In 2016 a survey of long haul airline passengers found that 73.4% of them would prefer to fly in a cabin which was free of infants and children. Another 11.9% would definitely fly on an airline that guaranteed that there were no children at all on their flight. The remainder travel miserably with children.
And even of that remaining 15%, 8.3% of parents would prefer it if they could give their children to someone else to look after during their flight. This inspired Etihad Airways for example to provide a partial solution last year with its “nannies” who welcomed children onto their flights, then provided some support along the journey.
Now it appears that Boeing have taken these customer needs to heart. The Blue Swan Daily can reveal that a large group of parents, Parents in Flight, has been working with aircraft OEM engineers to create a prototype play area for children that can be fitted and customised for onboard a range of different aircraft types. And Boeing is first to the party.
The Child Relaxation, Amusement and Sensory Home (CRASH) will provide a sound-proofed area within the aircraft cabin that will allow children to relax or play without impacting the comfort of other passengers, and allowing parents to relax while onboard the aircraft.
“We’ve seen first-hand the value of soft play areas on our high streets for parents and grandparents when there is little to do on a rainy day. We are now transforming that concept to the sky and delivering an unforgettable experience that will not only benefit the children but also provide benefits to passengers and airlines too,” says a spokesman for the parents’ group.
The modular CRASH system will initially be trialled on board a modified Boeing 747-400 Combi aircraft to minimise the initial costs of development. It will include a soft play area with a slide down into the lower deck cargo hold where a bowling lane, maze and giant ball pool are located. A full flight simulator computer system will be available for older children with direct radio link to the cockpit for guidance.
“We aim to use the latest blockchain technology and artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver the most realistic experience,” says an executive. “I’m not quite sure what I just said or what blockchain actually is, but it is very exciting, I think?”
“Letting the kids crash in the airborne creche will keep them relaxed during any flight,” says childhood behavioural expert Ms M Poppins. “Strapping young children in to sit still with their parents for long periods of time does nothing but antagonise them – and that is before you start to consider no other option but hours watching television.”
A number of airlines have already shown interest in the concept. One is particularly interested in the ancillary revenue opportunities. “I’m a dad myself so know we can use this initiative to the airline’s advantage and just like on the ground charge a fortune for a limited time entry and charge over the top prices for snacks and drinks. With our latest technology innovations these costs can be charged straight back to parents’ seats without disturbing them from finally getting to watch 50 Shades of Grey without the kids present,” says its chief marketing officer.
The backers of CRASH are understood to be currently holding talks with personalities to promote the concept across different parts of the world and even make guest appearances onboard. Targets are thought to include The Wiggles in Australia, Mr Tumble in the UK and Barney in the United States of America, but quarantine laws mean the latter would have to be caged during the flights.
Just as cruise ships employ well known entertainers to perform on their ships, airlines with the new configuration will be able to market and sell the opportunity to attend unique experiences in flight. Talks are already under way with entertainment unions to delineate which airspace their respective members will be able to operate in.
“There are just one or two logistics and safety issues to be sorted out with this exciting new concept, but we’re hopeful this first stage can be completed quickly”, said spokesperson for the OEM consortium, Rus Erious. “Initial discussions with the FAA and European authorities have been very encouraging, especially with those of them who have kids of their own.”
With strong initial interest, the concept’s backers are understood to be looking to grow on a much larger scale. There is another upside: in the process it could help find a solution to the impending Airbus A380 retirement problem. With a limited call and uncertain second hand demand for the Super Jumbo they are considering working with airports across the world to turn the aircraft into a ground exhibit under an ambitious project codenamed Children’s Aviation Reality Physics Experience Theatre (CARPET).
“The size of the A380 opens the door to a whole new design template. We could turn the aircraft into a full blown educational tool for children teaching them about all aspects of flight in an enjoyable and exciting way,” says a spokesman for the parents’ group.
At a later stage there is the potential to turn the aircraft into a flying classroom and play area – the Flying CARPET. “If we could get the rights to fly the aircraft we could offer a truly interactive experience with our own crew of ‘flying nannies’ skippered by the world-renowned Nanny McPhee,” says the spokesman.
For corporate travellers there is a silver lining to this movement. “There is the potential here for a lucrative corporate market. Our experience at high street soft plays is that many parents want nothing to do with their kids once they have arrived and simply want to natter with friends over a cinnamon-sprinkled, pumpkin-spiced latte. We have even considered tying up with one of the major loyalty programmes to offer parents rewards for their children flying with us,” he adds.
The Blue Swan Daily spoke to representatives of North East England’s largest airport, Newcastle International, to discover their views on supporting the local project. A representative said: “Aalreet, whey-aye its canny mint for bairns mind ye knaa what ah mean leik?“ Consultation with a Geordie – English dictionary roughly translates this as “Hello, well yes of course It is a great idea for children.”