Is it wrong to fly in a different cabin from your children?

business class versus premium economy

Who looks happier?

I’ll be honest: I really deserve to fly business class. Not because I’m better than other people, but because I enjoy it so much. So much. If airlines understood the deep wellspring of pleasure I get from it, the Mariana Trench of joy, they would fly me everywhere in business simply because of the good it would bring the world.

Everything from the early boarding to how they hang up your coat before you sit down, the benefit of your own personal overhead bin, a real printed menu from which to choose meals and a seat bigger than Scotland. To be truthful, I probably deserve to fly first class for the same reasons. (Note to self: Research is in order.)

Dilemma: 2 seats up front, 2 seats in back

The problem is that flying business is still relatively rare for me and my family, involving special fares and accumulated miles. Recently we had the option of booking 2 business class tickets to America for Christmas…but it meant the other 2 tickets for our family would only be premium economy.

Sometimes you hear about celebrities flying first or business class while their children sit back in coach with the nannies. In Home Alone, Kevin is left behind precisely because his parents sit up front, unaware of the empty seat in back.

Is it OK to sip Champagne while the kids sit way back?

Now I had the dilemma of deciding whether it was OK for us to sit sipping Champagne in lie-flat beds while the kids sat in reclining seats — slightly better reclining seats than regular economy class, mind — in a different section of the plane.

It somehow didn’t feel very egalitarian. Are we teaching the children that they deserve less, should expect less just by dint of being children? Is this what family travel means to us?

Those questions lasted until my husband got ready to book the flights.

“You are OK with this, right?” he said, finger poised over the computer mouse.

Memories of economy

I have spent my fair share of time squeezed into a coach seat, jostling for an armrest with a greedy row-mate. I have brought along my own food to avoid the coach class “meal”. I have contended with a stiff neck and sciatica.

So really this wasn’t a question.

My husband pressed the button and this Christmas trip we luxuriated in full-length seats in a quiet cabin with especially attentive attendants. I popped back to see the kids a few times. “Why can’t we sit in business class?” they asked. We explained patiently: We only had enough miles for 2 of us. They were fine in the premium economy cabin. They had more cartilage in their skeletons, making coach class more comfortable for them.

They tried to convince us that on the way back they should be the ones to sit further up the plane. My husband replied — and I quote — “Ha ha ha!”

And you know what I realised? While they would enjoy aspects of it, much of the benefit would be lost on them. The kids don’t even drink Champagne. Sante!

Have you ever travelled in a better part of the plane than your children? I’d love to hear about your experience.


I’m a journalist and blogger. Previously I was The Times’s online lifestyle editor and Alpha Mummy blogger. Now I’m co-founder of BritMums and BritMums Live! – our annual blogging conference that draws hundreds. Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Google Profile+



  1. January 9, 2015 / 12:22 am

    I have friends that do that a fair bit, I definitely don’t think there is anything wrong with it.
    I’m not sure what I’d do now, now the children are older, we used to all travel in B.C…and now we can’t afford to travel at all…haha. x

    • January 12, 2015 / 11:13 pm

      Aw, Nova. I know how you feel. We’ll be enjoying some staycations this year.

    • Karen Bratt
      January 17, 2015 / 1:22 am

      Jennifer, I genuinely feel sorry for you. Once I got past the feeling of “this woman sounds like a total b” I simply felt sad for you. Perhaps if you enjoyed your kids more you wouldn’t feel the need to escape from them.

      • January 17, 2015 / 10:36 am

        Hi Karen, that’s definitely not the case — I enjoy being with my children tremendously. But I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond.

  2. January 9, 2015 / 1:55 am

    My parents did this often when I was younger (but old enough to sit on my own and not have them worry!). Heck, they still sit in business while I am back in coach with my family if we travel together 😉

    • January 12, 2015 / 11:12 pm

      Ha — I’d like to meet your parents and find out how they swing it.

  3. January 9, 2015 / 7:28 am

    You so deserve to travel in style, Jen. The kids would never have appreciated the separate bin and the coat removal. Chin chin darling…

    • January 9, 2015 / 11:50 am

      Shall we meet in First Class and forget all about the kiddies, Trish?

  4. January 9, 2015 / 11:35 am

    This is brilliant – and oh so true….Those air miles do come in handy, don’t they?!

    • January 9, 2015 / 11:51 am

      Absolutely! Upon the advice of Mrs O Around the World I got a British Airways Amex and shifted my regular spending onto it to rack up airmiles. Excuse me, Avios.

  5. January 9, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    In all honesty Jen, I bet the kids thoroughly enjoyed their tiny bit of freedom. I hope to experience business class too one day but if I ditch 6 year old twins to the back of the plane all hell will let loose so I’ll hang on a bit longer.

    • January 9, 2015 / 2:03 pm

      Haha. Your girls are ANGELS, I’m sure. It would be you at the front, ringing the call button for more fizz, surely?

  6. January 9, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    Honestly, if my kids were older, and I could talk DH into it, I would be doing the same thing. We’re off to New Zealand in December and I would kill for Business Class for that journey!

    • January 9, 2015 / 2:01 pm

      You are right about how great Biz Class would be for New Zealand. Save miles now for when the kids are old enough!

  7. January 9, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    Love it Jen and funnily enough we introduced Oliver to Home Alone for the first time this year and discussed this very thing. I’ll be following suit when my kids are old enough! Happy New Year! Hope you had a wonderful break. P.S Your kids are gorgeous.

    • January 9, 2015 / 3:04 pm

      Thanks Vicki! We think they’re pretty gorgeous too.

  8. January 9, 2015 / 5:03 pm

    Just discovered your blog today. I would agree with you, and I look forward to doing it someday, too. I just can’t now….still have a 5 and 9 year old. I’m afraid of what they would do to the other passengers. I so had my kids way too late in life.

    • January 16, 2015 / 7:31 pm

      Leigh, believe me, we have been waiting for this moment.

  9. January 12, 2015 / 2:20 pm

    Don’t think I can quite get away with it yet with a two-year-old, but the second I can, I’m at the front with the free champagne. My husband is convinced Business Class is a waste of money (whereas if I have the cash/air miles, I’d definitely upgrade) so maybe he can sit in Economy while I relax?

    • January 12, 2015 / 11:11 pm

      Cathy, I agree. If hubby doesn’t think it’s worth the miles or money, he can contribute to your upgraded seat!

  10. January 12, 2015 / 8:44 pm

    Hell no, not if you can get away with it! they should count themselves lucky they got Premium Economy – I didn’t get that until I went on honeymoon (and that was the only time)! Only joking, I know it was a serious question and took a lot of thought and heartache from you… 😉

    • January 12, 2015 / 11:11 pm

      Steph, no problem with joking. Maybe it’s time to reschedule a second honeymoon…

  11. January 13, 2015 / 12:36 pm

    The first thing I thought of when I read your headline was ‘Home Alone’! But ‘Hell, yes!’, I’d do it…. However my two are a few years off that stage yet but when they are old enough, I bet they’d love a bit of freedom whilst I sip it up in First!

    • January 16, 2015 / 7:32 pm

      Nadine, when you get seats in First, I’d be happy to act as your escort…

  12. January 14, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    You are so right about their spines. If we’re being really honest do they even need a seat?;-) This post made me smile. You look very celeb in your business class picture too. If The Queen was American she would probably be just like you.

    • January 14, 2015 / 11:10 pm

      Kirstie, you are so right. Why don’t they just install low-hanging straps so the kids can just stand in the aisle alongside us decrepit parents? — Signed, Her Majesty

  13. Derek
    January 16, 2015 / 7:05 pm

    My wife and I do this all the time. We have 3 teenage children who fly coach while we fly business both for overseas travel as well as domestic. Sit your kids in business and everyone ridicules you for spoiling them, put them in coach and then you don’t love them. I read a long time ago that this is what Donald Trump did to show his kids that they had accomplished nothing in their life to warrant first class while he and his wife had. I think his kids turned about pretty well.(Maybe his dad should have made him fly coach!)

    • January 16, 2015 / 7:21 pm

      Derek, I hadn’t heard that about Trump. He’s not someone I would expect to agree with on parenting advice but it looks like in this case I’ll have to make an exception. Thanks for commenting.

  14. John
    January 17, 2015 / 2:32 am

    My family has traveled every year since the birth of our disabled daughter. She is 19 now and we have one older child and one younger. We always try to accommodate others by booking two seats in one row and the other three behind. That way if our daughter is kicking or pushing on the seat it won’t bother others. Sometimes that is not possible so we just try to keep her from bothering the person in front of her. I fly a lot and often we get upgrades for two of us. My other kids trade getting to sit with my wife in business class. My daughter is a daddy’s girl so I sit in economy with my disabled daughter. I would love to be up with my wife, but it really isn’t fair to my kids or others if I my daughter has issues…just something that comes with raising a disabled child.

    • January 17, 2015 / 10:35 am

      John, thanks for sharing your situation and flying strategies. I think kicking the seat is an issue with all children, isn’t it? Up until a few years ago I had to remind my daughter not to kick. If the flight is long, I think they just kind of forget that there is someone in front of them. They’re sitting there in their own little space, they get bored, they start swinging their legs then progress to kicking. I’ve turned around on occasion and with a smile asked a child to not kick my seat. They usually seem surprised that there’s someone in front on them.

  15. paul
    January 17, 2015 / 6:04 am

    Hmm..I’ve done a fair amount of flying and getting upgraded automatically. If my kids are with me, I give whoever’s turn it is my upgrade if available. They don’t fly that often, and its their little opportunity to be special. I am not opposed to children flying in separate classes. As long as they are old enough to not require supervision. As far as the family of the disabled child? I have no criticism. ..I haven’t walked their path. ..but perhaps they should have invested in a special seat. If it were me I would not have flown separately. much as you probably need a break, flying is not exactly a routine endeavor for someone disabled. It’s more a time for extra diligence to help your child get through. Get your breather in after you get to your destination. I flew in a for where a woman and her disabled child were also on board. Not sure what the child’s disability was but every minute or so…I guess during periods of transition,the child would let out a very loud, full lung blood curdling scream. That was 7 hours of unnerving. .. I had a very active boy that required quite a bit of active diligence to assure that he did not become a nuisance. Consequently we opted not to do things like fly till he was older. But idk…sometimes you have to. ..

    • January 17, 2015 / 10:32 am

      Paul, that’s a good way to do it — allow members of the family to take upgrades in turn. I’ve never noticed being on a plane with a disabled child that affected me in any way, but I can imagine that situation being very unnerving indeed. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Faye
    January 17, 2015 / 11:17 pm

    I divorced him!!!

    How about when your husband travels in FIRST CLASS and the wife and children in COACH?

  17. Erin
    January 18, 2015 / 1:21 am

    I recently booked an April flight to Rome with my husband and I in business class, and my three kids ages 8.5, 9.5, and 11 in economy comfort. I feel no guilt as our tickets were $5,000 each. I would never spend that on my kids when all they will be doing is staring at their IPADs and sleeping.

  18. David
    January 18, 2015 / 3:12 am

    I disagree putting your children in economy. What you are doing is foisting the responsibility of taking care of your children to the people sitting by your kids. I speak from experience when a 10 year old was seated beside me with no parents in sight. The flight attendant reminded me to put my mask on first and assist my child, I informed them that it wasn’t my child. Since we were already taxiing they didn’t have time to find the parents until after takeoff. If there had been an emergency I would of course helped the kid but really? Shoving your responsibility on to others because you want a little luxury? Selfish is what you and your husband are.

    • January 18, 2015 / 3:27 pm

      Hi David, I agree with you that a 10-year-old on his or her own is not a good situation. Because of the maturity of both of our children, we weren’t foisting responsibility onto others — otherwise we wouldn’t have done it (and haven’t done it before now). I strongly disagree with your characterisation of the situation, but thanks for taking the time to comment.

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