Do You Deserve Business Class If You Leave The Kids In Coach?

I’m amazed at this LinkedIn post that is making the rounds on social media for its combination of humblebrag and pop wisdom, that still manages to come off as disingenuous and lacking self-awareness at the same time. Truly this discussion of traveling in business class on vacation, while leaving the kids in coach, is an impressive viral morsel.

It sounds to me like what the author felt like he deserved was a break from his kids.

Do the other passengers in economy deserve to be stuck sitting next to your children without parental supervision? (I would note here that while American Airlines only requires teenagers to travel solo in ‘unaccompanied minor’ status until age 14, they continue to offer the status until 17.)

There’s a certain way you’re supposed to write on LinkedIn, in social media generally, or when talking about your good fortune to those you do not know. I know we’re supposed to offer a certain false modesty in our public postings but I’ll say that, with some reasonable assumptions, the poster did deserve to fly business class.

  • Let’s assume he and his wife earned their money without lying, cheating, or stealing.

  • They worked and provided a service that was valuable enough to be paid for. They traded their value for value from someone else, the exchange was voluntarily, and didn’t harm anyone else in the process. They deserved what they were paid.

  • They then took what they were paid – representing the value they had offered to someone else – and used it to buy a specific seat on a plane for travel. In the process they gave up whatever else they might have done with that money. They deserved the seat they purchased.

The question is, did their children deserve a vacation? Did the children deserve to be separated from their parents? Did their parents deserve to fly business class, separated from the kids?

Should they have had to purchase business class tickets for the whole family in order to ‘deserve’ them? Regardless, I have no opinion on whether they deserved a break from the kids during a commercial airline flight, and don’t know how the kids behaved (or were likely to behave, ex ante) to know whether the other passengers deserved these kids as unsupervised seatmates.

What do you think about when someone ‘deserves’ to fly business class?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think the shaming is a load of horse hockey. Gary you’re right to draw attention to this because it’s classism pure and simple. I’ve flown in J when kids are in Y (literally right behind me) and sometimes they get J too but I don’t have a boatload of money, nor do I have unlimited systemwides. The LinkedIn post was more of a facebook humblebrag, that is on the poster for even mentioning it on that platform.

  2. We went to Europe last winter on BA and we were lucky that business class ended up costing us less than $1k each on the way there. So as a special treat my two kids got to go as well. I couldn’t imagine putting them in different rows from us, let alone different cabins. My kids love flying, and I love traveling with them. The guy who stuck his kids in coach treats his kids like some kind of burden. If he’s traveling with them, he should sit in coach too. Save business class for himself and spouse for when they’re by themselves.

  3. This article is complete garbage. These are teenagers not little kids. Nobody is being stuck with children that need parental supervision. Pretty sure the teens don’t want to sit next to their parents the whole flight either. Such a non-story.

  4. Meh. They’re teenagers. I would have no trouble putting mine on a flight by themselves. Even transAtlantic. And I have done it. As long as they’re behaving, not a problem. If you’ve raised them right, they will behave. And guess what, the kids probably enjoy time away from the parents, even if they’re in the next section of the aircraft. Makes them feel a little more grown up. I have better things to do than joining in a mobbing of some anonymous guy on social media. Kid kicking my seat with his parent sitting right next to him, problem. Random bunch of teens who are traveling nicely, parent or no, not a problem.

  5. Providing for the basics and making the kids earn luxuries actually seems like very solid parenting of teens to me. I am taking a trip in J in November with my wife and kids. They are small though so there’s no way I’d leave them in Y by themselves. But when they hit a certain age this J/Y thing isn’t a bad way to hedge against your kids growing up entitled when it comes to air travel.

  6. I don’t see the problem here. Surely the family’s governess flew with the children and ensured that they minded their manners… if not, well, then, that’s a different story.

  7. definitely, kids are at a phase to learn and work hard, not ready to enjoy life or the fruits of their parents’ labor yet. unless they are infants then take them with you, otherwise perfectly ok to sit in coach, seizing every learning opportunity.

  8. When our family was younger and our child was <18, we traveled in coach. Now that my spouse and I are older (60+) we fly in Business. Our adult daughter makes her own choices on her own dime. A few times I have taken my adult daughter as my guest in Biz w/award miles. She has flown everything from RyanAir and Frontier (paying herself) to United Polaris, Aeromexico J, and Lufthansa J class as my travel companion. The older she gets, the more she appreciates my generosity and the effort it takes to earn those award miles.

    Younger children are physically smaller, and honestly, their bodies are so flexible they don't notice those coach seats. When our daughter was 8 we flew from Key West to Miami to SFO to HKG (coach all the way) and the video games on the seatback and football-sized KitKat bars, compliments of Singapore Airlines, kept her entertained the entire trip.

    Sometimes I think the best thing to do is let older children, ie, teens, experience Biz class once. If they get a taste for it that might motivate them in the future to earn the award miles themselves.

  9. There are teenagers and then there are teenagers. Granted that sometimes teens behave better when they’re NOT with their parents. However…..I recently flew with a hockey team full of teenage boys and it was no picnic. If the coaches hadn’t been right there telling them to stop throwing stuff, stop swearing, etc. it could have been worse. My grandkids, 5 and 6, got an earful — my daughter finally stood up and told them to shut up. So…I’m leery of parents deciding to enjoy themselves in a better class while the rest of us deal with their kids, for better or worse.

  10. Really this has more to do with how you generally raise your kids. My son has always flown with me in first or business if I was flying that way. He realizes it is a special treat that is only made possible by my points shenanigans. He is also well aware from some of our visits to developing countries of just how lucky he is. I have seen zero entitlement from him. It probably doesn’t hurt that I generally live below my means (travel is my one weakness) and both his car and mine were bought used, cheap and are worth less than some of the flights we have taken if we had paid cash.

  11. When anti social leftist lunatics always cry how I can afford my nice house and fly around the world. I always tell them because im the hardest working working dealer in the western hemisphere. Always seems to throw them for a loop

  12. If it is a transatlantic round trip with the flight to Europe being a red eye then the parents should fly J class to Europe (to sleep) and on the way back, the wife and one child in J with a switch in child halfway through the flight (quickly and without fuss to avoid detection).

  13. Not really a hardship for teens to sit in coach. It is not comfortable in coach for a long overnight flight for anybody but it gets harder the older you get. Takes more out of you, and I am pretty old now. Still, I fly coach every time I take my family anywhere because that is what I can afford when it is multiple people, whether points or cash. But the dad saying “kids don’t deserve business class because they did not earn the money” is a nasty attitude if he can easily afford it for everybody. The kids do not earn the money for their shoes or their breakfast or their school tuition either.

  14. They are teens ffs. They ll be fine
    It would be different if it was some screaming seat kicking 5yr old brat.

  15. I have no problem with this at all. If the kids are old enough to act responsibly, then they are fine in coach. They can sleep in any position and be comfortable in tight quarters. My back with its four ruptured discs are a different story. If the cost of a business class ticket were trivial to me, we would always be together. But it’s not. I would rather take the savings and put it toward shared activities at our destination.

  16. People are funny about this. I’ve known other people who did the same thing saying they did not want to spoil their kids, but who spoil them in lots of other ways. Personally, I am happy to have taught my kids that if you are diligent and learn to understand flying, miles and credit cards, international flying, while luxurious, can be relatively inexpensive. They know that they are sitting there for 55K miles and $100, not the $6K or more others may have paid. And personally, I want my family in the same cabin I am flying in. It would feel selfish to not use my miles to have them sit near me. When they are flying on their own, however, it is up to them. And I have seen some take their own vacations with miles in international business class using saver awards.

  17. I have a huge problem with small children/babies in Business/Frist class. You pay all this money, and inevitably you have some at the top of their lungs, screaming like they are being murdered. Yes, I know, it’s the cabin pressure blah, blah blah, I don’t care! Just last week, I had to fly to TPA from LAX. Since it was short notice, it had several legs, all in First class. I’m not even joking, but on every single portion, there were babies in First class. On the leg from TPA to DFW, 4 out of 12 seats. Some sports celebrity with three little children and a nanny with a screaming baby. The best part was they were not sitting together; they surrounded us and were going back and forth, handing our IPads to the little kids. It’s all extraordinary on a Red Eye. Nobody is safe anymore, at the beginning of the year, the same to LAX-ZIH. Last Nov, LAX-AMM-CAI-LAX had more children in Business than adults. We pay thousands of $, and some baby has to ruin it for everyone. They have no business being there in the first place. And, Yes, let the Eco passengers suffer; they only paid $655 when I paid over $6000. I don’t care if my views are politically incorrect, and save your comments for someone who cares. There should be a soundproof section of the plane for all mothers with small children or take a page out of the book for 90% of SNA that sit in first and have a nanny in coach with the kids.

  18. The parents are assholes, but it’s because of their clownish meritocratic reductionism, not because they left the kids in Y while they flew J.

  19. This argument comes up on FF blogs from time to time. You aren’t a horrible, negligent parent if you fly J and your kids fly Y. They are getting to see the world which is something only a small percentage of kids ever get to do. You also aren’t a horrible parent who spoils their kids just because you put them in J with you. You can teach them the value and privilege that such an experience is. What is far more important than where you seat your kids on the aircraft is how you raise them. Are they kind and respectful to others? Do they behave appropriately? Are they learning to appreciate the opportunity that they are being given by being able to travel the world and experience different places/environments/cultures? If so, they’ll likely turn out well no matter where they sit.

  20. What? These are teenagers, not five year-olds. They will be earbuds in, watching their phones, and not bothering anyone for 14 hours. Why is this a story?

  21. When traveling in business or first, you get extra checked bags for free. If the child weighs less than 20 pounds, put the child in a carry-on and stow it in the overhead. If the child weighs between 20 and 50 pounds, put the child in one of the extra free checked bag. If the child weighs more that 50 pounds, it will an extra charge but it would be covered by the airline incidental fee statement credit on an Amex Platinum.

  22. I happen to agree with @Marco. I work in First Class and I feel sorry for passengers that pay for the the privileges and the perks. And then they are treated to 8 hours of a screaming child while the parent puts on headphones and goes to sleep.

  23. For my family we either all fly in business or economy. That’s what we did a few weeks ago — economy to Asia out and all in business on the return (2 elementary kids) I’ve flown premium cabins so much thanks to miles that the novelty has worn off and I’d rather share it. Only time we weren’t together was there weren’t enough seats so I had my wife and one child fly first and I sat in the back with the other kid. But premium cabins are very rare for us now so they don’t get spoiled.

  24. @Lone Gunman: +1

    @Marco: concur, except for the sexism that the soundproof section is for mothers and not fathers, but otherwise, solid plan

    What I don’t get is not that these parents did or didn’t do this thing, because I don’t really care one way or the other, but sanctimoniously posted about it in social media. How self absorbed do you have to be to do this? Who gives a screw about your personal parenting decisions? Every parent makes them. You’re not special.

  25. We have travelled a few items when our family of 3 has not been able to get 3 biz tickets. If that is the case, my wife and daughter sit in biz and I will sit up in the back. I think this also teaches a lesson to my daughter, that you sacrifice for your family, just the way I was raised.

  26. @Ivan X
    Your right; I should have said that fathers should nurse their babies :-). I was venting since it seems to happen more and more. Years ago, you didn’t see many babies/small children in Premium Cabins. What makes it all worse is that parents seem oblivious and act this is normal and do not even think about how it affects other people. I have been on flights where there was a mother, and she apologized profusely. Was the baby screaming any better? No, but at least an acknowledgment and apology made a difference. Unlike all these entitled a*holes with noise-canceling headphones that watch moves, listen to music, and ignore what is happening.

  27. I am fine with kids on airplanes, either in economy, business or first class. It’s a public form of transport- if you don’t like flying with kids, fine. Get your own plane. Otherwise, they have just as much right to be there as you do.

    Back to the original topic- ohana means nobody gets left behind. We usually fly economy (3x RT transpacific a year ain’t cheap), but when I save up enough points, we all go J. My oldest teen qualified somehow for the 100K Sapphire Preferred last year, so she’s flying back from NY SQ J. Gotta encourage them to get into the mileage game somehow…

  28. I was a f/a starting in the late 60’s when all flew “dressed” and it was the good ole days. Back then there were restrictions on children in F/C, no one under 12. That changed over the years till where we are today. And yes it can be disheartening to spend all that money, points or whatever and not be able to enjoy your flight. Nothing wrong with having older children in Y, as long as it is not a back and forth issue. Unfortunately, groups of teens can become a noisy issue and it would be more helpful when the chaperons actually told them to “shut Up”. No one should have to put up with loud obnoxious behavior and usually if several act up, before long it seems like they are all in it…I found that school bands going to Disney were usually the best behaved. I do think that more parents are aware today of the problems that come with small children and often times board with little goody bags for their nearby seat companions. As a mom, years ago, I traveled home ATL/MKE on EA Friday night dinner flight and got the last seat in F/C……..and my 3 month old daughter cried from t/o to t/d and I was mortified. I tried and the f/as tried to calm her, nothing could be done……it does happen and if I could have crawled under the seat, I would have been happy to, sadly nowhere for me to go…..

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