Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Tantrum at 30,000 Feet

Last night, I had the pleasure of flying in the presence of a screaming child. Unfortunately, this child with a very large set of lungs was in the seat directly behind me. Screaming was also accompanied by coughing, sobbing, spitting, and my personal favorites; punching and kicking. Being directly in front of Tantrum Toddler gave me the opportunity to receive back breaking blows to the kidneys for an extended period of time. Too add insult to injury (literally!), I was receiving this unprovoked beating in a premium seat. For those that do not travel often, some airlines have started charging an additional fee for the opportunity to sit in “choice” seats in coach. Fortunately, the airlines also allow those frequent flyers who spend more time in a plane then in their own cars to sit in those seats. Being a frequent flyer, at least I didn’t have to spend additional money to sit in a seat where I was being beat up by a child. If I did spend extra money, I might have been more inclined to say something to the child’s mother and perhaps to the airline themselves.

Not for a moment did I blame this child for its obvious pain and suffering. For the entirety of this tantrum, all the mother did was sit there. Now, I may not be raising children of my own, but it doesn’t take a parent or Dr. Spock himself to realize that this child needed to be calmed down. Before even getting on the plane, this mother had dozens of online resources dedicated to preparing her for the flight. Go to any search engine and type in “Flying with Children.” There is tons of helpful advice available to parents if they take the time to prepare for the flight. This poor child had no books or toys to keep him entertained, no snacks and juice boxes to keep him fed and hydrated and no bottle or pacifier to keep his ears from being painfully plugged during take off and landing. He was forced to endure 3 hours of boredom and pain without anything to help out. Even an adult would want to scream, cry and beat the seat in front of them under these circumstances.

This comes on the heels of a well publicized incident last month where an Air Tran flight crew removed a family from a flight when they were unable to get their child into her seat. These parents took no personal responsibility for how their child’s actions were disrupting the peace of the plane and the chance for an on-time departure. Instead, they blamed the flight crew for not giving them more time to calm down their child. Not for a moment did they acknowledge how their inability to control their child, or at the very least just get her belted in for the 10 minutes it would take to get in the air, effected the rest of plane. Air Tran should be commended for taking the necessary action to ensure the needs of the rest of the travelers on that plane, and for those awaiting that aircraft for later flights, were met. What personally upset me most about this incident is how Air Tran refunded the family the cost of their flight and offered them another free round-trip ticket. There is no reason to reward a family who was willing to disrupt the schedules of countless others.

My personal tolerance level for children in planes is actually pretty high for a child-free traveler for variety of reasons, including my status as an individual who flies with her pets. Even with the best preparations and intentions, I understand things can go wrong. A parent who does everything they can to prepare for the flight can still be met with disaster. I can forgive a parent who has movies and games and bottles and pacifiers and is still met with crankiness. My heart goes out to the parent who looks apologetically at those surrounding them in an attempt to ask for forgiveness and help. Fellow travelers are likely to help out with bags, snacks and games of peek-a-boo through the seats if a parent acknowledges that their child’s outburst is causing discomfort to all those around. With the right preparation and attitude, traveling with children (and pets) can be less painful to parents and all those around.

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