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Airline offers child-free seats

New Delhi, Feb. 7: To anyone who has ever travelled long haul accompanied by continuous screaming from the child in front, there will be only one question: why did they make it so cheap?

For a premium of less than 25 (Rs 2,000 approx.), passengers flying on a budget airline are being offered soft lighting and something euphemistically described as “peace of mind”.

Specifically, this is the peace of mind of knowing that none of their immediate neighbours is under the age of 12.

AirAsia’s tagline is: “Now Everyone Can Fly.”

But while they might be able to fly, that does not mean they will all fly together any more.

Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian entrepreneur who owns the carrier, has beaten Ryanair’s owner Michael ’Leary to a moneymaking opportunity by realising that people will pay good money for cabin service that comes with neither continuous crying nor having the back of one’s seat pummelled by a seven-year-old’s legs.

Starting last week, the first seven rows in the economy cabin of AirAsia’s flights from Kuala Lumpur to destinations in Australia, China, Japan and elsewhere have been designated “quiet zones — strictly off-limits to children under the age of 12”.

The airline says that rows 7 to 14 on its fleet of Airbus 330s, separated from the rest of economy by a set of lavatories and a curtain, now offer a “more relaxing cabin atmosphere” for those willing to fork out a fee of between 35 and 100 Malaysian Ringgit (8-22).

British Airways has said that it has no plans to follow suit, and a spokesperson for TripAdvisor said that it remained to be seen whether other airlines would add “child-free” to the menu of paid-for options.

“It’s interesting to see that an airline has now put the proposed initiative of child-free zones into action,” said Emma Shaw, whose firm carried out a survey last year that suggested a third of Britons would pay extra to get away from travelling children.

But some may be disappointed to learn that the demographic probably most keen to take advantage of AirAsia’s offer has been barred from doing so. The company has made it clear that the option of checking into the “quiet zone” is not available to any parents travelling with children.