Tracy Morison argues that when it comes to ‘family-friendliness’ we need to think out of the box and come up with fair solutions that don’t marginalise those who don’t have children.
I preface this post by declaring that I’m not a Jeremy Clarkson fan. That said, it was fascinating to see reactions to his recent comment on Twitter. “When will British Airways realise that babies belong in the hold?” he tweeted. In response the airline expressed its uncategorical support for all families, including those with infants. Interestingly, BA’s response shows not only a conservative view of families, as only consisting of parents with children, but it also displays a child-centric view (as did an online mothers’ group).
Child-centric culture says that children’s needs are more important than any adults’. We can see this in the preferential treatment that parents are given by extension (like special parking or toilet facilities, early boarding on flights, preferential access to lifts) as well as the status they get by virtue of being parents. I recently saw an elderly women offer up her seat on the bus to a younger person, simply because this younger woman had two children with her.
This is child-centric view is what many childfree people take issue with regarding workplace policies, which I wrote about in an earlier post. As I said in that post, I personally don’t have an issue with family friendly policies – provided that they aren’t child-centric. I would likewise say that there are times that people with small children need a bit of a break. For example, family bathrooms are OK in my opinion if they encourage equally-shared parenting. I think the issue really, which the idea of adult-only flights speaks to, is moving away from a child-centric view to a need-centred view. There are times when it seems unfair to give parents advantages. I certainly think children should give way to elderly people or people with disabilities, for example. On flights, the majority of people’s comfort, for which they have also paid, should not be disrupted by the minority. This is perhaps why many people actually seem to support adult-only flights. Some are even willing to pay more.
Perhaps paying more is not the solution (well, not a fair one, in any case). Earlier this year Air Asia initiated a ‘fair choice’ policy in which passengers could book a seat in the Quiet Zone, which is adult-only. Of course, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of being stuck next to an adult who will chew your ear off, but then flying is not the most fun, and at least Quiet Zones would improve the experience. BA should take note.