Tag Archive for: Richard Branson

Family amenities coming to European charters

A Thomson Airways family booth. Photo from Skift.

A Thomson Airways family booth. Photo from Skift.

At a time when U.S.-based airlines continue to squeeze family travel passengers, the world’s largest charter carrier, based in Europe, has announced plans to make the flying experience more family-friendly.

The company, Thomson Airways, this week revealed plans to create family booths on board certain flights. This concept, still just in the design phase, would allow parents and children, or friends, traveling together to sit face to face, enjoying conversation and a shared dining experience with a folding table between them.

As noted in a Skift article earlier this week, this isn’t the first time family booths have been tested; Southwest offered the same sort of family-friendly perk years ago, but discontinued it due to outcry from passengers who were NOT families traveling together.

This time, however, the message is clear: The booths are for families, and they likely will stick.

They also aren’t the only family-oriented perks Thomson has discussed and/or promised. Some of the other benefits include:

  • On-board kids’ club with childcare
  • Triple seat with folding middle seat (for which, presumably, you’d still have to pay)
  • On-board snack bar with kid-friendly items

If some of these perks (ahem, on-board child care) sound familiar, that’s because Richard Branson also has talked about implementing them in the future. Whenever these sorts of family-friendly improvements happen—really, regardless of whether they happen or not—I’m just glad people are talking about them at all.

Fantasy family travel amenities at 30,000 feet

This girl needs a Play-Doh bar.

This girl needs a Play-Doh bar.

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.

Play-Doh bar
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).

Bouncy house
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?