Imagine. A friendly agent greets you warmly as you walk up to the desk of the Centurion SFO. She swipes your Platinum card, scans your boarding pass, and welcomes you into the lounge. You smile and head in to find a comfortable seat, but just then two kids come tearing around the corner past you at full speed heading for the food area. You may instantly question: should kids be allowed in airport lounges?
Have you experienced this scene? Yeah, me neither.
But I don’t want to downplay the poor experiences some people have had with kids in airport lounges. Just like the debate over whether kids should be allowed in premium cabins on airplanes, there is definitely a debate over whether kids should be allowed in airport lounges.
As I travel with my kids fairly regularly, I’m sure you can guess where I stand on this issue. I’ll step right out and say that kids should be allowed in airport lounges. Taking advantage of the free food and beverages offered at airport lounges is definitely part of our family strategy for keeping travel costs down. Heck, even avoiding purchasing a bottle of water at the airport saves us $4 each trip. But there is definitely more behind my initial answer of “yes”.
You Pay, You Enter
This first issue I have with any sort of rule preventing kids in airport lounges is the fairness factor. If my kids and I are flying on a business class ticket (almost certainly using miles), why should they be disallowed from entering the lounge, simply because they are kids? Why are you more important than them? And don’t tell me it’s because it’s called business class. Airlines certainly don’t discriminate when selling these expensive tickets.
The same goes for lounges access via Priority Pass or any membership. What makes one person’s membership more important than another? Can you really argue that the business traveler has preference over the traveling family? I can’t buy this logic.
If you’ve paid for access, whether through purchase of a paid or award ticket, membership through a lounge program, or access via elite status (earned by spending cash with your carrier of choice), you should be able to enjoy the lounge. Plain and simple.
A Standard of Behavior
While I flatly disagree with the notion that kids should be refused from visiting airport lounges simply because they are kids, I will heartily agree that there should be a standard of behavior for kids (really, anyone) in the lounge. I kids are being disruptive to other guests, I would hope their parents would correct the situation. If it isn’t immediately resolved, leaving the lounge seems the most reasonable course of action.
In this vein, I would absolutely remove my kids from an airport lounge if they are causing a disturbance. I’m all about using public situations to help teach kids proper behavior and let them practice said behavior, but it should also be a given that I will remove them if they become a nuisance or disruption to other guests. This would simply reinforce that the behavior is unacceptable.
What I will say is that the airport lounge is not a necessity for kids. Travel often isn’t either, but there are times when it is for a particular family. Which is why I have far more grace for the parent carrying the screaming toddler through the airport than the parent with the rambunctious child in the airport lounge. The lounge should be a space of retreat for travelers, but this fact alone doesn’t exclude kids. There is room for it to be both a peaceful space and welcoming to families.
While I’ve not personally ever experienced disruptive kids in a lounge, I know others have. Generally speaking, I find traveling families that use airport lounges to have a reasonable standard of behavior.
But the parent that completely ignores their kids? Leave. The same applies to the obnoxious drunk folks at the lounge bar. Problem is, both of these are oblivious to the situation.
Don’t Cry Over Spilled Popcorn
I can recall a single instance where my older kids caused any sort of incident in the lounge, and it was a relatively minor one. We were in Seattle, waiting for our flight to Paris (SEE: The Club at SEA Review). I helped each of them fill a small plate with a few items, and we all sat down for a quick lunch together. Then they broke out the activity books and I settled in to write for a bit.
My son asked if he could get more popcorn, which we fine by me. But I glanced over half a minute later to see a rather empty plate in his hands and a scattering of popcorn all over the floor. Needless to say, I was very embarrassed.
The lounge staff were great and had it swept up promptly. But this did give me pause about letting the kids get food on their own, and I didn’t let him the rest of the trip, or on subsequent trips that year.
I write this just to be totally honest about my own experiences. If this is enough for you to say, “out of the lounge with you!”, whatever. See comments above about disruptive behavior. I don’t consider this sort of minor accident disruptive behavior.
A Space Made For Kids
Some airport lounges have family or play rooms that allow parents with young ones to have a safe haven. The play room is the perfect space where the kids can burn through some energy without disrupting other guests. And the fact that lounges install them tells me that they intend to welcome kids! The spaces typically have some toys and a TV. However, they are typically rather small, at least the few I’ve seen.
With my older two kids, I’ve generally trusted that their behavior will be good (popcorn incident notwithstanding), and it has been on the whole. They are now 8 and 12, which is a bit old for the kids room, anyway.
Should Kids Be Allowed in Airport Lounges?
Obviously, there will be many who disagree with me, but I believe that kids should be allowed in lounges, the same as any other guest. But I’m also a believer in parents being responsible for their kids and their behavior, and it should be within a lounge’s power to ask that a family leave if they are causing significant disruption to others. I would certainly remove my kids before we even got to that point.
What do you think? Should kids be allowed in airport lounges?