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European airline introduces kid-free zone on flights. Is Canada next?

Click to play video: 'Viral toddler video ignites debate over child-free flights'
Viral toddler video ignites debate over child-free flights
We dive into the controversy surrounding a viral video of a toddler causing a stir on a plane. Travel expert Marty Firestone shares his insights on adult-only air travel and other travel headlines including streamlined security screenings and the rebound of luxury vacations. – May 30, 2023

Passengers flying with Corendon Airlines will soon have access to a child-free section of some flights for a price but experts say not to expect the same in Canada any time soon.

The Turkish-Dutch leisure airline announced that it will launch an “Only Adult” zone for guests aged 16 and older on its routes between Amsterdam and Curaçao starting Nov. 3.

The zone is intended for adults without children, “and for business travelers who want to work in a quiet environment,” the airline said in a news release Aug. 23.

It will be separated from other travellers “by means of walls and curtains,” it says. The zone consists of 102 seats at the front section of the aircraft, each costing 45 euros per trip or roughly $66 Canadian. A seat with extra legroom costs 100 euros, or about $147 Canadian.

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The airline says it believes the “Only Adult” zone will also allow parents to travel peacefully without worrying about how their children may disrupt passengers, but aviation experts are skeptical.

John Gradek, faculty lecturer and coordinator of the aviation management program at McGill University, said the airline may not be able to operationally deliver what it’s promising passengers.

“People would try it once, maybe twice (and then) find out there’s a bunch of operational issues with keeping the cabin secure from kids,” Gradek told Global News.

“It’s a very difficult concept to deliver. I don’t think the people designing these products really understand how complex it can be.”

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Gradek said the airline is likely doing what it can to attract business in a very busy market.

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“I think they’re trying to get some traction in the marketplace, but it’s not a phenomenon that — especially with the prices they want to charge — is going to be very acceptable,” he said.

Corendon is the first European airline to offer child-free seating, but other budget carriers around the world have already adopted variations.

U.S. low-fare airline Breeze Airways implemented a complimentary family seating policy last year. Families with young children are able to select seats together in a dedicated “family section” of the aircraft, at no added cost.

Singapore-based Scoot implemented a quiet section of its planes called “Scoot-in-Silence” in 2013. The economy cabin quiet zone is reserved for passengers aged 12 or older, and offers additional legroom and adjustable headrests.

AirAsia X offers a “quiet zone” for passengers 10 years and older. India’s IndiGo also announced a child-free zone in 2016, geared toward business travelers.

Will kid-free zones come to Canada?

For those hoping to be able to book something similar on a Canadian airline, Gradek said not to hold your breath.

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“I think the airline industry in Canada understands that it’s a level of complexity and marketing strategy that has no long-term value,” he said.

Gradek explained that by blocking off a section of a flight, there may not be enough seats to satisfy a full fare demand. Passengers may not get on their flight of choice because a section of the aircraft is reserved for families. In the long run, if fewer seats are filled, airlines risk losing money.

“That’s something (Canadian) airlines understand,” Gradek said. “They understand that there are some downsides to offering children sections on board airplanes that are blocking off a certain number of seats.”

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Child-free flying: Indian airline’s quiet zone aimed at business passengers

Robert Kokonis, president and managing director of aviation consulting firm Air Travel Inc., echoed Gradek’s sentiments, calling Corendon’s child-free zone “a bit of a policy ploy.”

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“I don’t see this catching on in Canada whatsoever,” Kokonis told Global News.

“What if I close off five kids on board who might actually be well-behaved, but I’ve got somebody sitting one row behind me that talks incessantly the whole flight? Where do you draw the line? On that basis alone I don’t expect to see much take up … or other airlines following suit,” he said.

Kokonis said having children on board any public vessel is “a fact of life.”

“Everybody has a right to travel,” he said.

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