Indian budget airline IndiGo has recently launched 'child-free' zones on its flights. According to reports, the airline which flies to 40 destinations has decided that rows 1-4 and 11-14 will be "quiet zones" where children under the age of 12 will not be permitted to sit.
A source in IndiGo revealed that since most corporates are seated in these rows, they have been declared 'child-free'. Rows which have extra leg-room will also not be allowed for kids. This means that even if I'm willing to pay more to get the coveted extra leg-room seats, I cannot do so if I'm traveling with a child - because you know, why not squeeze the harried parent traveling with a pram, diaper bag, handbag, and food bag just a little bit more?
Considering a determined, bawling baby can probably be heard all the way to the cockpit, I fail to understand how any zone on a plane can really be a "quiet zone", given that Indigo is a budget airline and does not have palatial, sound-proofed rooms within its aircraft. But I'll leave that for the passengers who want to pay for this zone to figure out.
The underlying assumption for 'child-free' zones is, of course, that adults are better behaved than children. Children are noisy, talk incessantly, need to go to the toilet at least twice (the first time to check out the toilet and the second time to really use it), drop morsels of food, and complain of ear pain.
Perhaps a corporate hotshot, who I imagine is a Very Important Person with a Big Laptop and in a Stiff Suit, will find it impossible to peer at his Excel sheet with its many columns in such circumstances. It's no wonder at all that such a VIP will want to travel only with adults. Because after all, adults are known for their exemplary behaviour.
Adults will switch off their mobile phones when the flight attendant tells them to turn off all electronic devices. Adults will not block the aisle when the flight attendant is moving around with the food trolley. Adults will use earphones when listening to the music of their choice.
Adults will not leave the toilet un-flushed after doing their business. Adults will remain seated once the plane lands until the attendant tells them that it's okay to retrieve their overhead luggage. Adults will form a queue while deplaning instead of pushing and shoving fellow passengers.
Adults will not take photographs of the air-hostesses without her permission. Adults will not squeeze the bottoms of female passengers seated before them.
I recall traveling with my infant daughter on her first flight and trying to breastfeed her discreetly mid-air. Incidentally, this was on an IndiGo flight.
A Suit in the seat in front of me turned around as much as he could, trying to catch a glimpse of my breasts until my husband asked him loudly if he had a problem. Between my infant daughter and the Suit, it was no competition at all who was better behaved. Perhaps the Suit was actually a seven-year-old with a big moustache stuck in his face, what do I know.
It makes sense to keep children away from spaces where they cannot participate in any way or if it's inappropriate for them to be there. I'm all for strict enforcement of rules when it comes to keeping children away from adults only films, for instance. But a flight is a mode of transport, not a piano recital by Bach.
There's also a strong class factor at work here - it's impossible to have child-free zones on buses, trains and other modes of public transport in India, since they are used by the masses. Flights, even budget flights, are for those who're financially sound. IndiGo's policy suggests that if you have the money to pay, it's all right for you to block out the natural human response to a baby's cry of pain when it suffers from an ear ache, and dump its caretakers in a zone where you don't have to look at them. In other words, you've earned your right to be insensitive and unsympathetic.
IndiGo's policy will probably be lauded by the category of millennials who go gaga over pictures of cats and cakes on social media but are condescending towards new parents who put up photographs of their children. Considering children are part of the human species and not a variety of maggots - I mean, even the Most Important Person on the Planet must have once been a child - what sense does this segregation make?
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.