliott affiliated stories and publications, specially considering his totally transparent hate of high value pax.

    No bassinets = no babies. The fact that high paying pax get a of peace and quiet with their high paying fares is just the icing on the cake.

  • Anonymous

    No bassinets = no babies?? What a completely ridiculous assumption. And I feel I can say that because I flew international with my then nine month old and despite the fact that I confirmed with the carrier no less then three times that a bassinet would be available, we were not afforded one. Not only do babies cry because the change in air pressure is very uncomfortable (but can be relieved by eating or sucking on a pacifier), but getting too hot from having to stay in such close contact for an extended period of time. You don’t have any more right to fly than I and my son do, so please don’t look for us to stop any time soon. 

    Edited to add: I meant “you” in the general sense, not you in particular, Michael H!

  • John

    I happen to agree with MA as both a parent and an elite who flies up front a lot. My wife gets annoyed but I’m not going to subject passengers paying a ton of money to my family. I’ve been on the other end and was ticked.

    If some big wig wants to buy out the entire section, they can do whatever they want at that point. No one can argue that they are bugging anyone.

  • bodega

    Discrimination!  I guess since the child isn’t paying for their ticket they can’t fight this!

    Can we add to the list of who can’t be in first class?
    -Snorers
    -Passengers who haven’t showered prior to flight and put on clean fresh clothes
    -Smokers….the smell lingers
    -Less than proper clothing
    -No one with stinky feet
    -No loud talkers

     

  • Tony A.

    This should not have an effect in the USA since there is no first class on MH from LAX to KUL anyway.
    It does affect flights from London, Sydney and Buenos Aires. MH just issued this clarification – http://updates.malaysiaairlines.com/infant-travel.aspx

    First, since this does not affect any flights from/to the USA, then why should we care?
    Second, I assume that MH will institute this by eliminating IN/90 or 85 fares (INF PTC) in F/P class. How is this any different from so many fare bases in economy that only have ADT PTCs defined for them? Why is forcing an infant to buy a seat discriminatory?

  • Janice

    Don’t forget those doused in perfume.  And drunks.

  • Janice

    Tony, as a Malaysian reservation agent told me, it’s no infants, period, even if they buy a seat.

  • http://profiles.google.com/saucywench S E Tammela

    Of course it’s discrimination, but as a parent, I completely agree with Malaysia’s decision. Yes, I’ve flown with a baby and I know how difficult it is. I understand babies cry at the pressure, the noise, the strange environment, the tiredness etc. I am not blaming the babies, but by the same token, just because Baby is upset, doesn’t mean FC passengers should have to deal with it. FC pax pay a lot of money for extra room, for comfier seats, for nicer meals, and so on. They have every right to choose an airline which also offers them crying-free flying. It really isn’t any different to the large people, the people who stink, the drunks… any and all of them can be denied boarding in First Class in order to look after the passengers who keep the airline in profit. Those who don’t like it have freedom to book a different airline.

  • http://profiles.google.com/saucywench S E Tammela

     ”No bassinets” was no accident – other articles have stated that the planes are being reconfigured with the bassinets intentionally omitted.

  • Tony A

    I read the original article with follow up here – http://www.ausbt.com.au/mas-malaysia-airlines-baby-ban-first-class-infants-airbus-a380-boeing-747-400.
    However, if that is true that they do not allow infants with or without seat in the first class cabin, then how do we explain the fact that MH F class fare from SYD-KUL filed (w/ ATPCO I assume) has an IN90 designation. Nothing in the Fare Rules for first class indicates a ban of infants. See below:

    SYDKUL-MH 30JUN11      *RULE DISPLAY*     TARIFF 0008 RULE 5000
    * ADD APPLICABLE TAX * FED INSP FEES *                        
    1AUD/1.044277 USD                                             
    015-FARE BASIS         AUD       NUC                PTC  FT  GI
    FR              R   8677.00   8767.14               ADT  NL  EH
    FR/CH25         R   6508.00   6575.36               CNN  NL  EH
    FR/CH25         R   6508.00   6575.36               INS  NL  EH
    FR              R   8677.00   8767.14               UNN  NL  EH
    FR              R   8677.00   8767.14               UNN  NL  EH
    FR/IN90         R    868.00    876.70               INF  NL  EH
    DBTGV2AU        R   3470.00   3506.04               ADT  EX  EH
    BOOKING CODES        F                                        

    CHILD DISCOUNT                                                
    FARE RULES TEXT                                               
                                                                  
      ACCOMPANIED CHILD 2-11 – CHARGE 75 PERCENT OF THE FARE.     
            TICKET DESIGNATOR – CH AND PERCENT OF DISCOUNT        
      OR – INFANT UNDER 2 WITH A SEAT – CHARGE 75 PERCENT OF THE  
             FARE.                                                
                 TICKET DESIGNATOR – CH AND PERCENT OF DISCOUNT.  
             NOTE -                                               
              UNACCOMPANIED INFANT – NOT PERMITTED                
       OR – UNACCOMPANIED CHILD 8-11 – CHARGE 100 PERCENT OF THE   
             FARE                                                 
      OR – 1ST INFANT UNDER 2 WITHOUT A SEAT – CHARGE 10 PERCENT  
             OF THE FARE.                                         
                 TICKET DESIGNATOR – IN AND PERCENT OF DISCOUNT.  
             NOTE -                                               
              UNACCOMPANIED INFANT – NOT PERMITTED                

    ELIGIBILITY                                                   
                                                                  
             NOTE -                                               
              UNACCOMPANIED INFANT – NOT ELIGIBLE                 

    So is Malaysian airlines going to allow agents to sell a first class ticket to  accompanied infants in first class and then deny them boarding or move them (w/ a parent) to business class when they check in? What’s coming out of their mouths and what I see on the computer terminal does not jive (not to mention that they are also ar signatories to and accept IATA YY fares that also has an IN90 discount of F class).

  • Tony A

    I read the original article with follow up here – http://www.ausbt.com.au/mas-malaysia-airlines-baby-ban-first-class-infants-airbus-a380-boeing-747-400.
    However, if that is true that they do not allow infants with or without seat in the first class cabin, then how do we explain the fact that MH F class fare from SYD-KUL filed (w/ ATPCO I assume) has an IN90 designation. Nothing in the Fare Rules for first class indicates a ban of infants. See below:

    SYDKUL-MH 30JUN11      *RULE DISPLAY*     TARIFF 0008 RULE 5000
    * ADD APPLICABLE TAX * FED INSP FEES *                        
    1AUD/1.044277 USD                                             
    015-FARE BASIS         AUD       NUC                PTC  FT  GI
    FR              R   8677.00   8767.14               ADT  NL  EH
    FR/CH25         R   6508.00   6575.36               CNN  NL  EH
    FR/CH25         R   6508.00   6575.36               INS  NL  EH
    FR              R   8677.00   8767.14               UNN  NL  EH
    FR              R   8677.00   8767.14               UNN  NL  EH
    FR/IN90         R    868.00    876.70               INF  NL  EH
    DBTGV2AU        R   3470.00   3506.04               ADT  EX  EH
    BOOKING CODES        F                                        

    CHILD DISCOUNT                                                
    FARE RULES TEXT                                               
                                                                  
      ACCOMPANIED CHILD 2-11 – CHARGE 75 PERCENT OF THE FARE.     
            TICKET DESIGNATOR – CH AND PERCENT OF DISCOUNT        
      OR – INFANT UNDER 2 WITH A SEAT – CHARGE 75 PERCENT OF THE  
             FARE.                                                
                 TICKET DESIGNATOR – CH AND PERCENT OF DISCOUNT.  
             NOTE -                                               
              UNACCOMPANIED INFANT – NOT PERMITTED                
       OR – UNACCOMPANIED CHILD 8-11 – CHARGE 100 PERCENT OF THE   
             FARE                                                 
      OR – 1ST INFANT UNDER 2 WITHOUT A SEAT – CHARGE 10 PERCENT  
             OF THE FARE.                                         
                 TICKET DESIGNATOR – IN AND PERCENT OF DISCOUNT.  
             NOTE -                                               
              UNACCOMPANIED INFANT – NOT PERMITTED                

    ELIGIBILITY                                                   
                                                                  
             NOTE -                                               
              UNACCOMPANIED INFANT – NOT ELIGIBLE                 

    So is Malaysian airlines going to allow agents to sell a first class ticket to  accompanied infants in first class and then deny them boarding or move them (w/ a parent) to business class when they check in? What’s coming out of their mouths and what I see on the computer terminal does not jive (not to mention that they are also ar signatories to and accept IATA YY fares that also has an IN90 discount of F class).

  • Anonymous

    I would prefer not to be seated next to an infant when I am flying in the front of the plane  because I try to sleep (or work). On the other hand, I can see someone being willing to pay to fly extra to fly with a baby because there’s a higher ratio of flight attendants to passengers. It’s a damned if you do and a damned if you don’t situation.  

  • MidMom8949

    I’m a mother of four grown children.  I love them.  They were the usual babies. 

    I am a frequent flier. And I’m the kind of person who sits in the quiet cars on trains and business or first when flying. If I’m paying extra on a plane, I don’t want to sit next to squirming, crying, even happy gurgling babies.  Please be realistic.  Children are unpredictable.  Your child is lovely, smart, the best baby in the world.  But some of us are happier now that we don’t change diapers or try to figure out why our perfect child suddenly is screaming or spitting up. And we’d really pay extra not to fly with children next to us.  It’s the same reason I don’t eat at restaurants likely to serve food that children will eat or eat late for that reason.

    [That said, I doubt I'd pick Malaysian for that special reason, but all things equal, I would give them preference.]

  • http://mellifshitz.blog.com/ Mel Lifshitz

    Looks unfair to me.  They should reconsider this new policy.

  • Mckinneyski

    Absolutely best idea ever!  Parents have learned to “tune out” and don’t understand how incredibly annoying their child can be to the rest of us.  If I am spending high dollars then I don’t want to be assaulted by your child in an environment where I can’t just walk away.  There is a reason to pay first class prices – and one of them would be to avoid a screaming child.  Kudos to Malaysian Airlines!

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannonbmurphy Shannon Bradley Murphy

    Just this last weekend, we flew ORD/SJC, a short flight, but after we were in our seats, a family with a 3 year old and an infant boarded and entered the seats in front of us saying loudly, so everyone could hear, “Let me introduce you to this flight’s on-board entertainment”, lifting the infant high for everyone to see!  The infant lived up to the introduction, unfortunately…At that point, my 26year old “child” sitting next to me ordered another double vodka and cran!

  • Lyn G

    I agree.  I would furthermore say there is really no good reason to take an infant on an airplane anyway.  Having done that once, many years ago, it isn’t worth the stress, planning, aggravation, and complete disruption of a normal schedule just to drag a baby along.  So if you absolutely need to travel with an infant, take the train or drive, but please don’t subject other travelers who may not feel your child is all that cute screaming their little lungs out.

  • bodega

    It isn’t you place to say.  We just took an infant twice on over 5 hours flights due to family memorials.  One to Hawaii, so kinda hard to drive there :)  BTW, she was great and we got complimented!

  • bodega

    So those who pay for a coach seat don’t have the same rights as those in first class in regards to being able to work, sleep or read? 

  • Lyn G

    Who’s idea was it to take an infant to a memorial?  Obviously not the infant’s choice, but they didn’t have a say.  The kid won’t remember a thing about the memorial.  Give me one compelling reason why this infant needed to make the trip.

  • bodega

    One word, family and it isn’t your place to comment on it.  We all do what we have to do and an infant can travel on a plane quite nicely.  This one has been on several and the next one will be, too….and in first class!

  • Lyn G

    I asked for a compelling reason, not a self-serving justification to inconvenience a captive audience for several hours.  And since I’m paying for the ticket, and the kid isn’t, it is my place to say.

  • bodega

    But the adult traveling with the infant has a say to their comfort, too, IMHO.  You can’t discriminate against children in housing, it shouldn’t be in the air, either.  I do think parents need to tend to their children and on our last flight, with our infant, was a child that the parents just let cry.  I personally think it all depends on the parents and how they try to do somethng.  

    Some rock star on our flight east last summer was in our cabin (son knows the name, I don’t) and came up after the flight and said he wasn’t excited about having the baby around, and was impressed on how well she did….and the family, too.   

  • Carrie Charney

    I guess, if one attends a memorial, one should leave the infant at home to take care of itself.

  • http://mellifshitz.blogetery.com/ Mel Lifshitz

    You do have a point.  May be the airline company can create a compromise agreement between passengers with infants and those without.

  • Maria

    People pay for peace and quiet in the hotels and not on the planes. It is a mean of transportation and those who need peace and quite time have to wait until the plane lands. 

  • http://www.bassinet.org bassinet

    So babies aren`t humans..oh they have no money.

  • http://easyeta.com/ Australian Visa

    If you are heading to Australia with a baby, be sure to check out Australia travel tips from my friend Susan as she had an easy flight experience despite having a baby on the 14 hour flight.

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