3 Reasons Why Kids In Business Class Is Annoying

And how this could possibly relate to higher ed.

April 12, 2018

3 Reasons Why Kids In Business Class Is Annoying:

Reason 1 - Jealousy:

Walking down the aisle past the already boarded business flyers, on the way to a tiny middle seat in the back of the plane, is bad enough.  It is worse when that business class flyer is a kid.

Those in business class are spread out.  They have been given a beverage.  Business class luggage is safely stowed in the overhead compartment, as they have plenty of overhead space.

Airline travel is one of the few things that I’ve witnessed get worse in my lifetime.  Yes, flying is much cheaper.  But it is so much worse.  Add up the overcrowded flights, the ever-smaller seats, and the lack of any food or other amenities on long flights - and you have the recipe for a sub-optimal experience.

Flying would be so much nicer in business class.  The roomy seats.  The luggage space.  The food.  The absence of a middle seat.  It is hard not be a bit envious of those in the front of the plane.

Reason 2 - Legroom:

I’m a bit over six feet tall.  My legs are long. I don’t really fit in a coach seat. My knees hit the seat in front of me.  There is no place for my feet.  Physical pain often results when the person in front of me reclines.

Kids, or at least small kids, don’t have this problem.  If you are 4 feet tall, then even the worst coach seat should offer plenty of legroom.

The last flight I took was on United.  With only 30” of coach legroom, amongst the stingiest of any airline, I was almost wishing to be dragged off the plane.  

Reason 3 - Not Their Money / Unearned Privilege:

Okay.  Now we are really getting to what really bugs me. (If I'm being honest).

No kid has ever purchased their business class seat with money that they have earned.

Flying in the front of the plane for a kid is an unearned privilege.

I know in my head that this is ridiculous.  Privilege comes with birth.  This is capitalism.  The alternatives are much worse.

Not to mention that my kids are enormously privileged.  They (my kids) have had opportunities that most of the world can only dream about.

But I can’t imagine ever - ever - buying my kids a business (or first class) airplane seat. Can you?  How would they ever go back? 

Even if I were rich, I think that I’d think that it is crazy for kids to fly up front.

Maybe if the family was flying together.  But often I see kids (or teenagers) sitting by themselves in business class.

We need much more space to unpack the feelings that unearned privilege arouses.  This is an emotional, as opposed to a logical, reaction.

Logically, I should be happy that kids are flying business class.  Every business class ticket sold makes many more coach seats cheaper.  Airlines make most of their money on business and first class.

Affordable airfares are a function of the ability of airlines to practice differential pricing.  As well as fuller airplanes (yield management), and all those extra fees (baggage, food) that the airlines tack on - and the airports don’t get a cut.

We should want business and first class seats to be as expensive as the market will support, and that every expensive seat is filled.  We shouldn’t care who is filling those expensive airline seats.

Yet it is hard to be logical while be herded into a tiny middle row seat in the back of the plane next to the lavatory.

How Does This Possibly Relate to Higher Ed:

Higher education is increasingly mirroring the economics of airlines.  Wealthy schools - the equivalent of the front of the postsecondary airplane - offer an increasingly luxurious residential education experience.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of under-funded public institutions get by with ever diminishing resources serving an ever-greater number of students.  (The back of the plane).

It is also true that full-pay students enable schools to provide an affordable education to students from across the income distribution.

Talented students from middle or lower incomes that are able to gain admission to wealthier institutions enjoy a lower debt burden than graduates of less well-endowed institutions.

The economics of kids in the front of the airplane may actually benefit everyone, but it sure feels unfair to everyone else.

Does higher ed, or some parts of higher ed, have a kids in the front of the plane problem?

How should we talk about this together?  We don't do a very good job of talking about the causes and consequences of class differences. Someone is always accusing someone else of this or that.  Academics are no better at having these conversations than anybody else.  We may be worse.

Do you ever fly business class?


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