Should you have to pay extra to bring your baby on a plane, or to a concert? Should an overweight person have to pay for two tickets? Or should an underweight person get an additional baggage allowance on their flight? Should students have to give up their seats to seniors when they’re both getting cut-price tickets?
A recent news headline, ‘Ed Sheeran fan told to buy concert ticket for 4-month-old breastfeeding son‘ got me thinking about how tickets are sold.
The article opened
‘A Brisbane mother has been told she’ll need a ticket to breastfeed her four-month-old son in order to attend one of Ed Sheeran’s sold-out concerts.’
Let’s begin by dismissing the rather hyperbolic language here. The mother does not need ‘a ticket to breastfeed her four-month-old son’. She would be free to breastfeed her son all she likes at a public location. Rather, she needs a ticket to bring him to the concert. Even if the little fellow went without a feed during the entire performance, he would still (according to the company’s policy) require a ticket.
Babies at concerts
Let’s also dismiss any judgement about how suitable a venue a concert of any sort is for a baby. Yes, most concerts are LOUD, which will likely be upsetting to a baby. And if the baby cannot sleep through all that noise, their cries will likely detract from other patron’s experience of the concert. (I assume. I have no idea what Sheeran’s music is like. Perhaps it will enhance the experience).
However, the mother in question appears to have thought ahead, preparing ear muffs for her little one. She seems like a sensible, caring mother (I have no reason to believe otherwise). So let’s assume that if he does get upset, she will leave the concert (temporarily to pacify him, or permanently if he doesn’t settle).
Secondly, the reason the article mentions he is breastfeeding is that this baby has difficulty feeding from a bottle due to a lip tie. So the option of leaving the baby with a babysitter is not really present here. It’s a case of this mother attending the concert she has paid to see, or not. And if she wants to attend, according to the company policy, she will now have to buy a second ticket for her son – despite him not taking up a seat – when all tickets are sold out.
Scalping and company policy
So the issue is not one of disallowing children at the event. Children are welcome – if they are paying customers.
The only option now is for her to buy a scalped ticket online for double or more the original cost. Not to mention the ongoing fraud related to these specific concerts, meaning it’s not even guaranteed she’ll get a legitimate ticket.
This means that she would have to pay 3x more for her (and her son’s) shared seat than the person next to her paid.
So why does the company have this policy?
It’s a safety issue, they say.
And this is, actually, understandable.
What would happen if everyone brought their babies?
There were over 311,000 babies born in Australia last year. And I think it’s fairly safe to say that a large proportion of Ed Sheeran’s fans will be women of childbearing age. Australian health professionals recommend breastfeeding (alongside other foods) until ‘two years or beyond.’ Of course, this is not a limit… imagine if the speed limit was “up to 50km/h or beyond”. But they note that up to 4 years of age is not unusual.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s call it 3 years.
There would be close to 1 million children at any given time in that age group. That leaves 24 million people who are older. Of them, from the best estimate I can make, about 2.8 million are women of childbearing age. (It is infuriatingly difficult to find stats on any age group other than the 18-65 presumed working years the government is obsessed with). Of course, there are many men who are primary caregivers too. But since we’re talking specifically about breastfeeding Ed Sheeran fans here, I’ll assume the vast majority of people who fall into that category are women.
So according to the above figures, maybe one in three women of this age group might have an infant of breastfeeding age. Of course, some will have more than one, and some will have none, but it evens out. Let’s imagine that those who have twins or a 2 year old and a 3 month old will bring both children to the concert. And of course not all mothers breastfeed. But let’s assume that they will all want to bring their children anyway.
If a third of the audience brought strollers or baby carriers to the event, I can well imagine that there would be safety hazards. Blocked aisles in the case of an emergency exit. Many more people to look after in the event that an evacuation has to take place – importantly, we’re talking about babies who would have to be carried out of the way, and toddlers who might be crushed. Fully grown adults have been killed in situations like this before.
What are you really paying for?
When you pay to attend a concert, you’re not just paying for the seat you sit on to hear or see a performer. You’re also paying for the security personnel and the cleaners and the utilities and the safety wardens.
When you bring another person – no matter how tiny – to an event, that adds heat to a room, which needs to be rectified through airconditioning (Sheeran’s concerts in Melbourne have already suffered from overcrowding and heat issues, with numerous concert-goers passing out, which raises another question about the suitability of these events for small babies other than the noise).
65,000 people in a concert space can generate a lot of heat.
Imagine if it were closer to 90,000.
When you bring another person to an event -no matter, or perhaps especially when they are tiny – that adds to the security and safety burden of the venue. Your sleeping babe may be unlikely to cause any crowd riots, or start any fires, but they will need special protection in the event one breaks out. And although most parents – just like most people in general – will take care of their surroundings and not litter, there will inevitably be some who leave baby wipes and discarded toys around the place, baby vomit on the chairs, or soiled nappies on the bathroom floor which requires additional cleaning not factored into the original fee.
There’s also an issue with simply knowing how many people are in a venue in the event an emergency does break out. Having better data means that emergency services can respond in better proportion to the needs. They can count each and every concert-goer, having a realistic understanding of how many people may still be trapped inside.
Smarter ticketing for infants
Of course, none of this means that there aren’t ways to provide tickets to infants at drastically reduced prices if they aren’t taking up a seat. Or even to provide them with tickets for free. As long as parents register the fact they’ll be attending with a child – what’s the problem? Like how plane tickets are sold. That’s what I’d argue should have been considered in this case.
By the seat vs. by the person
Generally, tickets can be sold on the basis of the number of people, or the number of seats taken up. Those who believe that parents should be able to bring children who sit on their knees (and don’t take up a second seat) for free subscribed to the charging-by-the-seat policy.
But what about when it comes to people who need multiple seats due to health problems? Disability? Or simply being larger than ‘normal’ stature? I’m not just talking about obesity, but also those who aren’t overweight but are larger than average overall. I know of one man who meets this description and could not fit into an economy seat due to his height and width. The airline told him to book first class next time.
If you believe that each person should be charged a single fee, no matter how many seats they take up, you subscribe to the charging-by-the-person policy.
Airfares, luggage and weight
When it comes to planes, weight is one of the most important factors in determining price. During the 1990s, the average American body weight increased 10 pounds, requiring 350 million additional liters of fuel a year. The Newsweek article concludes that most airlines are unlikely to start charging customers by weight, but at least one did: The now defunct Samoa Air, who described the experiment as a ‘huge success’. Given luggage is charged for based on its weight, it seems only fair to many that passengers should too. Or, perhaps, passengers should be allowed more luggage if they come in under average. Two surveys on Debate.org and CreateDebate.com show that between 64 and 85% of people think so.
Interestingly, one of the commenters on CreateDebate who was against charging passengers based on weight wrote that:
I do however think ALL children should be in a paid seat. Children sitting on a parent’s lap on a flight invade adjacent seats more than someone overweight. Feet, food and toys fly, the children scream as they wiggle and move around. If you want to charge for overweight people, charge for every single child on a plane too.
What do you think? Should paying based on weight or size be more widespread, or is it a form of discrimination? Should children have to pay for a seat, even if they don’t use it? Let me know in the comments!
Speaking of planes, in the next post, we’ll talk about how to fly ‘first class’ for the price of economy.
If you want to know how to pack lighter, make sure to check out my video!