I was amused to read (in Conde Nast Traveler) this past week an interview in which Richard Branson quite seriously sounds off about the virtues of a “kid’s class” on planes. He describes the (hypothetical, at this point) zone as being minded by nannies who (presumably give mom and dad a break and) watch kids during a flight. He also pontificates on the roadblocks—namely, what the hell an airline would do in the event of turbulence (or an emergency) when kids must return to their respective seats.
The whole bit got me thinking: If I could design my own on-plane family travel amenities, what would they be? Here are a few items on my list.
Aft water-play area
All kids love water play. Heck, when my kids come upon a water play area at school or a park, they can stay busy for hours. With this in mind, water play at 30,000 feet would be a PERFECT way to keep kids busy on long flights. Tired of watching Frozen, honey? Go to the water table. Feeling grimy and overheated? Go on and splash around. I even know some adults who would like to kill a few hours at an attraction like this one.
Once families are free to move about the cabin, a great diversion would be a bar that serves Play-Doh. Not for eating, of course. For playing with. The bar could offer 6-8 different colors on each flight. And because airlines would require passengers to play with it AT THE BAR, cleaning up the inevitable Play-Doh balls would be a cinch. Hell, my kids would be so into this idea, I’d be willing to play $10 a jar for the stuff. [As a variation on my original theme, I’d also pay a premium for Play-Doh the girls can use in their seats.]
Jelly bean service
In-air dining options are so…pedestrian. It’s always the same old stuff! Especially inside those “Kids packs,” which usually come with a granola bar, some form of applesauce, a Slim Jim and other glorified camping food. Why not have Jelly Belly sponsor a special “Jelly Bean Service” during which flight attendants walk the aisles peddling jelly beans to families and those travelers who are kids at heart? Yes, I recognize it might not be wise to actively give kiddos sugar highs in mid-air. But with well-thought related resources, this could be a win for everyone involved (especially the airline).
I know, I know, the logistics of engineering a bouncy house on a moving plane probably would vex the greatest minds of our generation. But THINK ABOUT IT—even if an airline limited entry to four kids every five minutes, youngsters could quite literally jump out all of the nervous energy for the duration of the flight. Someone even could discover a way to harness the kinetic energy from all those jumps and use it to power on-board water filters or WiFi or a cookie oven (free cookies!).
Branson, my man, are you listening?