Should Babies Be Banned From First-Class? Absolutely.

June 30, 2011

Okay stroller brigade before you get your Bjorn’s in a bunch this is not an anti-baby post. But it does have to do with babies riding in first class and how one airline is risking a PR shit-storm because of their recent decision http://theweek.com/article/index/216821/should-kids-be-banned-from-flying-first-class So what’s the deal?

Malaysia Airlines recently announced that on certain – long – flights, like from Kuala Lampur to Amsterdam, Sydney, and London babies are banned from riding shot-gun, and will have to do their screaming and pooping further back in the plane. While Malaysia Air is the first to implement this policy, rumor has it that Virgin and British Airways have also kicked this idea around (kind of like that kid sitting behind me on my last flight to San Jose). What does this have to do with PR? A lot. First it’s about taking risks – in this case huge risks since moms with babes, especially new moms, are VERY vocal; the Internet has given them a huge megaphone. Next – it’s about making tough decisions that publicly may not earn your company points but will ultimately be in the best interest of your customers (or passengers as it were). Too often companies resist making tough decisions for fear they’ll alienate a subset of their customer/client base. What they fail to recognize is the old adage that “you can’t please all the people all the time.”

I applaud Malaysia Air not just because I am a victim of in-flight abuse by baby, but because I believe what they did took an incredible amount of courage.  Why should customers who pay 3X the cost of a coach ticket be subjected to a whining baby and high-maintenance parents who act as if they are the only ones who have ever reproduced? Your baby is not my problem – in fact I paid a lot to get away from you. Please quit your complaining – did you forget you were allowed to get on the plane before me?

For just one moment let’s all put our maternal and paternal defense mechanisms down. At some point you didn’t have kids, and at that point you probably didn’t think it was so cute when Junior sitting behind you was doing curls with the tray-table attached to the back of your seat, or when Missy in front of you kept creeping up over the seat and dropping her sippy cup, which her mom expected you’d return – over and over and over. Or how about “that smell” – when you know someone has a full Pamper? Babies and planes: they don’t go together. But until Mickey and Minnie start their own airline it’s a part of life we unfortunately need to endure, at least for those less fortunate folks who don’t own or timeshare a jet. Anyway, as Snoop Dog says…back to the lecture at hand.

Show me a successful business and I’ll show a company that takes risks. Companies of all flavors, from tech start-ups to well established brands can learn from what Malaysia Air did and ask themselves “what calculated risks should we be taking?” Â It’s a tough exercise that’s a lot harder than taking candy from a baby.

Finally, for you moms tempted to write me off as a kid-hater, to you I say you’re sorely mistaken. I love kids – in fact I enjoy kids more than I do a lot of adults. I just don’t want them in the same movie theatre or section of a plane where I’m seated. And since we parents love to share pictures of our kids, I thought it only appropriate to wrap this post with my babies – Zach and Jake.

Howie

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