Posts in the category "Kids":

Kid-free zone on Singapore Air’s budget carrier, Scoot

FlyScoot - Changi, Singapore

Would you pay extra to be able to scoot your seat away from small kids on a plane? Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier, Scoot, is betting you will.

The airline, which currently flies from Singapore to 11 destinations in Asia and Australia, has created a premium “Scoot in Silence” section at the front of its economy class cabin.

There, passengers can pay about $14 extra per ticket in exchange for more legroom and the promise that “the under 12s will be someplace else.”

“I’d pay to sit in an adults-only section,” said Keri Coull, an “unemployed mum/graduate” from San Francisco now living in Scotland. She thinks others would too. “I loved my 2 1/2 year-old, but returning from Mexico was traumatic for other passengers.”

Scoot is not the first Asian airline to set aside a cabin section that is off limits to kids.

In February 2013, long-haul, low-cost carrier AirAsia X introduced a kid-free “Quiet Zone” on its aircraft. And last year Malaysia Airlines declared the upper decks of its A380s kid-free. The airline also bans kids from its first class cabins.

“These quiet zones are part of a wider trend that sees airlines providing passengers more choice and control of the onboard experience without having to pay a lot to upgrade to a different class,” said Raymond Kollau of Amsterdam-based AirlineTrends.com.

Of course, in the close quarters of an airplane, a quiet zone can be hard to define.

“What about the passenger seated in the last row of the kid-free section when an infant begins screaming behind him or her?” said Anya Clowers of JetwithKids.com.

For now, representatives from American and Delta said they have no plans to introduce kid-free zones. And the no-kids-allowed idea “doesn’t quite fit the overall familial vision Lufthansa is embracing,” said Christina Semmel, the airline’s corporate communications manager for North America. (In fact, the airline recently introduced new family and kid-friendly amenities, including boarding passes — but no special seating — for stuffed animals and dolls.)

But in the modern unbundled-amenities world of airlines, having the “opportunity” to pay to sit outside a kid zone on a domestic carrier may just be a matter of time.

“I can see airlines such as United and Delta, who already offer separate zones with extra legroom seats, trialing whether they can turn part of these zones into a quiet zone, depending on the configuration of the aircraft,” said Kollau.

The audience rushing to buy these seats might be business travelers, who are “universally in favor of kid-free zones,” said Joe Brancatelli, who runs the business traveler newsletter JoeSentMe. “(At least) until they have kids and are banished to the kid zone when they cash-in miles to take the family on holiday.”

(My story:  “Scoot in silence”: Singapore Air budget carrier offers kid-free zone first appeared on NBC News Travel)

 

 

Flying with autism

Littlejohn Family

Henry (in center, with red shirt) and his family during Wings for Autism event

 

Air travel can be stressful for even the most experienced road warriors. But it can be much tougher for families with a child on the autism spectrum who becomes unnerved by the lines and security procedures at the airport and the tight quarters and strange noises on an airplane.

For the Littlejohn family it was dreadful.

In 2010, they had plane tickets to fly from Boston to Orlando for a vacation at Walt Disney World. “My son Henry, then 6, has autism but had traveled well before. This time he was very anxious on the way to the airport. And by the time we got on the plane he was melting down; kicking and screaming,” said Susie Littlejohn.

Before the plane could take off, they had to make a decision: Her husband ended up going on to Orlando with their older son, Jack; Henry and his mom got off the plane and went home.

Littlejohn thought the air travel process might go smoother if children like Henry had a way to practice going to and through the airport and getting onto the airplane. She mentioned that idea to Jennifer Robtoy, the director of Autism Services at the Charles River Center in Needham, Mass, and Robtoy got in touch with Massport, which operates Boston Logan airport, to see if something could be worked out.

“Within an hour of sending an e-mail to Massport, I got a reply,” said Robtoy. And within six months Massport, TSA,  the Charles River Center (which is a chapter of The Arc) and several airlines (including JetBlue, United and Delta Air Lines) had created Wings for Autism, now a regular event offering families with children on the autism spectrum a chance to go to the airport and get on an airplane during a low-stress, dry run.

“A lot of families aren’t sure if air travel is a possibility for them if they have a child with autism. But during this event they simulate everything as if you’re traveling,” said Littlejohn, whose family has attended all but one of the Wings for Autism events Boston Logan has hosted.

“You park, take the moving walkway from the garage, wait in line, show your ID, get boarding passes and make your way through security. Everyone has a boarding time and gets on a plane,” she said.

During the event, the airplane engines are kept running so kids can feel – and hear – what that is like. The planes don’t actually leave the ground, but when it’s time for “takeoff” the cabin door is closed and safety announcements are made. During the “flight,” beverages are served and there’s a snack service.

Kids are also invited to visit the pilots in the cockpit.

Wings for Autism

Rebekah Tirrell, of Johnston, R.I., receives a flight lesson from Jonathan Wakeman, first officer at JetBlue, during “Wings For Autism” program at Boston Logan Airport – Courtesy JetBlue

 

 

“We’ve found that some kids have issues walking down the jetway or when it is time to step on the plane,” said Brad Martin, director of customer service at Boston Logan.

For others it’s when they’re getting strapped into their seatbelts or going through the emergency drill with the flight attendants.

“We know that for some kids it’s just not doable,” said Martin, “But some kids are just fine with everything and then the family knows they can do this.”

Martin said Boston Logan’s Wings for Autism program not only helps kids and their families tackle some of air travel issues, it also teaches airport and airline employees, as well as TSA officers, about the challenges autism can place on traveling. “They learn what to look for and how to handle certain situations and it teaches them to be patient and to see how they can help,” he said.

And that attitude can rub off on other travelers.

“If other passengers see a staff member willing to give a hand when a child with autism is having a hard time at the airport, they may also be more accepting, aware and sympathetic,” said Littlejohn.

Autism now affects one in 88 children nationwide. So while the Wings for Autism program is a big success at Boston Logan airport, families traveling with a child who has mild to severe autism would like to find sensitive and trained staff at all airports.

That may happen.

The Autism Society of Minnesota participates in the Navigating Autism program at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and, thanks to a grant from Autism Speaks, The Arc has licensed the Wings for Autism program and will take it  nationwide to more than 50 airports within the next three to five years.

Wings for Autism events are currently planned at the Detroit and Baltimore airports. JetBlue is hosting a program at the Burbank Bob Hope Airport in California on May 4 and another one at New York’s JFK International Airport this fall.

“Because of this program, there will be fewer wedding, graduations and other important family occasions missed,” said Greg Principato, president of Airport Council International – North America, “More people will experience more and more places. And one of the limits autism can place on so many good people will be removed.”

And what about Henry Littlejohn, the 6-year-old whose meltdown inspired the Wings for Autism program in the first place?

Now eight, he was able to get on the plane during the event held at Boston Logan Airport earlier this month.

“It took a lot of hard work and patience,” said his mom, Susie Littlejohn. “We’re getting there, but air travel isn’t an option for us right now. We’re just so thankful there’s an opportunity to practice.”

(My story, Flying with Autism, first appeared in April 2013 as my At the Airport column on USAToday.com)

Souvenir Sunday: Hello Kitty in-flight service items

hello kitty jet small

I’ve been gathering up images and information about fun airline liveries for a story to be delivered next week and finally made contact with a representative at Eva Air, the Taiwan-based airline that has five Hello Kitty-themed jets: Magic, Apple, Global, Happy Music and Speed Puff.

The Hello Kitty theme isn’t just painted onto the jets, it extends inside, where there are more than 100 in-flight service items, including some the fun and very cute items below.

EVA Hello Kitty Seatback Covers small

EVA Hello Kitty Nuts & Rice Crackers_small

And – my favorite – the kid’s meal.

EVA Hello Kitty child's meal_small

Airport amenity of the week: yoga room at Burlington Int’l Airport

Vermont’s Burlington International Airport (BTV) has joined San Francisco International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in offering passengers a space to meditate and practice yoga.

yoga

Evolution Yoga opened a yoga space on the second floor of Burlington International Airport, offering travelers a place to stretch out and relax before or between flights and enjoy a calm, quiet space.

That’s lovely to hear, but poking around the BTV website today I noticed some other welcome and calming amenities that were already available at the airport for passengers.

The airport’s mezzanine area is outfitted with couches, coffee tables and easy chairs and there are white rocking chairs set up in an area the airport calls the Skyway, so travelers can get a good view of the runway and aircraft. There’s also a green roof on the airport parking garage with plenty of alpine plants as well as benches and a picnic table. And – an added bonus: the airport has an Observation Tower and, located across from it, a family bathroom with a shower.

In addition to free Wi-Fi and power charging stations, BTV has a photography exhibit tracing the history of the airport and, on its website, offers relaxing activities such as a crossword puzzle, links to websites kids might enjoy and a link to a series of videos offering a few moments of guided relaxation at calm.com.

Souvenir Sunday: chocolate airplanes & Aeroflot give-aways

I’m still snacking on the packaged samples and sorting through the screen cleaners and assorted geegaws I picked up in Long Beach, Calif. last month while attending the APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) Expo and discovering the adjacent exhibit hall for IFSA, the International Flight Services Association.

Here are two items I wish I could have taken home as souvenirs: a white chocolate airplane and a sampling of the toys and games Aeroflot hands out to its youngest passengers.

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