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The Hue and Cry Over Babies Onboard

Imagine you’re 6’1″ (like me), a tad claustrophobic (like me) and no fan of air travel (I think you know where I’m going with this). Now throw in a packed flight from Philadelphia to Miami, and a young couple and their boisterous 18-month-old (“Sadie just loves to chat!”). Top it off with three hours of jostling, screaming and general unease — and those were her parents.

It could have been worse. At least the kid settled down for half an hour to ogle a “Yo Gabba Gabba” DVD, which I also found relentlessly fascinating.

I love kids. I do, really. But I’ve never been cornered in an airline seat for so long with a raucous child, who was so adorable it was almost easy to brush off her antics. And her parents were (somewhat) sympathetic to my plight, going as far as to offer me a napkin when an exploding juice box ended up splashing my face.

As luck would have it, a colleague headed in the same direction on another flight had a child seated near him, though with far less intrusion. (Ok, he was asked to switch from one aisle seat to another to accommodate the family, and was rewarded with a snack and a free cocktail for his effort. Envious? Me? A little.)

The New York Times recently addressed this very issue, reporting that some people are pushing for separate sections for families onboard planes, and others are pushing for kid-free flights. Let’s face it: This has been an issue forever, and the article’s 350-plus reader comments attest to that fact. The Times went to Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter for his take on the childless flights, and he wasn’t too encouraging: “This is an industry that’s working very hard to return to profitability. No way is any airline going to discourage someone from taking one flight over another. I just can’t see that happening.”

I can’t see it either, and I don’t really want to resort to that anyway. Kids are kids, and I probably squirm more during a flight than anyone. Over the long term, it’s the adults (drunk, loud, obnoxious, obese, etc.) who cause more vexation on a flight than anyone.

As for kids, I have a few tricks to ease the pain when I’m seating near some rowdy young’uns:

Keep your cool. Don’t scowl, mutter, grumble, etc. The kids aren’t going anywhere, and being angry for hours on end during a long flight is a waste of energy.

Engage with the parents. They’re going to be your true allies, and they feel your pain more than you realize, so offer an encouraging word or hold baby’s binky while mom and dad wrestle him into his seat.

Say something. Sometimes parents don’t realize that junior is kicking the back of your seat, so let them know. Nicely. (If they knew it all along and brushed it off, shame on them.)

Bring earplugs or an iPod. When the going gets rough, try to tune it out.

How do you cope when trapped at 32,000 feet next to a crying child?

Read More: Avoiding Children While Traveling

— written by John Deiner

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