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Kids on flights: Would a new plane salve the pain?

Posting in Design

Yes please -- kick your parent's knees rather than my seat.

You're on a long-haul flight from Heathrow to JFK. Not only is soothing your urge for nicotine restricted, but the man beside you is snoring, a child has been wailing in the background since take-off, and a toddler is taking delight in improving their motor skills by kicking your seat.

Raising your eyes to the heavens, you wish that you'd gone business class. Forget the cost, nothing is worth this for another eight hours in a metal tube.

However, we often forget that for parents, a child in a tantrum can be just as frustrating -- and often humiliating as passengers turn as one and glare.

Passengers at AirAsia can book a seat in a 'quiet zone' where children under 12 are not allowed. However, design company RKS has gone further -- developing a concept plane that caters for tired parents and their bundles of joy.

The California-based consultancy firm unveiled cAir as an airline that would cater for these types of clientele. Research based on a focus group revealed that parents cringed at the thought of flying with their young children, and may avoid it altogether:

"We have stopped even considering flying with kids anymore for vacation. As a frequent business flier, I am usually tuned to my own set rituals, but traveling with my two- and four-year-old is what I fear --staring eyes from other passengers, and fear of embarrassment. I wish it wasn't a 'get on fast, get off fast' feeling, especially when I’m paying for one of the most expensive square footage areas."

Co.Design reports that Ravi Sawhney, RKS founder and CEO began work on the project after identifying this "pain point":

"We are constantly on the alert for pain points in people's lives. We have looked deeper and deeper into the human condition and it has opened our eyes into things we have never seen before. In the case of cAir, it became apparent to us that we need to do something about it."

The concept airline would include express check-in services, stroller rentals and play lounges to keep the kids amused. Children would be allowed to go to a kiosk to 'rent' a toy for the flight. (Although whether the parents would have to pay later to keep the peace -- and the toy -- remains to be seen).

In addition, seating arrangements on the plane would mean only parents would face the brunt of their children's restless feet, lavatories will be large enough for diaper changes, and sound curtains may help quieten noise.

The concept -- if financially viable -- would include child-orientated food and additional storage. But of course, the less space on a craft, generally the more expensive the seating. In a market beset with rising fuel costs and cut-backs not only by companies but by the belt-tightening general public, it remains to be seen if a firm would be brave enough to try and dominate this customer niche.

— By on October 14, 2012, 11:04 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure