The Economist, un 27th 2011, 23:57 by N.B. | SAN FRANCISCO
MALAYSIA AIRLINES, which previously banned infants from
first-class cabins on its 747-400s, will do the same on its newer Airbus
A380s, its chief exeutive, Tengku Azmil Aziz told Australian Business Traveller on Sunday
via Twitter. Every business traveller knows that a crying infant can
ruin what otherwise might be a fairly restful night in first or business
class. But sometimes new parents need to fly, too. Should they and
their offspring really be relegated to the back of the plane for the
It's a tough question. I don't begrudge Malaysia Airlines its business decision, but I hope that at least some of its competitors continue to allow babies up front. New parents who want to fly in first class should at least have the option of choosing an airline that is willing to accommodate them. Currently, infants aren't a particularly common sight in premium cabins. But it would be too bad if there comes a day when they are universally banned.
Unfortunately for new parents, airlines' profit margins are heavily reliant on business travellers, and people travelling for business are much less likely to have babies with them. So if you run an airline that is trying to attract more business travellers (and press attention), banning babies might seem like a smart play. If Mr Aziz's ploy proves to be successful, and attracts more premium travellers to his airline, it could easily spread widely. (The rule might, however, run into trouble in jurisdictions that want to prohibit discrimination against new parents or their babies.)
Malaysia Airlines is sure to get a lot of publicity (positive and negative) from this decision, and perhaps that was the main goal. But it's worth noting that crying babies aren't the only thing that can make a flight uncomfortable. (Also, they don't always cry—I was on a flight last week from New York to San Francisco and the infant behind me didn't make a peep the whole way, even though it was bumpy.) Although Mr Aziz's company may lead the world in infant-free first class, it also crams more people (508) into its A380 configuration than any other airline except Lufthansa and Air France. And while noise-cancelling headphones can allow you to sleep through the loudest of tantrums, they can't give you more leg room.