Should kids get cheaper seats on planes?

As a parent I shouldn’t say this, but I don’t understand why children get cheaper seats on planes.

Little people occupy the same seats as big people and my kids eat more than I do, so they’re no cheaper to have on board.

Many children also weigh almost as much as I do, so there’s little argument regarding fuel usage.

Perhaps on international flights where alcohol is factored into fares it is reasonable to charge a bit less, but otherwise I can’t see a valid reason for a discount.

Qantas recently announced that it is doing away with concessions for children and seniors on its domestic flights, although the change only affects those paying full fares.

With most travellers opting for discounted fares, Qantas says concession fares have accounted for a single digit percentage of its domestic bookings.

Qantas says it will continuing offering discounts for children on international flights.

It seems I’m at odds with the general public on this one, with a survey of almost 15,000 Australian travellers finding more than 77 per cent thought children’s fares should be cheaper than adults’.

Most of those with children were also buying adult tickets, with only about 15 per cent of those surveyed saying their children fly unaccompanied.


There lies the main argument for child discounts: flying is expensive enough for families without paying full fares all-round.

Discounts have to be paid for somehow, so we’re probably all subsidising child fares, but charging full prices would be a hard sell.

Children under two still fly free or for a nominal fee on most airlines, but I would advise you to think carefully about doing this on longer flights.

We flew to Europe when our oldest child was two and our youngest was 10 months.

We booked three seats together at the front of the cabin with a bassinette for the baby, thinking he would sleep most of the way and a bassinette would be the best place for him.

However, he was too big for the bassinette and we struggled to settle him in it.

Almost every time we did get him to sleep, the plane would go through some minor turbulence and the flight attendants would come and tell us to take him out again.

We ended up having him on our laps for most of the journey, which meant we didn’t get much sleep and mealtimes were a nightmare, juggling trays and drinks and a squirming baby.

I ended up wearing a glass of wine… when I most needed to drink it.

With hindsight, we would have bought an extra seat and strapped his car seat onto it, so he could be secure in a seat rather than using a bassinette.

Of course, some travellers believe children should not be allowed on planes at all, or that they should at least be kept away from everyone else.

The Wotif survey found a screaming baby was the “most annoying seat neighbour” on a flight, garnering more than a quarter of all votes.

“A child who can’t sit still” rated in sixth place.

A survey earlier this year of 1500 UK travellers found more than half wanted more child-free zones on planes.

Of those wanting child-free seating options, about two-thirds said they were willing to pay extra, according to the survey by online travel agent Globehunters (although what people say they will pay extra for and what they will actually pay extra for are not necessarily the same thing).

Frequent flyers were particularly keen to avoid munchkins, with 69 per cent of those who flew five times per year or more wanting more child-free zones.

AirAsia X introduced child-free “quiet zones” in February last year, with Scoot following suit six months later.

AirAsia X says its quiet zones have sold well, with many travellers willing to pay extra for a more peaceful journey.

Quiet zones have been offered on all long-haul flights across China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and Nepal, for passengers aged 12 and above.

The premium for a seat in the quiet zone is just $20, or you can pay $50 for a seat that also has more leg room.

Scoot charges from about $15 upwards on top of the fare for a seat in its child-free zone.

In 2011, Ryanair announced that it would go one step further and introduce child-free flights on selected, high-frequency routes.

However, with the announcement made on April 1st, the flights somehow never eventuated.