Thursday, June 30, 2011
Malaysian Airlines has announced that it is banning babies from First Class on some of its flights. However, there appears to be a lot of back pedaling in the explanations of the reasons behind this move.
A couple of days ago, AOL Business News wrote:
First-class passengers aboard some Malaysia Airlines flights won't have to worry about being woken up by a crying baby anymore.
The airline has banned infants in first class of its Boeing 747-400 jets, and has plans to do the same in their new Airbus A380 superjumbo jets, the Australian Business Traveller reported.
Initially, news reports were saying that the baby ban was due to crying babies disrupting passengers who had paid a very high price for their first class ticket. These reports apparently came from a June 20 tweet from the CEO of Malaysian Airlines, Tengku Azmil:
However, Malaysian Airlines later back pedaled and said this wasn't the real reason for the ban. The Australian Business Traveller quoted a media statement that was issued by Malaysian Airlines explaining the ban:
Bassinet facilities were originally available in the First, Business and Economy class zones of the 747’s. In 2003, Malaysia Airlines embarked on a revamp of First and Business class cabin of the B747s. The First class seat configuration was reduced from 18 to 12 for passengers to enjoy increased cabin space and extended legroom.
Each new seat came with an electrically operated ottoman that doubles as a visitor seat and could convert to a lie-flat bed with the main seat. As a result of this seat revamp and the introduction of the ottoman, there was no facility for positioning bassinets in the First Class of the B747s.
The further explained that infants were still welcome in Economy and Business Class (if anything, it would seem like "business class" would be the appropriate section to ban babies from, if you were going to do so at all).
Where is the Logic?
At this point, I was very confused. No babies in first class, because there are no bassinets there?
- First, as far as I know, most airlines only have a few bassinets available (usually the bulkhead seats). However, parents with infants are generally welcome to book seats without bassinets and just hold their babies on their laps. This is what we did on most flights with our babies.
- Second, the bassinets are only good for very small newborns. By the age of six months, both of my babies were too heavy for them. On the dozens of flights that we took with our babies under two years old, we simply held them. We only used the bassinet on one flight, for a period of 15 minutes while we ate our meals. They slept better (and disturbed fewer people), when they were in a ring sling on my chest than when they were in a bassinet anyway.
- Third, safety advocates say that the safest place for a baby on the flight is in its car seat in its own seat on the plane. While plane tickets are very expensive (especially in first class) and many people do opt to have a lap baby, there are others who always purchase a seat for their baby.
Overall, based on those three factors, I would say that the percentage of babies that actually use the bassinets on airplanes is quite small. Therefore, not having the bassinets in First Class would not be a real reason to ban babies from first class.If it was, wouldn't they also have to ban babies from any seat that does not have a bassinet in other parts of the plane? Is a bassinet mandatory equipment for babies on Malaysian Airlines?
In case you are thinking that this can't really be true, check out the update in the post on Have Baby, Will Travel, in which the Malaysian Airlines CEO is quoted as saying: “We do not take infants in 1st Class whether on their own seat or on the lap." So this isn't just about the bassinets.
Are Babies Really the Most Annoying Passengers?
I know that a lot of babies do cry on take-off and landing due to the pressure on their ears. That is generally a very short component of the flight. Some babies do cry at other points in the flight, but they certainly do not have a monopoly on annoying noise. In fact, the loudspeaker on the planes that has to remind you about Duty Free Service when you are trying to sleep is probably the most annoying sound to me, followed closely by the people who laugh out loud at the movie while wearing headphones and not realizing how loud they are. Beyond noise, there are the people who put their seats back (even when it isn't night time) leaving me with no space to move, the people who use both arm rests, the people who bring and eat their own disgusting smelling snacks, the people who hover in the aisle right next to your seat, and so on.
Personally, I found it very easy to travel with my babies. As soon as they made a peep, I would nurse them or give them a pacifier. They were generally quite easy to keep happy and quiet. Toddlers, on the other hand, were a handful. They would squawk, cry, scream, kick the seat in front of them, push on the seat in front of them, constantly ask to walk up and down the aisle, and so on. Transatlantic overnight flights with my toddlers were fine because they slept, but coming back home when we were confined for 7 hours and they were awake, was a horror.
However, the Malaysian Airlines CEO has no problem with toddlers in First Class:
Are you as confused as I am?
Why are babies really being banned by Malaysian Airlines? Their explanation about the bassinets makes no sense at all. My guess is it is just to pander to the illogical sensitivities of some very rich passengers in an attempt to capture their business. For their sake, I hope that the babies in the first row of the section right behind First Class end up being the noisiest babies imaginable.
Want to read more on this topic? Check out Kristina Chew's great piece on Care2: Airline Bans Babies in 1st Class: In Search of Cry-Free Skies
Photo credit: Scott and Elaine van der Chijs on flickr