Posted on October 31, 2012 by Blane Bachelor
I recently had the glorious luck of snagging, without having to pay for it, an exit row seat of a Virgin America flight to Seattle.
Soon, though, I wondered how good that luck really was, as the toddler behind me launched into a nuclear-level meltdown, complete with incessant shrieking and seat-kicking punctuated only by a massive bowel release so foul it left me gasping for air.
Thank goodness that cursed flight lasted a mere two hours. To her credit, the mom did apologize, but not until after we landed, and I wondered (and almost asked) why she couldn’t have applied that concern to keeping her kid’s legs from flailing about like an octopus on steroids. Or had some respect for other passengers’ olfactory nerves by changing the blown-out diaper in the bathroom and not right there in the row. (I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be unwrapping a sandwich on that tray table anytime soon.)
I de-boarded the plane with one thought: If there were kid-free sections on planes, I would certainly pay a little extra to sit in them.
Now, before I start receiving a boatload of hateful comments for this post, let me share a few important points. No, I don’t have children, but I do have two awesome nephews (and a niece on the way) that I love to hang with, so I’m not some kid-hating harpy who thinks all little ones are the spawn of Satan. Second, I travel about 1-2 times a month, so that’s a not insignificant amount of time spent in airplanes. Third — and this goes for life in general, not just inside pressurized cabins — the world would be a far more pleasant place if everyone could temper, at least temporarily, the collective sense of self-entitlement that seems be growing like a fungus these days.
But back to the kid-free sections on airplanes: I’m all for ‘em, and many parents I know are, too. A couple of airlines, including low-cost carrier AirAsia, have already created no-kids sections, but until (and if) the rest of the industry follows suit, here are some things I wish some parents would take to heart when traveling with their tots. (And, yes, I’ll be following up this post with the other side of the coin — how childless travelers can cope, and, well, not act like complete douchebags with the slightest whimper.)
1) A little effort on your part goes a long way for others. So often, it’s not the kid’s less-than-sunny behavior that’s irksome — it’s the visible lack of concerted effort of the parent(s) to do anything about it. Most reasonable people understand that babies cry, toddlers are prone to tantrums and older children can become cranky on long flights. What’s infinitely frustrating, however, is when parents 1) sit there imitating the Mona freaking Lisa while their offspring channel Linda Blair from The Exorcist; 2) board a plane without toys, games, bottles, and pacifiers to help mitigate the inevitable meltdowns; 3) let Junior gallop up and down the aisle or kick the back of someone’s seat nonstop (more on that below).
Yes, there are times when nothing works. But you’ll have a lot more appreciation and sympathy from your fellow passengers when you make an effort to keep your kiddo calm and happy.
2) Please, just buy your squirmy toddler a seat already. Although the Federal Aviation Agency allows any child under two to be held in a parent’s lap, the agency, along with the National Transportation Safety Board, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other groups, maintain that children are safer when restrained in their own seats. Plus, the person in front of them will be spared from the dreaded seat-kicking.
Yes, it’s more expensive. But it’s safer for them and saner for you and the rest of the airplane.
3) Business Class is not Romper Room. I’m not in business class very often, but if I was, I’d be mighty miffed if I splurged on a pricey ticket or used miles only to have a squalling, squirming ankle-biter jacking the works up. Think of the first few rows of an airplane like an upscale restaurant: It’s not the place for a small child.
In other words, it’s called business class, not babies class, folks. Companies fork over a lot of money so that their employees can be productive in-flight and arrive as well-rested as possible, not frazzled because of the antics of jumpy little ones. I’m not sure what the exact age requirement should be, but it’s safe to say that if the passenger in question is using diapers and/or a pacifier, he or she doesn’t meet it.
4) It’s a tray table, not a changing table. A travel buddy of mine, Jaime Morrison Curtis of Prudent Baby, once told me a hilarious story of when she and her husband were flying with their infant baby girl, who proceeded to have a blowout right as the plane was taxiing out for departure. They tried to somehow wrap up her bottom half into a bag to contain the smell, to no avail. As soon as the seat belt light turned off, Jaime – diligent momma that she is — hightailed it to the restroom to take care of the situation.
There are a few lessons to be taken from Jaime’s tale: 1) Sometimes, shit happens – and there’s not much you can do about it, at least until the all-powerful seatbelt sign goes off. 2) Changing your kid in the bathroom, which, with its closeable door, is the appropriate place for all matters fecal, not a wide-open, pressurized cabin with recirculated air.
5) Buying a cocktail or two for nearby passengers is a great way to buy some patience. As I mentioned, the mom of the out-of-control toddler on my flight to Seattle did apologize, and along with it, mentioned that if it wasn’t so early, she would have bought me a cocktail.
Uh, mimosa much, lady? The flight left at 9 a.m., and I would have gladly taken her up on that offer had she presented it when her kid was kicking the hell out of the back of my seat.
Of course, I’d probably have only managed to get half of the drink into my mouth, given all the jostling. But her good intentions would have been much appreciated, especially in an industry where they’re so scarce these days.
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