We’ve all been there, and there’s nothing worse. You’re flying to Hawaii for your honeymoon, or you’re heading home to Boston on a red-eye out of Los Angeles. You you settle in to your seat – which you decided to spend a little extra on to get another foot of leg room – only to look up and see multiple babies and families with small children buckling into the row’s in front of and behind you. You just paid hundreds, maybe even over a thousand dollars for your ticket, and now your hope of a relaxing flight to the islands or back to Boston is shattered. This needs to change; why hasn’t it?
According to a 2018 Business Insider article by Hillary Hoffower, “The reasons flying first class can be worth the money have nothing to do with the math“, first class flight prices from NYC across the pond to the UK can be as high as $5,000, and if you fly like a king around the world you can see prices as high as a whopping $32,000. While the latter may likely keep you away from kids – and I mean come on, if you’re going to spend five figures on a flight there had better not be a darn kid on the entire plane – the former cannot guarantee your ears won’t hear screaming kids from the economy section, and that’s sad. But what’s even more sad is that there aren’t childfree flights altogether; restaurants, resorts, and even large cities (Las Vegas anyone?) seem to do extremely well offering childfree options, but why not airlines with their flights?
So what about the economics of childfree flights? How would this work? While I’m sure the airlines would fear not filling childfree flights without families buying seats in bulk, I think a childfree flight option can negate that possibility with a new pricing tier. Specifically, I would wager there’s a business case for childfree flights if an airline simply upped ticket prices to overcome the loss of kids and their parents; while I would also think there’s likely enough demand for kid-free flights to keep pricing the same, I would expect the airline who wanted to innovate and (finally) roll out a childfree flight option would likely take off with slightly higher pricing just in case the demand expectations aren’t quite met.
However, the key issue with why we haven’t seen childfree flight booking options may not have anything to do with the potential challenge of filling missing seats from kids and their parents, but rather with what would happen to the first class cabin altogether. Do the wealthy purchase first class seats today to distance themselves for kids? Sure, there are a number of other great perks about riding first class, but if a United or a Delta offered a childfree flight, would fewer people want to drop $5,000 bucks on sitting first class since they’re guaranteed they can get a peaceful ride from an economy plus seat since there won’t be any kids spilling Dr. Pepper on them?
Whatever the impact on existing business, I still have to believe there’s a solid business case for childfree flights. And outside of revenue, can you imagine the glowing consumer reviews from folks who fly on childfree flights? Rolling out a childfree flight option might just be the biggest innovation in the flight industry in years, so why in the world do these not exist?
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