Should You Bring a Toddler Into Business Class?

You’re at the end of one business trip and headed to another one immediately after.  You calculate you can get five hours of sleep on the airplane in your business class seat.  You lean back, close your eyes, and then are startled by the crying of a toddler.

Should that child be in business class in the first place?

baby child airplane dreaming

This question was posted on Quora and I was (pleasantly) surprised by the response of the business travelers who responded.

First of all, my thoughts.  I used to go on a work trip, barely get home, then have to turn around again and go back somewhere else again.  Because of that, I relied on sleeping on the plane a lot.

So when a baby started crying on the plane, it interrupted my sleep.  Did that mean the baby didn’t belong in business or the mother (or father!) erred by sitting there with their child?

Of course not.

A baby crying is a lot less intentional than a friend yelling across the aisle to another friend during a red eye, or that person playing his video game with the sound on during a 5am flight.  The baby can’t help it and is literally distressed.  If we started throwing babies out for making noise, it would be hypocritical not to do it to Mr. Loud Talker.  (Not that I’m advocating throwing out either one).

When I started feeling stressed about a baby crying, I kept remember Dr. Art Carden’s advice, “When you feel mean, do something nice.”

More on that here.

That really helped things for me.  But the important thing was, it gave me a way to improve the situation (vs. complaining about it).

More recently, my friend Emily handed me a pair of earplugs and suggested I use them for redeyes.  Duh, Jeanne.

That changed my sleeping-while-flying life.  When I put those babies in, I’m out cold, and no toddler or drunk set of friends is going to wake me.

But back to the Quora thread.  Most business travelers said, of course the children are welcome.  They explained why they look so irritated at the time, but that’s mostly due to the lack of sleep they have from the business travel.  So while they are grumbling at that moment (or possibly sending dirty looks), that’s them at their worst.

A United Million Miler concluded with:

And no, buying a business class seat does not mean that I somehow have a magical right to not be seated near children. It might reduce the likelihood, which is fine, but the mere fact that I have more resources to buy a plane ticket doesn’t make me “more important” than the folks in coach, and somehow entitle me to a child-free flying experience.

Another business traveler comments that it isn’t the toddlers that bother him, it is the other business class passengers:

These people are amazed by the free alcohol and improved service in comparison to what they are used to getting, and boy do they make use of it.

And one business traveler is very honest about his feelings:

There will be times that these folks, traveling on their companies’ dimes will treat this as an open bar party, but there are some of us who are just trying to get some decent shut eye and arrive ready to work.  If you’re toddler is well behaved, great. If you’ve got a baby that will be crying for half the flight and running around in the aisles for the other half, then that’s not the best for everyone else.

Is it inappropriate to bring a toddler into business class? I don’t think so, just be aware that some of us aren’t just trying to be snooty, we’re just trying to be effective with our livelihoods.

How about you?  What are your thoughts on this (sometimes) controversial subject?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. I don’t think toddlers belong in Biz Class but I wouldn’t ban them, parents need to be realistic it rarely goes well

  2. Wow, what type of ear plugs do you use? I have not had as much success.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      I used to use ear plugs wrong, and Emily also told me to make sure I twist them before putting them in. Wow, the difference was incredible. Also works well with friends who snore 😀

  3. We travel often and exclusively in the front of the bus with our little one. He’s almost two and has been from NY to europe 3x, to the west coast several times and even to Kauai.

    In all honestly – he does better in a lie flat seat that I do. If he gets a good nap in – he’s a joy. If he’s stuck in a middle seat he won’t nap well and everyone around us pays for it.

    If we had to ride in the back of the bus – we just wouldn’t go. Enough said.

  4. If you’ve experimented in coach on a domestic flight, and know that your child is not going to screech for extended periods, why not? As a first time flying situation, probably an awful idea.

  5. It’s simple to me most kids are well behaved and fine. As long as the parents make an effort when the child is screaming it is never a problem. What annoys me are those parents who don’t bother to take off their head phones or stop watching their movie to try and cuddle or comfort their child. I’ve got kids who have flown in business and in first (over 50k miles before the oldest turned 5 as we live overseas) and we never once had more then a mild cry. Also though we make the effort to keep an eye on them and keep them busy (bring lots of little games and things (stickers, beads etc) to keep them occupied). Once a guy dressed in a suit came by at the end of the flight to say; you know when you guys got on I was really worried I would not get any sleep but they are great I didn’t hear them once. I know it sounds silly but to us who choose to respect our fellow passengers it would a great applause. I think the problem are those family’s who don’t care who they annoy. Sometimes you can’t stop crying (stopped up ears etc) I understand that but at least try to help your baby!

  6. if the child is with a ticket, then of course he or she is entitled just the same as any other passenger to a seat in whatever category purchased.

  7. Love your post and pleasantly surprised by the supportive comments. We live overseas and have been on dozens of flights back and forth with our now-two-year-old. There have been good and bad flights, but overall she has been a model flyer.

    We recently got back from a long business class trip and having a bed almost the size of her crib at home, and a big TV can do wonders with a toddler!

    I wrote about one of our recent flights here, check it out!

  8. I Dont think a child or toddler should be banned(I don’t have kids nor want any), but kids will be kids sometimes. Like you said, that is what ear phones are for. I agree with you..what I don’t like is children who are old enough to know better, throwing a tantrum, kicking seats, and the parent wont do anything.

    • as a parent, those are the experiences that bother me the most. Children who are old enough to understand they are being obnoxious, and the parents who turn a blind eye…

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