Smart SpendingSmart Spending

What airline fees would be worth the cost?

Being nickel-and-dimed by the airlines has irritated many passengers, but some would be willing to pay extra for child-free flights, among other things.

By Karen Datko Mar 14, 2011 4:33PM

Airline fees for this and that are annoying and accumulating at a rapid pace. But are some fees actually worth the cost? And are the airlines missing out by not charging for some things we would be happy to pay extra for?


For instance, some recent surveys and reader polls indicate that travelers would be willing to pay more for child-free flights. Post continues after video:

Meanwhile, fees of all sorts have really taken off, providing airlines with a profit again. Among the latest, according to The Street and other sources:

  • Delta will begin charging $80 to $160 for "Economy Comfort" seats on international flights. For that, you get a seat that reclines more than those filled by cheapskates, plus more legroom, early boarding and free drinks.
  • JetBlue is raising its second-checked-bag fee to $35, a $5 increase.
  • Expect no more free pretzels and cookies from Continental.
  • Allegiant may follow Spirit Airlines' lead by charging for carry-on bags.

The concept of a child-free zone has really caught on with travelers. A survey by Skyscanner of 2,000 people found that 59% would like to see a special family section on flights and about 20% would like child-free flights.

A survey of British business travelers about what annoys them the most produced the following results:

  • The presence of children, 74%.
  • Travelers with a free upgrade to first class, 18%. (Tsk-tsk.)
  • Not enough space between first class and coach, 15%.
  • Paying first class and getting coach-like service, 12%.

That survey prompted The Consumerist to ask if people would be willing to pay extra for child-free flights and, if so, how much. Just under 34% of readers picked "no." The rest would be willing to pay, most picking $25 or $50.


Moriah Norris-Hale asked a similar question at Bundle.


Among the many comments left at those sites, two common opinions stood out:

  • Tune 'em out. "I'd probably take the money I would have spent on the child-free flight and invest in a really good pair of noise-canceling earphones," a Bundle reader wrote. Noise-canceling headphones are on The Street's list of "6 essentials for airline travel survival." (Tell that to the woman who sued Qantas Airways over hearing loss after sitting next to a toddler on a flight from New York to Australia. The airline settled).
  • Blame the parents. One reader said: "Parents who are so overawed by the seeming miraculousness of their children's existence that it would never occur to restrain or discipline them make me want to vomit." (Donna Freedman offers some suggestions to parents who are clueless about how to keep their children quietly occupied.)

What other fees do travelers think are/would be worthwhile? The New York Times' Bucks blog asked its readers about that. Among the responses:

  • Charge for carry-on INSTEAD OF checked bags. Apparently people are tired of others hogging all the overhead space.
  • An extra charge for extra-wide seats.
  • A fee for on-time arrival, refunded if the plane is late.
  • An extra fee for overweight people, or the option of paying a fee not to sit next to one.

The no-child-on-my-flight idea was very popular with NYT readers. But those in the travel business don't expect it to become a reality -- it wouldn't make economic sense for the airlines. However, child-free sections might fly, particularly on larger planes, some expect.


What would you add to this discussion?


More from MSN Money:

Mar 14, 2011 10:49PM
People, especially business travelers, need to get over their audacious, entitled flying attitudes.  Believe it or not, the world does NOT revolve around you, not even the airline/traveling world.  Pull the stick out of your a*s and get a life.
Mar 14, 2011 4:52PM

How can one guarantee a child-free flight?  Wouldn't they then need to have highly impractical duplicate flights, going to the same location?  How would they justify refusing a paying customer with a child if there was no "separate but equal" accomodation? 


I don't always love other people's kids either, but I don't hate on them or their parents for having the audacity to go out, travel, and generally be human beings in public.  I know it is not always an option to leave them at home.  Seriously, just spend the money for the headphones and deal with it.

Mar 14, 2011 10:50PM

I just flew home from vacation and there were children on the plane, including two babies.  The children were well behaved, only one of the babies ever cried.  I don't mind having children on

board. I would not pay more for a flight free of children.

Mar 14, 2011 10:41PM
If they did child(ren) free flights then what would happen with unaccompanied minors like my child.  She has been flying by herself for 6 years and is a wonderful on her flights.  I have to pay an extra $100 each way on average on top of her ticket price.  It's stupid things like this that keep me from flying.  That is why my youngest daughter and I are taking a trip to california but we are driving and not flying.  I can spend $600 in gas round trip and stay with family along the way and still save a lot of money since I am not paying all these stupid fees the airlines are hitting us with 
Mar 15, 2011 12:11AM

How about subdividing and #ing the overhead spaces, just like seats?  Can't get it all in the overhead and entirely under ONLY the seat in front of you?  It gets checked.  Note - whenever I see an abuse (like huge carry-ons, or first drop off with the dealer maintenance courtesy shuttle, it usually involves a pushy, threatening-looking, football-player-sized man.)


On those rare meal flights, the chance to make your food selection upon reservation, so that you don't have to settle for something you don't want because the airline ran out.


Seats selections guaranteed at time of reservation for all flights.  Hate requests to move to a crappier seat when the reason isn't valid, and requesting passenger is trying to use guilt  to score a better seat (e.g., parent wants to sit beside a child old enough to sit separately; couples wanting to engage in disgusting PDAs). 


Child-free sounds like heaven, but animals in the cabin are fine. Wish the doggies and kitties they would be allowed out, so we can play with them or snuggle with a lap pet and take a nice warm nap!


Two-person-wide aisles would be nice.  Don't think a walled non-stinky passenger section is possible, but one can dream...


I don't get either of these:


Travelers with a free upgrade to first class, 18%. (Tsk-tsk.) - as in using up points? I guess payment would have to be by debit card, as even the riff-raff nowadays have credit cards they can charge to the limit and never pay (ha ha)
Not enough space between first class and coach, 15%. - what space?  I've only see curtains and the occasional accordian divider.  All I'd care about if I could afford first is that our bathrooms are for first class use only.  Lines unlikely'; fewer users means reduced stink risk.
Mar 14, 2011 11:23PM
foam earplugs with earphones and some favorite music ... crying, screaming kids? loud snoring? what? where? I'd pay extra to NOT have a faulty touch screen mounted in the back of my seat behind my head! Spend one flight with a heavy fingered pounder trying to choose a movie and kids are a non-issue.
Mar 15, 2011 7:29AM

I flew on the last flight out of England to the USA when the
liquid terrorist scare occurred in August 2006.  No one was allowed a carry-on and the aircraft was boarded and we deplaned the fastest I’d ever seen.

Although I prefer to travel light, usually with one small carry-on, I feel the airlines should charge for carry-ons.  Many business personnel tend to abuse the rules by carrying on more than they’re allowed, hogging the overhead bins, taking longer to load and unload their bags – all in an effort to avoid delays at baggage claim.  And even though the airlines make the announcement, “one carry-on and one personal item”, they don’t enforce it.  I’m always seeing people with two carry-ons and a purse or laptop bag or they’ll bring on a bag that’s obviously too big
for the overhead bin.

I suppose an allowance can be made for rookie flyers, but sometimes I feel there are those who know they can get away with it and think, “why not?”  Charge for the carry-on and allow free check-ins and the penny-pinchers will help expedite the boarding process.  The business personnel that write it off will carry-on anyway.

Mar 15, 2011 2:14AM

Is there an option to pay an extra fee for a busines-free flight?  No businesspeople, as they are obviously the most polite flyers, just lots of children and other "inconveniences".

Mar 15, 2011 12:41AM
With the economy being what it is flying any where is unnecessary unless you need to do so for business. Under those circumstances it becomes a write off. For the rest of the time why bother. You can take turns driving with a friend for local visits up to a five hundred miles or take Amtrak, which is more enjoyable. The last time I sat in the lounge car drinking beer and the people are friendlier when they don't have to sit in your lap. We talked so much we were there before we realized it.
Mar 15, 2011 8:38AM
I would take a pack of whining, screaming obnoxious kids over the self-obsessed, narcissistic business traveler any day. All of the bad travel experiences I have had have involved adults. Drunken adults, obnoxious adults, guy stealing half my seat, etc.
Mar 15, 2011 9:07AM
I have no problem with kids on flights as long as they stay quiet in their seats.  I did not create the child and it is not my problem to be understanding of some parent who hasn't trained their child.  The simple answer is the family who can't control their children who become seriously out of hand (and I'm not talking minor stuff), goes on an airline no-fly list.
Mar 15, 2011 9:37AM
It's not that i don't like children but most parents don't give a sh*t about their behavior. I sorry you think everyone is against children but when they are out in public they should be at their best behavior. I don't want to hear the line "They are only children" "They behave that way" Have some respect to others when your flying with you children.
Mar 15, 2011 8:53AM

The idea that American travelers are so annoyed by child airline passengers is a testimony to how impatient and narrow-minded we have become. I have been traveling with my daughter, (now 7 years old) internationally and domestically since she was a baby.  On a recent domestic flight to the west coast, I was appalled by a comment from a man sitting in front of us: "I had no idea a kid was sitting behind me!....if I'd known that I would have tried to switch seats, but she was pretty quiet." Where do I begin with this comment? As a parent, it is our responsibilty to ensure that our children do not act in a manner which would disrupt other passengers, (i.e. kicking seat in front of them, running in the aisles etc.) However, we are owed a little patience and perhaps COMPASSION if our little ones upon occasion suffer from ear discomfort on the decent and perhaps shed a tear or two.


A brief note on international travel: I have found that international passengers tend to understand that kid passengers are just part of life. The tendency has been for other travelers to offer me enormous support and assistance during flight, whether that meant something as simple as offering to carry the diaper bag while I carried my child. Or, as my daughter has gotten older, getting out a deck cards and offering to play "go fish".


My point??? Shelling out more cash to be away from children during your precious business travel experience will not solve the bigger issue problem. The only way to fully avoid potential inconveniences like children, overweight people, handicapped indviduals,  folks with too-large carry-ons, and people who have eaten too much garlic is to pay the premium for Business-Elite Travel or First Class. Too expensive?? Try a little compassion for your fellow traveler and get out of your self-centered world for a brief moment.  A little perspective does wonders to calm the nerves....

Mar 15, 2011 4:34AM


I'd pay extra to get off a plane first, especially if I have a tight connection or urgent business.

Mar 31, 2011 4:14PM

I'm old enough to remember when a certain part of the plane was designated as the "smoking" section.  I'd gladly pay an extra $25 bucks to sit in the "adults only" section.  Yes, I've got children myself and I can sympathise with parents traveling with small kids, but it gets annoying when it suddenly becomes my problem.  I paid for my seat, and just want to sit quietly, work on my laptop, watch a movie, or read a book.  The last time I flew I had a woman with a child spread across her body that kept kicking me in his sleep, rolled over and knocked my drink off the tray, and soiled himself three feet from my face, while they were both sleeping, nearly forcing me to use the airsick bag.


Families on vacation have certain needs and challanges that shouldn't spill over to the rest of us, and I certainly shouldn't find myself tortured for six hours because I was unlucky enough to end up next to some folks like that.

Mar 18, 2011 11:20PM
The only item on the list I would pay extra for is a wider seat. What makes me most uncomfortable on a flight is having the person next to me spilling over into my seat. Incidentally, this makes me quite happy to discover a child occupying the middle seat next to me. Smile
Mar 15, 2011 8:37AM
Children that aren't behaved is like sitting next to an unruly puppy. I don't mind children but they must sit and shut up. Parents don't know how to raise children these days and god forbid you speak up about some person snot nose kid making noise and kicking the chair they look at you with that "How Dare You". These days it getting to the point that if something happen no one will save the women and children first cause they just don't deserve it! 
Mar 14, 2011 10:45PM
This is ridiculous. Would you also pay a fee to keep children out of downtown zones or restaurants? How about an extra ticket charge for a child-free zone at Disney Land for all you adult crybabies who can't GROW UP! Appreciate children for what they are and what they'll be doing in a few years - paying for your entitled a** to collect social security, if nothing else. I love seeing kids on flights: having that experience in my formative years was magical - better than Disney Land, in fact.  While we're at it, let's pay extra fees for race-restricted flights, board and seat everyone according to height, and enact glider fees for people who have their luggage shipped! Just a few steps more, and we'll have "entitled" flights for whineybutts willing to pay (and sadly, making enough money to pay) 10x the normal fare so you don't have to deal with anyone, ever.  Peanuts, please.
Mar 14, 2011 10:40PM
Child haters are total FREAKS!!  I'm happy to have a child next to me on a flight.  They are cute, entertaining, and they take up less space.  If the child gets to noisy, I throw on my Bose headset.  Everyone knows it's useless to try to get work done in Economy class.  I'm always blown away by the amount of people that sleep on non-Red Eye flights.  Why are you people so tired?  I've got three kids and a very demanding job where I travel every week, yet I'm not tired.  Quit sleeping!  Wake up and do something!  Why are you always so tired?  Put your seat UP!!!!!  Let's go guys!!!  A bunch of p*ssy's.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.