Is It Okay To Leave Your Kids In Economy While You Fly First?

Filed Under: Travel

Sometimes coordinating travel can be tough. I’m sure we’ve all been there at one point or another where we couldn’t get seats next to our travel companion, or one person’s upgrade cleared but the other didn’t, or whatever. Sometimes there’s no perfect solution. In the past I’ve written a post asking if it’s okay to fly in business class while your spouse is in economy, which was based on a Daily Mail story.

Personally I’d rather sit next to a travel companion in economy than be split between cabins, though I’ll also typically offer the upgraded seat to my companion.

But what about when parents are flying with children? And in particular, young children? I have no problem with parents who fly business class and put their adult kids (or young kids with an adult companion) in economy. That’s their decision to make, and they’re not necessarily inconveniencing others by doing that.

However, I witnessed something on an Alaska flight yesterday that felt very wrong to me, and I’m curious if I’m alone in this regard.

As the flight attendant took meal orders, the couple in front of me said “our daughter is in seat ___, if you have any extra food could you give it to her?” First of all, that’s an unreasonable request, in my opinion — if you leave someone in economy, don’t expect they’ll get free food because you’re in first class. You can ask they charge your credit card for the food that’s purchased in economy, but that’s about it.

Alaska-First-Class - 1

I figured that their daughter was an adult. However, towards the end of the flight the daughter came up to visit her dads, and I’d guess she was somewhere between eight and ten years old at most.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a couple leave a kid that young alone in economy while they knocked back a handful of drinks each in first class.

I’m curious how you guys feel — is this unusual, or more common than I think? And is it okay?

The way I view it, they should either buy her a first class, all sit in economy, or have one of the parents sit in first class with her, and the other in economy.

This just seems completely unfair to the daughter (who doesn’t have much of a say at that age), and also unfair to her seatmates, given that presumably they have to at least watch after her somewhat. It’s one thing if she needed to travel as an unaccompanied minor, but her parents were on the plane, and they were returning from a vacation; the situation was completely preventable.

But maybe I’m completely off base… I’m curious to hear what you guys think!

  1. No, if you can’t afford to pay for your kids to sit with you in Business/First, then join them in the back.

  2. Give benefit of doubt. Maybe they had a fourth person with them in economy.

    She would have been booked on separate record and GA would not have allowed boarding

  3. I think it’s absolutely OK. On the contrary, I think it’s wasteful for kids to have extra legroom and space flying F/J when they clearly don’t need it.. makes them look spoiled. Of course, if you’re paying for it, nobody should be complaining, but the optics sometimes looks bad to fellow passengers. FA’s love serving kids though, I’ve noticed. They seem to be less demanding and spoiled than some frequent flyer types..

  4. This is something that has come up on other forums but my parents always treated me as equal. We either all flew premium cabin or none of us did, thankfully the former was far more common. This was right up until the last time I flew with family at the age of 17.

    I had never come across families who split themselves up for travel purposes until I moved to the US where it seems to more accepted, at least based on casual observation.

  5. No. This is not okay. Not as bad as the time the parents stuck their sick kid in the seat next to me while they sat a row ahead and I got sick for my trip, but no, not okay.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a couple leave a kid that young alone in economy while they knocked back a handful of drinks each in first class.

    It’s shocking how many people think this is reasonable, actually. I’ve seen it on tons of flights, even internationally. We get requests for it all the time too, which is outrageous to me. If your child isn’t old enough to go to the movies on their own, why would you leave them unattended on an airplane?

    Ironically, I suspect these same parents would be throwing fits if they were flying economy and didn’t have seats together.

  7. Well, I agree with Beachfan. If unaccompanied minor is OK why would this be NOT?
    What is NOT OK is to play this “pity card” to get better service for anyone in Economy.

  8. Totally agree with keitherson. It also depends on the kids age. I wouldn’t leave my 3 year old son alone, but my 6 year old would be totally fine to sit by herself. Each parent knows the maturity level of their child and what is acceptable.

  9. I have seen this on numerous occasions. It was never really an issue until a flight from LAX to SFO (which thankfully was only an hour) and a family of four was traveling in econ.

    Only three of them got upgraded and the daughter that did not get upgraded (about 11 or 12) was in econ crying because she got left behind. Once we were in the air, the flight attendant allowed the girl to come and join her mother and share the business class seat which was right next to me.

    I think they should have either left both kids back in econ or one parent with one kid. Not the girls fault, but if had been a longer flight, I think it would have become a problem.

  10. Not cool with me either. As a family of four with young kids, it’s either 1.) we all sit up front (or upgraded together) 2.) one parent and one child sit together up front while the other parent/child sit in the back 3.) my wife is the only one that gets to sit up front (i’m so nice, aren’t i?).

  11. @ ucipass — Well there are two major differences. One is that often the only way someone can fly is as a UM. If someone has two divorced parents they fly between, that might be the only way they get to see both of them. Second of all, unaccompanied minors are treated differently — they’re watched after by the crew, boarded early, etc.

  12. This is totally selfish of the parents. And they are doing a good job at teaching their daughter how to be selfish.

  13. How does this nosy person know, that the daughter wasn’t sitting back there with an older brother?

    Mind own business.

  14. If the kid is a teenager or older and able to behave themselves (which they absolutely should at that age) then I have no problem with it. Kids should understand that premium travel costs money or a lot of points, and they will not always get to travel in it; while the parents who have presumably worked hard may get that reward once in awhile.

    The age you described is too young in my opinion however. If they’re at the age where parents are trying to send food back so kid gets to eat, the kid is coming up to say hi, etc. then that’s not OK. They need to be old enough to be entirely self sufficient for the entire flight.

  15. My issue isn’t so much class of service (we fly w/ our kids in F/J), it’s leaving kids alone w/ no oversight (maybe there was a teenager/adult w/ the 8-10 yr old). It’s highly unlikely, but you never know who will be sitting next to the child, and in this case there wasn’t even the venire of “unaccompanied minor” status to ensure no one is bothering/harassing/touching the child. No way would I put my kids in that situation.

    We fly together, period.

  16. As a former non rev (age limits *sigh*) I was very used to sitting apart from my parents at a young age. If a flight was full, we couldn’t complain if 3 middle sits rows apart were handed to my mom, my brother, and I. Usually when that happened we were also boarding right as the doors were closing so there was no time for switching (not that we would ask). I’m struggling to decide if that is different then this scenario since sitting rows apart is still sitting rows apart regardless of class of service. In that case, I don’t think it is an issue as long as the child is mature enough. I would personally never do it and think of it as low class but overall, not my problem.

  17. Nope. If I wouldn’t leave my kid at home alone, I’m not going to seat her in a different cabin than me on a flight. If I’m in public with my kid, I want to make sure me or my wife is there to ensure she behaves, but also that she’s taken care of. Jeeze, how many creepy stories have we seen in the last year alone of kids being harassed on planes?

  18. I am really surprised that airlines don’t have policies about this, it seems to me if you want to split the cabin and put you kid in the back they should have to travel as a UM. Because if you are in F drinking a FA will probably be doing more work to assist your kid. If an airline will require a passenger to move seats to get a family together they should require the parent to downgrade in order to make the family sit together.

    I do slightly disagree with Tiffany but I think they should be at least 11-12 to travel alone (depending on maturity level).

  19. Even a documented unaccompanied minor is a burden on the seatmates. Let’s talk about that too. Parents, give your kids a book before you send them alone on a transcon with no TVs! They’re not reading hemisphere magazine. Instead they’re trying to chat their seatmates nonstop

  20. Let’s not pull any punches here. While it’s obviously a “permitted practice”, you would really have to be a grade A jerk to actually do this. What kind of message does it send to your children?

  21. I think this happens quite a bit and there should probably be a rule about this. A couple years ago flying FLL-DEN my upgrade failed to clear but a good window seat in economy opened up so I grabbed it. I took my seat and low and of course the window seat had opened because mom’s upgrade went through. Yes, she left her 2 girls aged about 3 and 5 next to me, a complete stranger while she drank it up in first. They were well behaved kids, but when the 3 year old spilled her soda everywhere, I just pressed the call button, and let the FA summon mom to clean things up…

  22. Lucky is a parent who doesn’t pay to confirm seats together and instead every kid gets a scattered middle ALSO bad

  23. Lucky – Good to see you turning your attacks to little kids and their parents. Does that mean you are done with attacking emotional support animals and their owners?

    I have an idea, let’s do away with the TSA and let Lucky decide who gets to fly and where they can sit.

    WTF is you problem anyway. There is no reason that an 8-10 year old should not be allowed to sit alone on a plane, period. Maybe your mommy didn’t let you ride the schoolbus alone at that age ?

  24. More common than you think and okay, as long as the child is well-behaved. Not okay to request F service elements to be delivered to someone in Y though.

  25. Another opposing perspective, since you mention it may be unfair to the daughter: I know when I was that age, I would have actually enjoyed being in that position. I would have felt really mature and a sense of adventure. And I’m not really sure how it’s unfair to the kid’s neighbors. If (if) the child is well-behaved, what exactly do the neighbors have to do that’s burdensome, other than enjoy the extra room from not having a typical over sized American flooding over the armrest and into their own seat?

  26. I think it’s totally fine as long as the kids are old enough so they don’t constantly look for their parents during the flight.
    On the contrary, I seriously hate seeing non-stop crying babies in first class.

  27. My parents did this all the time when we were kids. Part of the reason was that they could get a tax write off for their travel but not ours. I think it depends on how it is executed… like if the parent comes regularly to check on the child etc. I don’t think it is particularly different from being downstairs while your child is upstairs in another room. I think the risk that someone is going to do something inappropriate to them is low.

    That said, I see my parents now once a year and only reluctantly so maybe you reap what you sow.

  28. I´m from venezuela, when I was achild and we travelled to Europe my parents would usually flight out the day before in First or Business, and they would arrange for my sister and me to fly out the next day as UM (we usually did this with AF/ Lufthansa/ Iberia) and it actually worked pretty fine, you still have to pay a fee for the UM situation, but you don´t have to bother other people on your flight in the process, or buy a first class ticket to a kid who is probably not going to enjoy the full experience. Sounds silly but it actually worked pretty well!
    PS: best part was that as UM my sister and I got upgraded on almost half of those flights!

  29. I’m perfectly OK with it. So long as the child is well behaved and comfortable doing it, why not? In fact, maybe the child prefers it.

    The child is not “all alone.” While they are in the close vicinity of strangers, this also would happen if the child were an UM. At least there are many adults around … and the parents are close by.

    If you can afford it and want to have the kid in F, then do it. But for me (besides liking to be spoiled) a seat in F is about space and legroom. In all likelihood, the child does not miss either.

  30. Well, before reading the comments here, where many people say that it is ok to left your kid alone in the back, I didn’t understood for which segment of your audience are those posts about 1-2 USD discount at Starbucks. Now it makes sense.

  31. I was given a lot of independence as a kid and try to do the same for my little ones. But, there is absolutely no way I’d do this. If this was the only option to book a trip, I’d put my kid in F with my wife and sit in Y.

  32. My wife and I will split it up. One leg one of us sits in Econ and the other leg we switch. Either way, my daughter sits up front, not alone in the back.

  33. My kids are fine with it, and have been since they were as young as 5. We usually play rock paper scissors for the upgraded seat(s) and the winner(s) get to take business or first. Both of my kids are extremely well behaved travelers though, so YMMV.

  34. I personally find this behavior odious. If I can’t afford or don’t have enough miles to have everyone seated in business / first then we are all in economy. As for trying to get food sent back to economy, that is possibly the most crass, low class move one could make as a traveller.

    One time I only had enough miles for 2 seats in business and one in economy to BKK My son sat in business on all segments, while my wife and I took turns

  35. Just a quick note for those who are comparing this to an unaccompanied minor situation. While the UM situation isn’t perfect, part of the fee parents are paying is to have an extra set of eyes looking out for the child on the flight. Based on the description of what the parents did, I don’t think they accomplished what the FAs would have in a UM situation. In fact, a better comparison is a kid sitting at a table alone in a busy restaurant while his/her parents polish off a few happy hour cocktails at the bar.

  36. If it’s not OK then why is it
    OK for airlines to charge extra if parents want seats with their kids. I’ve been separated in economy even when willing to pay extra for seat assignments. You often have to beg people to switch.

    If it’s not OK, can a mom flying with her kid nap while the kid is awake? Use the bathroom?

    If it’s not OK, then why does Southwest allow kids to fly at the age of 12 without a guardian? At that age you don’t even have to purchase the unaccompanied minor service.

    Americans are too overprotective and like to think if they control the world enough nothing bad will happen to their kids. In terms of danger to the children, the ride to the airport is more dangerous.

    What people are really worried about is, “Is this kid going to bother me.” I would rather have a solo kid next to me any day than an adult.

    My flight yesterday had three people in the adjacent rows listening to movies with headphones – two adults and one child. Guess which one didn’t throw a fit when I asked them to put on headphones or turn off the sound.

  37. I think you guys (Lucky and Tiffany) are way off base here.

    1) Well trained children can sit in coach with an iPad, iPod, book or whatever and be perfectly fine. In addition, parents can go back to economy periodically and check on the kids.

    2) Kids don’t need first class amenities (wider seats, extra leg room, alcoholic drinks, etc)

    3) First class seats are expensive in cash and miles

    4) Maybe the parents want to treat themselves during a small portion of their family vacation

    Let’s say a family of four could only secure two first class seats and two coach seats. Should the kids sit in first? Should mommy and 1 kid ride up front, daddy and the other in back? No, i think the right seating arrangement was made. Also, if I were the parents, I would simply take food back to the kids in economy.

  38. I feel like I should add that I flew probably 300,000 miles as an unaccompanied minor, starting from the age of 7, and those are some of my favorite flight memories. I think there’s a difference here.

    As an UM, there is much more supervision. Fees have been paid, the flight attendants have been briefed, and everyone knows there’s a child that needs extra assistance — whether that’s help with the IFE or in an emergency.

    In this case the parents are abdicating responsibility for a child that, even if they are “well-behaved” is probably not mature enough or prepared for handling an emergency.

    Imagine, for example, something that causes the oxygen masks to deploy. No one knows there’s a child sitting alone in economy who might not know the drill other than their (apparently tipsy) parents in a different cabin. So that child is reliant upon strangers to help, or for the FA to notice they need help, and there’s likely going to be a bit of a panic when mom or dad wants to know if their child is okay.

    Same thing for an evacuation — either mom or dad have to go back to the other cabin to help their child, disrupting the evacuation procedures, or have to rely upon strangers and flight attendants to get their child off the plane. Again, without previously informing the crew that there was a child who was going to need additional help.

    Many foreign carriers consider children to be unaccompanied if they’re not in the same cabin of service as their parents, and insist that UM fees be paid, and UM processes be followed. That seems reasonable to me.

  39. It depends. 8-10 seems like a borderline age to be sitting alone, but if the child is well-behaved and independent, I don’t see a problem with it per se. That being said – if the shoe were on my foot, I wouldn’t do that. I’d have my wife and son take the F seats, and I’d sit in Y.

    The bigger no-no in my book here, as others have chimed in on, is trying to send F food back to Y. That’s low class, no matter how you slice it. Although my wife did once send me a glass of wine when her upgrade cleared but mine didn’t, so guess I really don’t have much of a leg to stand on…

  40. Has anyone ever watched Home Alone?!? 😉 In the movie, I clearly remember all the parents sitting in business class while all their kids were in economy. Perfectly fine to me.
    Ok so in this case the daughter is 10 years old. I actually think at age 10 that’s fine and who knows? She might be with her sister or brother who is a teenager.

  41. My parents did it all the time when I was a kid, either them in First and me in Business or them in Business and me in Economy. This probably happened from about ages 6-12 and I never had an issue, although I was a seriously well travelled kid and was pretty much shooing away my Unaccompanied Minor escort for Aussie domestic travel by a similar age, so I’m possibly an edge case here…

  42. 1) The parents can alert FAs that they have a child sitting in the back

    2) I agree that parents shouldn’t “send” food back from first to coach. However, a parent can always simply grab water, drinks, or snacks from the snack basket and physically walk it back to children in coach. I’ve seen this

    3) Emergencies can create a difficult situation. I think even in that case, good samaritans nearby would help

    Overall, I don’t think you can claim parents are “abdicating responsibility” because they are in a different cabin. The child is still nearby. In Manhattan, parents drink with their children nearby (brunches, playdates, etc) all the time, so the alcohol part of it isn’t strange to me.

  43. I am shocked people think this is so unreasonable – and how the standards seem to have changed. My folks did this with me all the time in the 80s on Pan Am etc.

    Why should a child of say 7-10 years old need a flat bed or even a large seat on a flight? The child is less than 20 yards away on the same airplane, and the parents can move back to check on them at all times. An airplane is such a tightly controlled environment – this is NOT like leaving your kids at home alone or in a separate venue outside, it’s like leaving them in the living room while you spend time in a different part of your house.

    I really don’t see that an 8 or 10-year-old child is putting such a heavy burden on seatmates??? They are far less demanding than many terrible adult seatmates I have had.

    Admittedly you should not so this with children under say 7 or 8 years old.

  44. I don’t know the economics of the seat choices, but if it were my family (we have 1 child) one of the adults would have sat in the economy seat and put the child with the other adult (and the adults would probably switch periodically, depending upon the length of the flight). There are weirdos everywhere, and given the chance I’d not put my 10/11 year old child with strangers if I can help it.

    Barring that, what’s wrong with the legs on those parents? Can’t they GET UP and walk back to the plebian part of the airplane, give the child some food, and I don’t know …. check on their progeny??? Or at the very least, pretend to care and check on their child????? I’m with the author…the scenario just strikes me as wrong.

  45. My kids are 8 and 11. They sat in the first row of Economy on our last flight, while my partner and I sat in row 2. This was an ERJ-175, so I could turn my head and see them. The flight attendant proactively offered them some first class snacks, and yes, my partner and I had some drinks during the flight. No big deal.

  46. This just made me sick of my stomach. Either the father or the mother should be the one sitting in Economy and leave the child in First with the other parent. I travel a lot for business and get upgrade quite often. When traveling with my wife and kids the rule is: if I am the only one upgraded, either my wife takes the first class sit and I sit with the kids in Economy or I politely decline the upgrade and seat in Economy with my family. Again, that is how my family raised me and that is how I raise my kids.

  47. There’s no other way to slice this than to conclude that parents who send their kids to the back rather than sit together with them as a cohesive family unit simply love their children less. Might as well just come out and say that you prefer even marginally better material comforts to the company of your children.

    If you’re going to be an ass hole, you might as well own it 🙂

  48. No, one of the parents should have sat with the child. Don’t be selfish and expect other adults to watch over your child. You should do it yourself.

  49. I am reading it right that the girl sitting in economy had two gay dads sitting in first? I think parents in business or first while a ~10 year old child is in economy is perfectly fine. On the other hand, I am not so sure that a girl having two gay dads is perfectly fine though.

  50. I think it depends entirely on the maturity of the child. If you think your child can handle behaving themselves then why not. I traveled a lot on my own as a child and only once as UM (once I was forced under AA policy to travel UM leaving the states but on the outbound flight on BA I was not). In fact, my whole life, my siblings and I, to this day, have encouraged my parents and grandparents to travel in Business even if we were booked in Economy. They really needed the comfort of Business more than us and it’s their money that they worked hard for. If the child is not being a nuisance to the rest of passengers or the crew, I see no problem. That being said, I have had a couple of flights where children flying alone (at least it seemed that way to me) have kicked the back on my incessantly, so I understand that side too.

    In the case of asking F food to be sent to a Y passenger, the parents are not entitled to do so but I guess it never hurts to ask… the same as if a Y passenger received an extra beer for free just out the FA’s goodwill.

    On a side note; I hated being UM as I wasn’t able to roam the terminals of CVG, ORD, LHR freely and plane spot from the best places, even as a 12 year old.

  51. I’m flying to HKG in next April with my 14 year old daughter and her friend.
    I will be in J and them in Premium Economy wich are two row behind me.
    It’s on award for all of us didn’t’ have enough miles for business, so they are happy to be on their own even in eco class.

  52. As a parent of small kids, it’s tempting, and I know my kids could probably handle it, but I still wouldn’t do it… It’s all eco or all premium for us.

  53. As a Parent – I can only add.agree with the comments above….. namely

    – When booking tickets we fly together in the same cabin or not at all and we have flown domestically and long-haul
    – On the occasions when we have been upgraded the order is my wife/son/me – on the basis that I get to experience travel in F/J regularly, they only travel when we are vacationing so why not.

    And yes, asking to send food back is very tacky, be a parent and take care of your children…

    Only time I have seen this was several years ago when I was flying AA DFW-ORD on a 777-200 – parents were in first and their 2 children came up from Y and spend half the flight sitting on the ottoman..

  54. The only thing I have a problem with is asking the FAs to send extra food to the back. Their responsibility is to their customers seated in first class; if you want to give food to children in economy, get up and take *your* entree back there.

    Otherwise, I think that *most* parents would not put their children in this situation if they didn’t already trust them to conduct themselves appropriately, and would give instructions as necessary… “Here’s a fully-charged ipad, watch whatever you want with your headphones in, if you need me for any reason, ring the call button and ask the FA _nicely_ to let me know”. I think in those circumstances, most children would do just fine.

    As a seatmate to said children, I would be totally willing to help them with all the same things I would help somebody’s grandmother with: trouble unwrapping your sandwich? Can’t get your charger plugged into seat power? No problem. Spilled your grape juice and now you need to change clothes? Ring the call button and ask for Mom.

  55. I’ve got 8, 14, 17 year olds. And I’m gearing up to book an RTW in J but often can’t find 5 seats in J. So while I wouldn’t leave my 8 year old in Econ alone, I would leave the other two. Or one teen and the 8 year old. My issue will be that they will ALL want to sit up front bc they know it’s nicer. What if they trade out a bit? Is that ok? Or, in the scenario in this blog, what if a parent sits in J half time with the child and then trades with the parent in Econ? That way both adults get at least some time with the child and in the larger seat? My sense of things is that no one will want passengers swapping seats mid flight.

  56. I think Tiffany and Lucky are off the mark here. Relax. Where do you draw the line?

    If parents are in the back row of First class and kids in this age group are in the first or second row of economy, is that unacceptable by your judgment/opinion?

    If a child is 12, is that acceptable? 11? 10? 13? 14? 15?

    Is a child is mature/well behaved? I know some 13 year olds that should NOT be separated more than a few feet unsupervised, yet some 10 year olds that can help me with my taxes. They are so boring and easygoing that they would be better behaved than most adults.

    Get a grip on your soapboxes…take a breath precious snowflakes….and realize that the world doesn’t have to be coddled/bubble wrapped to make everything nicey nice. Yes, all unruly behavior is annoying whether is it is from an 8 year old or 80 year old. I see no evidence of a child being unruly and the only commentary I have for the parents who do separate from their responsible/mature kids is to:

    a.) Get them in a row as close to first as possible
    b.) Check on them during flight as any parent does even when seated in same area.
    c.) Don’t be low class and ask for freebies to be sent (aka ‘pity’).

    I can’t believe how soft/judgy millenials are…..

  57. There is nothing unfair about flying in economy (#firstworldproblem) especially if you are a child and your parents are paying for it. I see nothing wrong with a child that young travelling in economy with the parents in first as long as the child is well behaved and not an inconvenience to other passengers. They are all in the same aircraft, if the child needs something he or she can walk up front to the parents (as this one did). I definitely agree with you, if you want your kids to have a first class meal, buy a first class ticket for them!

  58. I guess it depends on (a) what kind of plane it is, and (b) how long is the trip (is it a trans-Pacific flight?) I know in the flight you’re describing, it was probably a domestic short haul flight, but…

    If it’s a long-haul international flight, and F is in an A380 upstairs, and Y is downstairs, and there is an emergency, where everyone has to deplane as soon as possible, who is going to assist the child? Will the parents have the opportunity to get downstairs to Y?

    If the child is an UM in this situation, then a FA will be tasked with taking care of the child in an emergency.

    In this scenario, if the parents want to fly F, and have the child fly Y, pay the $ and get the child UM status 🙂

    I wouldn’t have an issue with allowing a teen to fly without UM status in a separate cabin.

  59. I’d not have a good flight if I did this, wondering who would help my child if something bad happened on the flight…this behavior should not be tolerated

  60. I think what matters here is the way people are brought up. Children with a “La la land” way of living is nice and extremely cute, but so out of reality…

    I remember when I was a child, me and my family would travel every single year. Just imagine being parent of 4 children and taking the whole family to Walt Disney or some Caribbean place or New York. Sometimes we would all travel in business, sometimes my parents would travel in business class and we would travel in economy. No problem at all because I remember that my parents would always tell us to stay vigilant and to be suspicious whenever an adult would come chat with any of us or offer something.

    Other than that I guess my parents taught us to behave and respect other people. It may have something to do with the japanese blood. I don’t know. But I do know that flight attendants would always be really nice to us because we would never cause any issues or trouble.

  61. Everyone has different opinions

    Some airlines still consider a minor as unaccompanied if the parents are in a different cabin

    It is absolutely not be the responsibility of the neighbouring passenger to take care of them

    What if there is an incident such as illness, turbulence or a need for the O2 masks to be deployed ?

    Parents say ” don’t talk to strangers “yet are happy to let their precious one sit next to or between two complete strangers

    Furthermore some airlines insist that only female passengers sit beside a UM

    Also consider the aircraft size
    The parents on the upper deck of an A380 and little ones on the lower deck ?

    Unless designated as a UM on the manifest the crew would not be aware of the relationship between the neighbouring adult and minor

  62. I have left my 12 year old and 15 year old in Economy, while seated in first class with my 6 year old. They have flown alone as unaccompanied minors to Tennis Academy, so I don’t see how this was any different. However, I would never ask a flight attendant to give my kids in economy free food. I also would never leave my 6 year old alone in economy. I agree with the poster who states it depends on age and maturity.

  63. It’s not OK and not safe. An adult cannot sit in an emergency exit row if they are responsible for a child under the age of 15. In the event of an emergency, there is no one to be responsible for that child.

  64. While I personally wouldn’t do this with my daughters, I don’t see it as that big a deal so long as they aren’t looking for special favors, behave themselves, and aren’t inconveniencing the other passengers.

  65. My children received zero extra assistance in flight as unaccompanied minors. They were only shown to the gate.

  66. Of course it’s okay, my parents did it for years with my siblings and me and we all turned out fine. Furthermore, absent some form of abuse, abandonment or neglect (none of which this rises to), it’s not anyone’s business to criticize how parents choose to travel with their kids.

  67. My kids (6 &10) fly unaccompanied multiple times per year and it’s fine. I see this as somewhat similar. My wife and I have never done it but have considered it.

    A funny anecdote, my sister and BIL sat FC and had their sons sit in the bulkhead in coach on AS. The younger son puked all over himself while the older kid was napping. He woke up to his brother just covered in upchuk. Parents were in FC oblivious to the whole situation. Maybe this is an argument against the practice…

  68. Just last week I was flying LAX-YVR with my 9 1/2 year old son, seated in row 10 of an Embraer RJ-175. We were next on the upgrade list but there was only 1 seat left in first. FA offered it to me and I briefly thought about it – the seat was only 4 rows up and my son was engrossed with his iPad. But in the end it just didn’t feel right.

  69. As a gay guy myself, this sounds like a case of 2 pretentious queens (dads) who were more interested in getting their brunch/cocktails on than being a responsible parent. Come on gays – you can do better!!!

  70. As a parent I never separated myself from my children on flights. What happens in an emergency? And what happens if your child gets sick? Is it the responsibility of the adult seated nearby to offer aid?
    A few years ago on a flight to Rome, I shared a row in Y with an off duty AA First Officer and his 9 year old son. The son had the window seat, I had the aisle and the First Officer had the center seat for the entire 9 hours. His wife was in J. I was impressed.
    Even today with adult sons, I fly in the back with family members and friends if they’re flying Y.

  71. Despicable. You want to travel with your young child; then travel with your young child. We are not talking about an UM. Completely different situation.
    The experience you shared simply reeks of thoughtless, entitled parents who were not considering their child’s well-being and comfort. And…they made it other passengers’, and the crew’s, full responsibility to be present for the young child.

  72. We fly DL sand have on occasion had our 8 year old son sit in Economy Comfort while we set in first class. We’ve never been more than a couple rows separated, and we cleared it with him beforehand. He may be 8 but he is as well seasoned traveler and even has medallion status. He watches his iPad with headphones on for most of the ride, knows how snack/beverage service works, and is generally a very considerate flyer. We wouldn’t have done this just a year or two ago, but he actually likes sitting by himself and we know he doesn’t cause issues or feel uncomfortable. We also don’t ask for special benefits for him that he isn’t entitled to due to his fare class. I don’t think this is a one size fits all question. We wouldn’t feel comfortable at this age if he were in the back of the bus, but a few rows behind (sometimes right behind us) feels ok to us and to him.

  73. How about this … leaving your kids in first class while you sit in coach? I’ve done this, traveling with my 10 and 13 year old kids. I’ve also left four kids 7, 10, 15 and 17 in coach while my wife and I flew a trans-con first class. There have been other iterations (I’ve booked Business Class for my kids in May … trans-atlantic, and am hoping to redeem a few system-wide upgrades on the same flight for my wife and I, but if we don’t clear, oh well (let the kids experience something special – I fly first and business frequently).

    In EVERY case where I have done this (kids in coach, and me in the front, or vice-versa) someone, without fail, who sat near them during the flight stays back to compliment me (and/or) my wife on how well behaved the kids were … and that, I think, is the secret sauce. If your kids are well behaved and mature enough to handle the experience well, then it’s not an issue.

  74. Granted my daughter is only five, but I could never have her sit by herself in any class of service. One parent would always be with her if we had to split up for any reason. Her safety comes first.

  75. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the seating, as long as the children are well-behaved and especially within eyesight (for example, put them in the bulkhead row of economy, while you’re in the back of first). Asking the FA to give them free food is not, however.

  76. As long as the parents are sure that Kevin made it onto the correct plane for winter vacation, I have no problem with it.

  77. My only issue with this is should there be an emergency that required an evacuation I could very well see parental instincts kicking in and one or both of the parents trying to head back to ensure their child was able to safely exit the plane. In the process this would endanger everyone. If one is going to do this and the kid is in the first couple rows of Y, parent in the back rows of F no biggie (other than the food request which was super tacky), though parents in row 2 kids in 25…nope.

  78. NO!!!! NEVER OK TO DO SO!!! As a Flight Attendant, I’ve been working on flights where the kids can’t be away from their parents for more than 2 minutes and they keep running up and down the aisle to “visit” their parents. It is very disruptive for everyone else in the First Class cabin to have constant interruption. I do see other passengers rolling their eyes and getting annoyed. In my experience, every time that parents get split from kids is because they got an upgrade. I’ve had to tell the parents to put a stop to the constant interruption and then, of course, I am the bad flight attendant who does not care about children and their families. As a responsible parent, I would say: “thanks but no thanks. I am staying with my kids.” In addition, what if an emergency arises? What if the plane needs to evacuate? You are 20 rows away from your minor child. What are you going to do? Finally, you never know who is sitting next to your child (just google “child molested inflight” and you will see report after report after reports on this subject). People need to think about this things when boarding a flight!

  79. It’s exactly this kind of selfish behavior, i.e. mommy and daddy will sit up front while you sit in the back, that leads children to grow up into maladjusted adults like Credit.

  80. NO…this is different from an unaccompanied minor…it’s worse. The parents of the kid next to me kept coming back from first to check their kid. Problem was, I was on the isle, I’m tall, and the kid was next to me so they would stand over me with one hand on my seat back talking to their kid. Not only did I get no sleep the whole flight, but one of the parents spit when they talked.

  81. To put a different perspective on things I left my parents in business class while me and my sister were seated in economy plus. We had eco+ plus booked for a family holiday we did before christmas as we would not celebrate together as I had to work (I live in another city).

    I spent some miles to get them in C instead. My sister is just 12 (10 year age difference), but we were seated good in Eco+ while they had a first time experience in Business. Made them happy I think, and we did very well in eco+.2

  82. Just my opinion but I think parents who put their creature comforts ahead of their kids makes me wonder why they had kids. Most parents I know insists that their kids get the better things before the parent. Second, you never know when there is going to be some type of emergency. Where do you want to be when that happens.

  83. I’m late to this one but it strikes me, why don’t you want to sit with your child? I can’t get enough time with my kids. I routinely turn down op-ups on family trips if they just op-up me so I can sit with them. A trip in economy with my spouse and kids is far more fun than a trip alone up front.

  84. What is unacceptable to me is when the kids left in Economy come up to visit the parents in First Class and make a bunch of noise.

  85. I’m disgusted As one of two dads to my son I could NEVER imagine leaving him in Econ esp while knocking back drinks in business. And he’s 8. If this kid is anywhere under 17 then they are unfit as parents. As a gay male parent I sense that these gay dads want the best of two worlds. To live the pretentious lifestyle yet parade around a child. I gave up the QM2 for Disney cruise and I seat my son in business – so long as the divider can come down between us. Otherwise I belong in regular seating with him. It’s a choice I made with no regrets. it appears these two jerks didn’t think out too clearly about gay lifestyle vs rearing a kid properly. I’m disgusted

  86. My dad was an Ex Plat on AA when I was a kid and would always get upgraded. One time only one ticket got upgraded and he let me sit in first class 🙂 It was a short flight from Miami to DC. I was prob like 10 years old.

  87. I agree that Lucky and Tiffany are off base. Look, I don’t agree with what the parents did in the situation Lucky observed, but taking that one situation and extrapolating from there that parents and children should never sit in separate cabins is just too much. First of all, have kids of your own. Care for them, love them, and determine how you want to fly with them. But don’t go all righteous-indignation on those who make different choices with their children than you would with yours.

    On the security issue….try this on for size: my wife and I just flew CX J from PEK-HKG-BKK. Our four children sat in E, precisely ONE row behind us, as there was not PE on either flight. In the case of emergency, we could easily help them with oxygen masks, deplaning, etc. But of course two of our kids are teenagers, and more than capable of helping their younger siblings with these tasks. Which again points to the problem of making a blanket statement about the horrors of separate cabins for kids and adults. In some situations, yes, it won’t work. But to say that it is wrong in every instance is simply BS.

    No, we wouldn’t let our younger girls go to the movies by themselves. But we would let the four of them go together. And, incidentally, we do let our teenagers ride the subway, by themselves, in Beijing. Because we do. And we’re not delinquent parents.

    To those who suggest that I don’t love my kids enough, I would again say….have kids yourself. If you’ve never had kids, I’m not interested in having you tell me how to raise mine. If you do have kids, I’m still not interested in having you tell me how to raise mine, and rest assured I’ll won’t be telling you how to raise yours. I love my kids, and they know it. You might look at where my kids sit on a 3 hour flight and think you know how much they are (or aren’t) loved. You are wrong. And my kids would be the first to tell you that.

    So yeah, I wouldn’t do what the parents Lucky observed did. But no, that doesn’t mean it’s all wrong, all the time, in every instance. Because it’s not.

  88. @ John — I actually totally agree with your filters. It makes sense that your teenagers could keep an eye on your younger kids, whether that’s on the subway, at the movies, or on an airplane. And my teenage nieces fly by themselves all the time, and could probably be trusted to watch their brother — just like they do at home or at the movies.

    This situation with a much younger child (less than 10 years old, and by themselves) is a bit different, right?

  89. Those that do not have a problem with their young children being intentionally separated from them during flights should seek the widely published article about the 13 year old girl molested as an unaccompanied minor during an American Airline flight from Dallas to Portland in June 2016.
    The molestor, age 26, was arrested upon arrival in Portland.

  90. The difference between this and an unaccompanied minor situation is that they have paid a fee to ensure the airline looks after their child. In this instance, they are asking the cabin crew to provide free child care. They neglected to feed their little one, and are playing on sympathy to provide their child with a meal that should have been their first priority. If they want their kid to have a first class meal, they would be welcome to forego their own and send it back, but it’s unreasonable to ask. Shame on them.

  91. @Ken brings up a good point. What are my options if I’m sitting beside a sick passenger? Should I try to discreetly ask the FA for a different seat? I have a 13hr flight coming up and don’t want to be stuck next to a sick person and then be sick for my trip? Is it a requirement that passengers be healthy to fly?

  92. Rather than discuss whether or not the child is old enough to sit alone, I think the bigger question is why the parents would choose to sit away from their child in the first place. When we travel with our son, we do so as a united family. The journey is as much a part of the experience as the destination. It is an adventure for all of us and we value our time with him!

    Sure, First Class has its perks. However, if we couldn’t afford to have our child sit in First Class with us, we would undoubtedly sit in Economy.

  93. I agree with Tiffany on this: either the kid travels as UM and the airline is responsible for them. Or the parents are responsible for the kids – and they can’t fulfill that responsibility from a different cabin!
    Pay for UM and food and let the airline take care of your kids – or take care of them yourself, but don’t shirk the responsibility and be cheap.
    And an emergency is a good check point – how would you feel if your kid didn’t make it off the plane because the flight attendants or strangers didn’t look after the kid, while you were evacuating First class?

  94. When I was still working for Miles and More it was a usual request , at least twice a month a couple called in and wanted to have the upgrade or the award ticket in Business or First to them, and the economy ticket for the children. Lufthansa had a strict rule and I am sure other airlines have it also. You could not leave your children under age if the other sibling is not above 12 years old. I had to explain many times to disappointed parents that the flight attendants will not nurse their children while they endulge in their luxury.
    One time it was hilarious though, a dad called in and requested the upgrade just for himself. My offer that we still had enough upgrades for the rest of the family ( party of 4) was declined by him: I need this time to myself. I will see all of them in my holidays for two weeks.

  95. YES, it is!!! Yes, yes, yes! PLEASE leave the kids in economy.

    OMG, this is my pet peeve, when I see young children in First / Business Class. I’m sorry, but a kid under, well, 16, has no business being in Business.

    Unless the child has special needs, by all means, the child should be sat in Economy; if the child is at least … I would say 8 years old. I don’t see how any seatmates would have any obligation to ‘watch’ the kid. That would fall under the purview of the flight attendants, who have to basically watch after ALL passengers, regardless of age, young or old.

    And seriously, it’s an airplane … where is the kid going to go?

    Now, if it’s a young kid, like 5 years old, then the whole lot should be sat in Economy in that first row or in the back where they can spread out a bit.

    Flying in First / Business, is something that you EARN. Either by forking out the money for the ticket, or earning it through an upgrade, points, what-have-you. I’m sorry, at 5, you ain’t earned it!

    I get so irritated when I haven’t been upgraded or Business is sold out, and only to find upon boarding some kid under ten sat in Biz. Ridiculous.

    And if I am in Business, I don’t want the disruption of kids.

    Stay in Coach!!

  96. No. Kids should not travel in BC/FC thus parents insisting on dragging kids around the world can sit with the kids EC.

  97. You really need to have some up/down post features, threaded commenting or polling on articles like this. I really want to see what a majority of people think, but I don’t have time to read through 100 comments.

    P.S. I find it unacceptable personally and would judge the parents whether morally right or wrong.

  98. People have not mentioned that many Business Class passengers hate having kids in the cabin . I know the looks I get when I take my two boys into business. Though they are well behaved travellers the folks are just thinking there goes our chance of a quiet flight. The parents might be thinking why spend extra money to get dirty looks?

  99. I am a kid (13) and I do not believe in the discomfort of economy.
    It is living hell.
    After my dad got a job in Abu Dhabi, we only travel Etihad J/F and for free.
    It’s awesome.

  100. Thats just wrong. First, they shouldn’t leave her in economy! At least one parent should sit in economy and let the daughter sit up front with the other. Second, they should seriously be talked to by child services. That just seems ridiculous! Third, they should have offered to give their meal to the daughter in economy at the very least. Fourth, maybe they should have bought her some food!

  101. Lol this is like posting a story about tipping on a dining blog – it’s a sure-fire comment generator!

    I had a similar situation where the parents asked me to switch seats with their kid so they could sit together and yes, they were literally asking me to move to economy from first class. I suggested they might have a lot more luck if they go ask their daughter’s seatmates if they’d like to move into first so the family could sit together in Economy 😛

  102. Once school lets out travel can be more challenging. I was surprised that I didn’t get an upgrade on a certain flight. Since I was in the first row of economy I could see why. 10 of the 12 seats in first class were taken by two families going on vacation. The children didn’t need the extra room nor did they seem to enjoy the amenities of first class. I don’t blame the parents and I probably would have done the same. But I sure did resent them that day.

  103. This has sparked lots of responses, let me give you my situation. Family flying to Cabo for spring break. My wife and I paid for our tickets, we have triplet boys and used miles for their tickets. Had the three boys sitting ABC in bulkhead, economy seats, wife and I in D and F. Wife and I got upgraded and took the last row of first class. Essentially we are in the row in front of the boys, I don’t think this makes us bad parents for enjoying the comforts of first class with our kids in economy. We have been upgraded other times and kids were a couple of rows back, but we always book them in the same row together.

  104. So I’m having really mixed issues with this. Everyone keeps saying it would be ok for their kids because they are so well behaved but I feel like I hear that from people at times whose kids aren’t well behaved and you are essentially making a stranger deal with them. Parents keep saying there’s no danger to the kid and I wouldn’t be worried about that all that much. I’m worried about having to entertain your child or deal with them in an emergency because they are next to me and don’t have you around.
    I also have to point out what someone said about swimming upstream against people in an emergency to get your child. This would cause mayhem as well as injury to people.
    I just think 8-10 is still too young for this and wouldn’t do it.

  105. Haven’t read all the replies, but as a father of a 12 year old daughter, I can confidently say that she would be fine back in coach on her own. She would have her face buried in her phone or iPad, and would barely notice anyone else around her.

    She flies as an UM at least a couple of times a year on short flights to see relatives, so she is pretty responsible and self-sufficient.

    Over the years, after having spent a small fortune on her seats to make sure she is in F (domestic) or Business (Europe) with us on vacations, it’s clear to me she doesn’t really care. I expect that as she gets into her teen years she will be even less interactive with us on flights, and will welcome a bit more independence that comes with being in her own space, but knowing we are not far away.

    Does that make me a bad or reckless parent, or indicative of unfairly punishing other passengers who are seated by her? I don’t think it does… I’ve sat by adult passengers (in all cabins) who behave far worse than my child ever would.

  106. After just reading all the replies… wow, I have to say there is an awful lot of hysteria out there, and what sounds like extreme helicopter parenting. We wonder why the latest generations are struggling so much to get established and on their feet (ie not living at home until age 30+)… they come from a period in American culture where they have always been more important than anything else, aren’t allowed or encouraged to think for themselves, essentially smothered by doting parents from birth through college, and they think that they are all “exceptional” and their entitlement stinks from a mile away.

    Keep kids out of first class… it’s just adding to the unearned entitlement.

  107. The real question here should be: why the hell you’re judging and asking your readers to judge? Who are you to do that? A kind of judge of the skies? God? What people do is not of your business, by the way, is not of anyone’s business. If they as a family thought that it would be ok, let them do it! Why do you care so much?

  108. The situation described by Ben is frankly appalling. Not only are these parents – be they gay or straight – not taking responsibility for their child, but it would appear that they have abandoned the poor mite with no food while they enjoy themselves! This is unacceptable and any attempt to justify similar behaviour is reprehensible. On the other hand if we are talking about teenage children who one would allow to perhaps travel to school ON A PUBLIC BUS, then it might be more acceptable and yes it MIGHT be appropriate for such an older sibling to look after a younger one. Common sense ultimately; though if you want children, be prepared to look after them and spend time with them otherwise prepare to be judged.

  109. Aww… it’s fine. If the parents have frequent flier cards that the kid is not part of, it doesn’t make sense for them to not take the upgrade (especially if their miles were about to expire). One thing that my parents used to do was that they would let me take their seat at first, so that could have been a possibility too.

    But I definitely would give the parents the benefit of the doubt and not be too judgemental of others on the flight; instead, just mind your own business.

  110. All the good things my kids gets first…ONLY after that do we as parents get the same.
    No matter kids are unruly or not
    No matter whether they would enjoy the amenities or not
    No matter if there is a safety issue or not
    If we cannot experience it together, would send my kids up to B/ F class… never myself alone.

  111. I guess rather than focussing on the airline setting, ask whether it would be acceptable in other settings.

    Would it be ok to put your kids in one carriage on a train, but – as parents – sit in another carriage?
    Would it be ok to seat your kids at a restaurant table in the back, but – as parents – to take a seperate table in the restaurant window?
    Would it be ok to send your kids to one theatre at a cinema alone, but – as parents – to go watch another movie instead?
    Would it be ok to have your kids put in a room by themselves on a low floor of a hotel, but – as parents – to take a top floor room for the better views?
    Would it be ok to leave your kids in the cheap seats of a stadium, but – as parents – head down to better seats rows ahead?

    In this day and age, is it really acceptable to have small children not being looked after by their parents directly, but left to the concern of the community?

    I quite understand parenting is a tiring and often thankless job, and little luxuries are enjoyed, but if you decide to have kids, you have to accept certain responsibilities, and one of those is looking after them.

    And looking after them isn’t about trying to score free food for them, because you are a tight arse, while knocking back your drinks in First. One parent needs to be with the children (you can swap and mix and match, but dumping them in Economy unattended is just wrong).

  112. An 8 year old child is not an accessory to be stowed away during flight—I find this behavior appalling. I would never leave my young child unaccompanied on a flight.

  113. For the folks making the argument that parents should not be allowed to sit in a separate cabin, even a few rows apart, do you also support requiring airlines to guarantee family seating (same row, side by side)? Right now, my family of 5 is booked main Econ (not “basic”) PVR-DFW on AA. Purchased tix 3 months ahead. While the flight appears to be wide open, there were only 5 seats offered (aside from paid upgrades) and they were scattered all over the plane. Because of this, my 8 year old is holding a center seat 7 rows away. And all but one of us is in a center seat elsewhere in cabin. Whose job is it to make folks accommodate us in seats together? With current scenario and interns of rows/distance, I’d be closer to my kid if I upgraded to J.

  114. I have an interesting situation that may give a different perspective and also a question. I am not a “frequent enough” flyer to have regular upgrades and I’m not wealthy, I’m in the Air Force stationed in Germany. I found a great deal on a first/ business class ticket to ATL to sit and keep a watchful eye out while my 14 yr old attends a basketball camp (helicopter mom). Well my 14 yr old and 8 yr old are visiting grandpa for the summer so they had different Unaccompanied minor tickets for different dates and I’m just flying in and out for camp. I have now decided to bring them back early for circumstances beyond our control and I would prefer they fly back on my flight. So now I have the dilemma of myself being booked in business/first from ATL to FRA on AA and having to book for them but I can’t afford $14k for two additional tickets so the two additional tickets will be for economy. I would feel like a jerk flying in first and having them in economy so I thought of allowing them to take turns in first and my youngest flying the ATL to CLT short segment and my oldest taking the long haul from CLT to FRA. They are both seasoned travelers and my 8 yr old is not needy at all but in case of emergency I’d be uncomfortable not being near him. Is this even allowed? What are your seasoned traveler opinions?

  115. I was recently on an Alaska flight where I was seated next to two young children (7 years old maybe) who’s mother was in first class. It’s hard not to feel responsible for 2 kids that are completely on their own. Mostly I was surprised that an attendant didn’t make some sort of comment that they were keeping an eye on the kids. I reached out to Alaska and got the following response. I guess next time you sit next to an unaccompanied minor and there’s an emergency, you are within your rights to step over them and show yourself to the nearest exit. Thanks Alaska!

    “Thanks for the question – there is no policy regarding the separation of children from their parents on the same flight (with the exception of exit row seating). It actually happens often – families often get separated and aren’t able to be seated together (for a variety of reasons, not just because a parent has a First Class seat).

    Having said that, there is no policy for Flight Attendants to ask nearby passengers if they are comfortable with the seating arrangements. To answer her other question, it is the flight crew’s ultimate responsibility to handle emergency situations. I certainly applaud this guest’s concern over assisting the children in the event of an emergency, but she would have (legally) been under no obligation to do so.”

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *