Etiquette of kids on planes: Should adults ditch their kids in economy while they fly first class?

Here is a niche travel trouble: is it fair for parents to fly business or first class while booking economy for their children?

This has emerged as a consistent conundrum of the frequent-flying celebrity classes - Gordon Ramsay crowed about his choice to segregate his children in-flight not long ago. Earlier this month, UK property presenter Kirstie Allsopp told London's The Sun that she booked economy for her children, ages 12 and 10, because otherwise they'd have nothing to aspire to.

"Obviously this wasn't the case when they were little but now they are big enough to sit separately, they do," she explained.

"Club Class should be a huge treat you've worked hard for. If kids get used to it, what do they have to work towards? It seems like an absurd waste of money and very spoiling."

So, hurrah for luxury holidays, but don't "spoil" the children with fancy seats.

Later, on Twitter, Allsopp defended her choice, saying it was hardly hardship for her children.

When are children old enough to fly solo?

Allsopp's plan begs a broader question: whose responsibility are children in the air? When are they old enough to fly independently?

Allsopp says her children are mature enough; but while some airlines allow children to fly unaccompanied from the age of 12, as of this month, British Airways has raised the age to 14, the same minimum age required by easyJet for independent travel.

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In Australia, Qantas and Virgin Australia allow children to fly unaccompanied from the age of 12, but kids as young as five can fly as "unaccompanied minors" (who are looked after and guided by staff during their flight for an additional fee). Jetstar and Tigerair also allow children 12 and over to fly alone, but do not provide "unaccompanied minor" services for younger children.

How much should parents do to control their children on a plane?

You can tell a lot about a parent by their in-flight behaviour. Toddlers on planes is an Us versus Them scenario – but which side will mum and dad take?

Some brazenly attempt to distance themselves from their own child: Who is this creature? I cannot claim it as my own. Watch my back as I skitter off to first class and leave the child in steerage (true story of transatlantic divorce, in which dad spread out in club class while the youngest of his three children vomited in economy. And was helped by his siblings - both under the age of 12 - and fellow passengers and flight attendants. But not Dad.)

Others adopt a socialist approach and think the entire community - sorry plane - should be responsible for the care of their offspring. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, and all that.

This, of course, clashes quite conclusively with those who favour banning children from business and first class altogether.

Worst-case scenario, splitting children from parents could be dangerous, according to a study conducted earlier this year.

It can also cause excess to-ing and fro-ing, and annoyance for flight attendants and fellow passengers.

But others dismissed criticism of the television presenter, saying her children would be fine on their own.

So, whose side are you on?

If the ethical goal is a lesson in working to earn life's pleasures, why not ban holidays altogether? Why not send your children to their room with a loaf of bread and some sandwich fixings while you trot out to a candlelit dinner? Banning them from flying with you seems an arbitrary "lesson", if that's really what it is, in moderation, and one that may require an extra effort from fellow passengers and flight attendants.

But what do you think? Is it fair?

For younger children, here are some hacks for getting through the flight with your sanity and manners intact:

How to keep young kids happy on a flight

Food

Plane food is not good - for adults or children. Bring a picnic.

Entertainment

When you're 35,000 feet up in the air, it may not be the moment to try a new film or game. Plus, in-flight entertainment frequently fails. Bring a loaded tablet and child-appropriate headphones. Use them at all times; this trend for playing games and watching videos without headphones is the height of rudeness.

Seatbacks...

...aren't kicking bags. Remind your child this before and during the flight.

Flight attendants...

...are not babysitters. Treating them as such is the quickest way to make everyone on board hate you. This goes for young children, but also for older ones: flights are tense moments of uncommonly close quarters. Manners count more than ever.

Ears

The most common medical complaint among airline passengers is ear popping – and this affects people differently, depending on their anatomy. Younger kids should suck or swallow a lot. This is the dummy's moment to shine. Slightly older children could suck on a sweet or lollipop to equalise the pressure.

The Telegraph, London

See also: The real reason passengers suffer air rage

See also: Ten rules every traveller should follow

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