It’s a polarizing idea.
Some believe a commercial flight is a form of public transportation, and there are bigger issues than crying children on planes.
Others want to tear their hair out when a child throws a tantrum.
At PhotoAiD, we’ve decided to reach out to 1,000+ Americans to see where they stand on this issue and much more.
Let’s dive in:
- About eight in 10 travelers want adult-only flights, and 64% are willing to pay an average premium of 10–30% or more when taking a long-haul ride.
- 89% of the idea’s proponents still advocate for kid-free flights, even after realizing it’d lead to more CO2 emissions.
- Passengers usually blame parents (36%) for being unable to handle their children. Another 25% hold both responsible, and 24% lay the blame on youngsters.
- Of 18% of Americans who previously indicated they were against adult-only flights, 69% are OK with child-free seating zones. That could be a good compromise.
- As much as children can be a nuisance to some, 60% of flyers would rather be seated with a crying, wailing, or otherwise “misbehaving” child than a rude, hygienically challenged, loudly talking, or in any other way annoying adult.
Most Travelers Would Greet the Idea with Open Arms (and Wallets)
If you’re on TikTok, you might have seen a now-viral video where a woman wonders why adult-only flights don’t exist while a child wails away in the background.
As you can imagine, the video sparked a heated debate, raking up 27.9K comments as of December 2022.
From our end, we wanted to deep-dive into the conversation and examine what Americans generally make of the issue in percentage terms:
The results are in:
As you can see, ~8 in 10 Americans want airlines to be offering adult-only flights, with premium passengers (89%), non-parents (87%), and men (85%) the most in favor of the idea.
How much money are they willing to fork out for it?
That depends on flight duration AND whether travelers usually pay for a flight upgrade.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of regular passengers’ vs. premium passengers’ responses when asked how much extra they’d pay for a seat on an adult-only short-haul flight (up to 3 hours):
Thus, 67% of premium passengers claim they’d splash between 10 and 30% or more on an adult-only short-haul flight. As far as regular passengers are concerned, the majority (57%) would pay an extra 0–10%.
How about medium-haul flights (between 3 and 6 hours)?
Most premium passengers (71%) indicated they’d once again shell out 10–30% or more for a chance to fly without children compared to 49% of regular passengers.
Finally, there are long-haul flights (6+ hours). Here’s how different flyers compare:
The bottom line?
When it comes to short plane rides (up to 3 hours), regular passengers, in particular, would be reluctant to dish out much for an adult-only environment, with the majority (57%) indicating they’d pay in the range of 0 and 10% extra for a ticket.
That makes sense. After all, people don’t usually try to get some shut-eye on short-haul flights, so a crying baby might not be that much of a bother.
The longer the journey, the more travelers would be willing to pay a higher premium. So much so that 64% of all flyers would cough up an average of 10–30% or more extra when taking a long-haul ride.
Sustainability Takes a Back Seat
So far, so good.
Now that we’ve learned that most Americans (82%) are all for child-free flights, we have to consider how it’d affect the environment.
As you know, planes are among the most polluting means of transport, together with conventional cars.
If airlines introduced adult-only flights, more planes would have vacant seats. That would make carriers burn more fuel to carry the same number of passengers as before, leading to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
With that in mind, we asked survey participants if they’d still advocate for adult-only flights.
A full 89% said, “Yes.”
Thus, only 11% of the original 82% of kid-free flight supporters changed their minds when they realized the environmental implications.
So much for taking care of the planet!
Most Would Pick a Crying Child over an Annoying Adult
You’ve located your seat and slipped your carry-on into the overhead bin. A moment later, the seatbelt clicks shut, and you’re ready for takeoff.
An ear-splitting cry.
You glance around and find the source: a toddler sitting two rows away.
There goes your peace and quiet.
If you’ve flown on more than several occasions, you know firsthand that scenes like that can happen. So here’s whom travelers typically blame when a child disrupts their travel experience:
It turns out passengers usually blame parents (36%) for being unable to handle their children. Another 25% hold both responsible, and 24% lay the blame on youngsters (24%).
At this point, we also asked survey takers, “What’s your typical reaction to a child who’s either incessantly crying, wailing, kicking your seat, or otherwise disrupting your travel experience?”
Below are the results:
For this question, two of our respondents also added:
“I want to throw the brat off the plane. Without a parachute.”
“I think the plane crashed, and I’m in hell.”
Well, that’s one way to look at it.
But what’s particularly interesting is how Americans responded to our next question, “In a hypothetical scenario, whom would you rather be seated with on an airplane?”
As you can tell, 60% of travelers would pick a child over an adult, even though the former stirs so much emotion.
This response sheds some light:
“I generally don’t mind the sound of children. I hate adults who throw tantrums more.”
Wouldn’t you agree?
Key Reasons Why Some Are against the Idea
Let’s shift our focus to the opponents of adult-only flights.
That’s 18% of US travelers plus another 11% of those who reconsidered after learning about the added emissions.
Here’s why they are against the idea:
The data shows that the most common argument against child-free flights is that it’s just not a problem for some travelers.
Here’s how one of our respondents put it:
“I was dead tired and needed to sleep on the flight. In the seat right behind me was a kid (5-ish?) who started crying every time I shut my eyes. The kid made it clear he was scared, and his mother was trying to calm him so I wasn’t angry. I just dealt with it.”
In summary, it’s a matter of perspective.
While some people would find kid-free flights a lifesaver, others consider them unnecessary or even discriminatory.
Regardless, the final verdict will come to carriers and, ultimately you.
Child-Free Seating Zones Seem Like a Reasonable Compromise
We get it:
Some travelers aren’t jumping up and down for joy about child-free flights.
What about airlines offering child-free seating zones instead?
They could reserve a certain number of rows in the cabin for adults only, so at least the issue of added CO2 emissions caused by empty seats wouldn’t exist.
In fact, that’s something a few airlines (e.g., IndiGo, Air Asia X, Malaysia Airlines) now offer.
We posed this question to our survey takers, who previously indicated they were against the idea of kid-free flights, and here’s what they said:
The results are telling:
Most Americans (69%) would be up for child-free seating zones, unlike adult-only flights.
Here’s how much they’d pay for such an option:
Thus, most Americans (61%) would pay 0–10% on top of their ticket price to have a potentially quieter ride.
It looks like there’s a way to make (almost) everyone happy after all.
Stacking It All Up
There you have it.
A comprehensive look at adult-only flights.
What’s YOUR take on this? Or perhaps you don’t care either way?
Let us know in the comments below.
We conducted an online survey of 1,001 US respondents via a bespoke polling tool in December 2022.
The respondents were 63% male, 36.3% female, and 0.7% identified as other. 17.9% of respondents were 25 or younger, 54% were aged 26–38, 21.7% were aged 39–54, and 6.4% were 55 or older.
This survey has a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3%. Given the gender and age makeup of our sample size, the study’s findings are statistically significant for the population at large.
This study was created through multiple research steps, crowdsourcing, and surveying. Data scientists reviewed all survey participants’ responses for quality control. The survey also had an attention-check question.
Fair Use Statement
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Max Woolf is a writer and travel lover at PhotoAiD. His insights, advice, and commentary have been featured in Forbes, Inc., Business Insider, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, MSN, NBC, Yahoo, USA Today, Fox News, AOL, The Ladders, TechRepublic, Reader’s Digest, Glassdoor, Stanford, G2, and 200+ other outlets.