A 10 hour flight San Francisco – London is about to take off and I am not one of those who is afraid of seeing a family with 2 small kids in the row in front of me. After many miles and long-haul flights in my wings, it happened only once that a child kept waking up everyone. It wasn’t about the child then, it was about the parents who decided to teach their 2- year-old to sit still throughout the flight. They failed miserably, of course, and I was sorry that I didn’t complain.
Anyway, to be fair to all the other parents that I came across during my flying life, they would calm down their kids fairly soon. It’s normal that babies sometimes cry and a baby’s cry is a sound that makes me feel sorry for both the little ones and the parents trying their best to calm them down. It’s not easy for sure.
Just a few days earlier I was talking to a mum who told me that she had stopped travelling until her kids grew up a bit. After her experience of not being able to calm down her own child during a flight, she decided that faraway holidays could wait for the time being.
What was the reason for travelling for the couple in front of me this time, I don’t know. The younger child, a few months old, was perfect throughout the flight – sleep, feed, change the diapers, but the elder one, a bit over 2 years old, started to cry and scream fairly early into the flight. The parents tried to convince her to stop, but only a cartoon on a mobile device sorted it out eventually.
An hour into my sleep, screams woke me up. The elder kid was in the seat/bed up on the shelf, the mobile device out of sight and the parents in their seats. There was a Shhhh every now and then, but it didn’t seem it would help. There was no seatbelt sign on. I took a walk and walked and walked and walked. People around me were rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, pointing towards the family and I kept walking. Eventually, the girl fell asleep, the screaming stopped and the rest of us went to sleep as well.
A few hours later the history repeated itself. However, at that hour the child had had a few hours of sleep in her eyes and wouldn’t give up her demands. The poor creature kept screaming, ‘…mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy….’ I took a walk and walked and walked and walked. People around me were rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, pointing towards the family. The Parents amazed me. The Father fed the small one, took him/her into his arms and got up to stand in the aisle. The Mother, however, was sitting still, her eyes closed as if nothing was happening. There was no seatbelt sign on.
I looked at all the people rolling their eyes, I looked at myself and thought that the liberal world became too politically correct. We don’t want to offend anyone, we want people to be free and as the consequence we let others torture us with their bad attitude.
I decided to dare disturb the Mother. I shook her arm, leaned towards her and asked, ‘Excuse me, is this your child?’.
‘Yes,’ she replied with a big question mark radiating from her face.
‘Could you, please, do something to calm him or her down so that the rest of us can have a nap, as well?’ I said as politely as I could.
‘What do you want me to do?’ she punched me back. ‘She is overtired!’
‘Well, I would appreciate if you took her because she’s been calling her mommy for some time now.’
I turned back towards my seat and saw many thumbs up. I sat down. The Father came straight away to hear what the discussion was about. The Mother was saying something to him while ‘mommy, daddy…’ kept going. He rolled his eyes, looked at the insensible bitch with the impossible requests, laughed and went back to the aisle. Luckily, the Mother decided to take her daughter and EUREKA … 2 minutes later everything was quiet.
It is not only about the parents here, it is a lot about the flight attendants as well. Wouldn’t you expect them to do something? I would, but this doesn’t seem to be in their job descriptions. It’s easier to put their heads in the sand, which probably goes in line with the decline of the customer care level in many of the airline companies these days.
Is the popular child-free flight suggestion the right solution?
I don’t think it is either a necessity or a solution. These are not the only inflight problems and we could start other travel discussions here, such as those about overweighted people who don’t fit into one seat or about those who keep talking loudly while the rest want to sleep. With the way of life nowadays, families have to travel and I will never support child-free flight campaigns.
All of this is about the attitude and the effort of the passengers to be considerate towards the others. It is also about the airlines to make sure that the flight is comfortable for everyone. We can’t count on every single parent to be considerate and all of us can tolerate some noise, but the flight attendants should help when the things are out of control. British Airways didn’t prove themselves this time, but I see that Etihad started advertising their free service ‘Flying Nanny’. I wish they flew more towards my long-haul destinations and will definitely take them into consideration when I can.
There are some other airlines that seem to have advertised child-free zones a few years ago, but most of the links don’t work today and there are no such options on their websites so I suppose, these were a short-lived marketing attempts or an April Fool joke like the one of Canadian WestJet.
Anyhow, I’ll make sure that I have very good ear plugs next time and will try to sit far away from the front/exit seats, normally occupied by families …. Just in case if I come across this kind of parents again and I hope that the person next to me will fit into her/his seat ;). Perhaps, it’s time to start flying business class.