Should Parents Fly Biz Class & Have Kids Sit In Coach?

Flying with kids
photo: Jennifer Howze from Yahoo Travel article

Is it right for parents to fly upfront in premium cabins while their kids fly in coach?

My gut instinct would be to quickly say no, never. However, I think each case needs to be looked into a bit more closely.

You obviously shouldn’t ever attempt to fly business or first while your 3-year-old flies in coach. But what about a 10-year-old? Maybe that’s OK, maybe it’s not. (I’d probably say this is not acceptable.)

From the limited research I’ve done, I found out that:

  • Children under 5 years old must be accompanied by another passenger who is at least 16-18 years of age (depending on the airline).
  • Children that fly without a parent, from age 5 through 11, can either be with someone at least 16-18 years old or the family can pay for the unaccompanied minor service.

The airlines charge an unaccompanied minor fee. Unaccompanied minor services can be costly, ranging from $50 – $150 each way.

I feel safe to say that we would not fly in a premium cabin, leaving Lucas behind. Maybe when he is in the 16-18 year old range, we’d find it OK. That’s too far away for me to really consider.

I came across an article from Yahoo Travel which talks about a women that flew business class with her husband, while booking her two kids in premium economy.

The author of the article, Jennifer Howze, “hesitated” when she had the chance to book two business class tickets with miles since she would then have to book her kids, ages 16 and 11 in premium economy.

According to the article, she also felt “they were old enough at 16 and 11 to act appropriately, look after one another, and respond in an emergency“.

What do you think about this topic? Should kids be required to fly in the same cabin as their parents? Is there an age when it is OK for kids to fly independently or in this case, apart from their parents?

After initially feeling that this didn’t seem right or appropriate, it might not be so cut and dry. From what I read in the article, the author’s kids seem to have flown a lot and are well-behaved on flights. Also, I don’t think that 16 years old sounds too young to fly alone. However, I’m not positive that a 16-year-old should also be given the responsibility to keep watch of another, younger child during a flight.

To get a better idea of this scenario, check out the article from Yahoo here.

19 thoughts on “Should Parents Fly Biz Class & Have Kids Sit In Coach?

  1. Here is a different scenario – Flying direct from Amsterdam to Salt Lake City on KLM. We booked our flight in Business class. In the meantime we were trying to get our 14 year old granddaughter to be able to come with us (parents divorced, had to go to court) by the time we were told she could go, business class was sold out. We put her in Economy comfort two rows behind us. Checking in at the airport we were told we had to pay 150 Euros for her being unaccompanied because she was in a different service class. Had to fill out paperwork and got permission to watch over her until boarding. Otherwise she would have to go where real unaccompanied kids go and we wouldn’t see her again until close to flight time. I checked on her several times during the flight and she read, did homework, and watched movies, plus slept a little. Found out from a friend working at United that that is also their policy. Had she been 15 then they wouldn’t have bothered.

  2. Back in the days, I was that kid in economy class while my parents were in business class. Father worked at a multinational, stationed overseas, and we made maximal use of our company-paid annual summer trips home.

    My father certainly earned the privilege of flying in business class. One year, curiosity got the better of me, so I asked for business class for all of us, and that’s a family of five, with the tickets paid out of pocket. If I knew then what that meant financially, I would have not asked.

    As a teenager, all the alcoholic offerings you are entitled to in business class otherwise not there in economy class meant nothing to me. Having a flight attendant constantly hovering over me to tidy up my tray was an annoying extra parent I didn’t ask for. You need to live past college on your own to have any real appreciation for business class. So that’s my take on a teenager, let alone a kid, in business class. Then again, these were the days when flights were never full, so it was normal to find an unoccupied row in the back of the plane to lie down and sleep through the whole flight.

    Once you’re old enough for your bar mitzvah and get paid to be a babysitter (is that 12 for you?), you’re old enough to be seated away from your parents. Then again, I grew up in a place and time when it was normal and expected for you to be riding the train and taking the bus by yourself by the age of 12. I’d rather err on the side of independence than helicopter parenting.

  3. Nic- Good luck when the time comes!

    Jeff- Right but hopefully the parents aren’t thinking of their own comfort when deciding that their kids can behave. Why wouldn’t kids appreciate biz? I disagree with that.

    Joey- I don’t remember that detail about Home Alone. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve seen it!

  4. Above 10 is fine especially when they are with siblings and cousins who are teenagers.
    Doesn’t anybody remember the movie Home Alone where all the adults flew AA business class and left all the kids/cousins in coach?

  5. I don’t see a problem with that as long as they are old enough to behave themselves. Kids wouldnt appreciate biz class anyway.

  6. MrDioji- Glad to hear you wouldn’t just turn down an upgrade! For me, I’d ask my wife but not hesitate to accept if I was flying with a friend.

    hahaha03- Wow, I am a bit surprised. This sounds like a loophole that the dad took advantage of.

    Nick- LOL… I feel sorry for you that you were forced to sit in business class!

    Vicente- Splitting it up how you do sounds like a good plan. Due to the age of the kids (one being 16), I also think that it was OK. However, having a parent on the plane in biz shouldn’t allow them to have their young child sit separately in coach. Its not like the parent could help take care of their needs throughout the flight.

  7. In these scenarios, we usually split up. Parent+child up front, other parent+child in the back. Mostly we take it in turns.

    But I don’t really see the problem here. They’re on the same plane.

  8. 2 years ago my parents flew in TAM F from GRU-JFK, while my wife and I (37 year old and 38 years old respectively) flew in TAM J. Personally, I think we were too young to fly alone and wish we were in F with them. We would have had the entire cabin to ourselves 🙂

  9. Jay- I think a 16 year old should be fine and the 11 year old is too but due to flying with the older sibling. It is a tough call as to when a kid “should be able to behave properly and travel”. Getting on an airplane brings other factors- maybe the kid has a fear of flying, gets motion sickness and so on. In the end, I am glad there are some rules for this scenario and I’d hope that the parents makes good decisions for their kids and not just for their own comfort and luxury.

    The Weekly Flyer- You bring up a good solution to this. One parents & kid upfront with the other parent/ kid in the back. Then next trip they could switch! I think you’d agree that kids shouldn’t be required to fly in the same cabin as their parents as long as they are of a certain age- in your case 15 and older…

    Christian- I think it really depends on each kid and not an assumed age that kids should be mature to fly alone.

    MrDioji- Great point. It shouldn’t be assumed that all siblings get along and a 16 year old is capable of taking care of a younger child. Curious- if you were offered an upgrade to biz, you would turn it down to sit with a friend?

    hahaha03- That situation doesn’t sound fair for the kids. According to Cathay’s rules, the scenario you described would not be allowed. Children 3 months- 6 years old must be accompanied by a person at least 18 years old. Children 6-12 years old must fly as an unaccompanied minor which is not a free service…

    Points with a Crew- Sounds like you encountered a real grump onboard! I can’t imagine what it must be like to fly and be outnumbered like you are. I’m not sure how old your kids are, but that has got to be pretty difficult.

    1. Michael – I was actually going to clarify that in my post…
      I wouldn’t plan on sitting separate from my friend/wife. If I was offered an upgrade I’d accept with permission – as I would urge my friend/wife to accept if they were offered, too.

    2. Michael – The dad technically accompanied them on the same plane and hence they were not UMs. I agree with you that it was not fair to the kids.

  10. Michael – I had the same reactions as you. First thought was no way! But after seeing that the kids were 16 and 11, assuming that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on – they are plenty old enough to sit by themselves, assuming that is what the father decided worked best for his family.

    As a father of 6, too often I think we have people who read stories like this and immediately jump to the conclusion that the people involved are idiots and / or bad parents. Having had a fellow passenger once tell me that I was “the type of person that shouldn’t have children”, I am familiar with the sentiment. 🙂

  11. I used to be a flight attendant for CX and a man traveling with 3 kids (from 5-10 years old approximately) boarded my flight, which was a long-haul from LAX to HKG.

    He told me that he bought a ticket in Business Class and his kids would be in Economy. He then instructed me to take good care of his kids and walked back to the front. He made sure he got my name.

    I don’t have an opinion about that father but I remember feeling really bad for the young kids – all three of them being abandoned in the back.

  12. I think 16 and 11 sounds fine. It depends on how they get along. I wouldn’t leave an only child (or even an only friend or spouse) back there by theirself. I guess generally if one is over 14 I’d leave them with another child over 10.

  13. That’s plenty old enough. I was a seasoned solo traveler at 16. If the parents are on the same plane, it’s no big deal. For a single child under 10, that would be more iffy, depending on the child.

  14. I don’t think it should be required kids fly in the same cabin. But would I do it? Probably not, at least until the kids are above the age of 15 and can watch over each other. Better yet, I’d probably put one up in front with Mrs. and sit in the back with the other. Nothing like a long flight for good talks your kids.

  15. 16 and 11 is fine… 11/12 is not a age where kids are supposed to be misbehaving anyways… once you get into age 10, grade 4 and up kids should be able to behave properly and travel

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