I think I'll begin by saying that I don't think I've ever actually ridden first class on a plane, though I was once given a business class upgrade on a flight to Japan. The larger seat was uncomfortable as it seemed to be constructed for a large man, rather than someone of my proportions.
Elliott's article contains such amazing passages as:
One of the most persuasive arguments for limiting first class to adults is that the premium cabin is essentially an adult product. Which is to say, it's difficult for a youngster to appreciate a wine list or a gourmet meal. It's just no place for kids. Plus, it's pricey -- even if you're using miles to upgrade.
Flying these days is such an ordeal that I avoid it whenever possible. On a recent trip to California, it couldn't be avoided since we were traveling coast to coast. My first question when my husband booked the tickets was "They're going to feed us, right?" He replied that the tickets seemed to suggest they were giving us dinner. After many delays, the plane finally left the gate and the kids and I instantly fell asleep and missed the food service. Afterwards, my husband told me that we were lucky; that the food had been some awful plastic cheese enchilada thing that he regretted having eaten.
When we finally made it to our hotel at 3AM (6AM NY time), my 6 year-old daughter said "But we haven't had dinner yet." I said, "Go to sleep. It's almost breakfast time."
It seems to me that the issue is not whether children who fly are worthy of "a gourmet meal," but rather that they are entitled (like to rest of us) to eat and to be provided with edible food. Also, all passengers behave better when fed adequately on a regular schedule.
Airlines may market first class tickets as a luxury product, but 21st century flying on commerical flights is not luxurious. Eliot partakes of this marketing kool aid:
Like a five-star restaurant or a luxury resort, the first-class cabin is not particularly welcoming to young fliers. Or, for that matter, their parents.
Elliot, you're being had! First of all, the rich have children, too, and five-star restaurants and luxury resorts can be quite welcoming indeed to families with children. But more importantly, the privilege you are being sold when you buy into a first class ticket is a ride that only slightly less resembles a ride in a greyhound bus -- PLUS it comes with a really hefty sense of entitlement, something which costs the airline nothing.
Flying these days is a pretty degrading experience no matter how much you paid for your ticket. Some people pay for an upgraded ticket in order to be less degraded. Scapegoating children and their parents for the need for this extra expense seems to me foolish.
(Image swiped from the Retired Greyhound Trust.)