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Ryanair announces 'child free' flights: April Fools' joke or just a good idea?

April 01, 2011|By Jason La | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • In a press release dated April 1, Ryanair said it will offer "Child Free" flights starting in October. Really?
In a press release dated April 1, Ryanair said it will offer "Child… (Andy Rain / EPA )

If you've ever had a child kick your seat or cry in your ears during a flight, you might be happy to hear about a new program that Dublin-based Ryanair announced in a press release dated April 1 -- or perhaps just floated as a bit of April Fools' fun. The low-cost airline says it will offer "child free" flights starting in October.

The press release cites "a Europe-wide survey of 1,000 passengers" that Ryanair said shows they would pay more money to fly child-free. It points to these as respondents' top complaints:

1. 50%: Parents who expect "special treatment" because they have children

2. 25%: Parents who allow children to annoy those in seats behind

3. 15%: Parents who board late and expect others to accommodate them

4. 10%: Parents who allow children to run in the aisles or kick seats

Hmm ... All the percentages are multiples of five and they add up to 100%. Coincidence?

Stephen McNamara, Ryanair's head of communications, is quoted as saying:

"When it comes to children, we all love our own but would clearly prefer to avoid other people's little monsters when traveling. While half our passengers would like us to divide our cabins up into "adult" and "family" areas, it is not operationally possible due to our free seating policy, with optional priority boarding. However, with clear demand for "child free" flights, Ryanair will introduce child-free flights on high-frequency routes from the start of our winter schedule in October."

The timing of the announcement is suspicious to say the least. Quite apart from April Fools' Day, maybe Ryanair wants to deflect attention from its latest fare increase. Then again, it has a long history of quirkiness.

When the airline launched in the 1980s, its cabin crew had to be less than 5 feet, 2 inches to work in its small airplane cabin. It celebrated its 20th anniversary by offering 100,000 seats for 99 pence each. Last year, the airline confirmed it would install coin-operated lavatories aboard its airplanes.

Real or not, Ryanair may be on to something.

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