Sitting on a plane you see a lot of families traveling with children, and somewhere there are whispers from some adults “oh I hope they don’t sit close to me,” or ” why can’t they have a special compartment just for kids.” One airline refuses to allow children to sit in first class.
The inspiration for this post came from such travels, and a conversation with our good friend on twitter. It started with an interaction my wife had with a US Airways representative who was getting ready to help load passengers. My wife, and our 2 year old in his stroller were at the front of the line. Around my wife were the typical business travelers saying, “doesn’t she know that kids go on the plane after adults.”
The ticket agent said to my wife, “Oh, we load children after group one. You will have to wait.”
My wife said, “No, he goes with me.” She showed him that our son had a first class ticket, was in group one, and was a frequent flyer with status on the airline. ‘
“Wow” he said.
She, and my son went on the airline first. As a result my wife tweeted this – and here is the response by our good friend.
BRINGING JJ INTO OUR WORLD OF FREQUENT TRAVEL
Putting this in context: my wife and I had JJ late in our lives (I was 53 when he was born, my wife was 36). Neither one of us had anticipated having children, and both of us had careers that required lots of travel. So we were far from “kid-friendly” when it came to airline travel.
Our decision to have a child was done with the thought that we would continue to travel as much and as often as we could. JJ’s first trip was when he was six weeks old to meet his grandparents.
We were pretty nervous travelling with JJ. Before he was born we scrutinized parents who travelled with children. Our most notable couple was getting on a plane from Anchorage to Seattle with two kids, one who wasn’t happy. The mom laughed and said, “You just have to wait til you get on board for your bloody Mary,” to her three year old daughter. They were relaxed, in control, laughing, and the trip was not a big deal. We have probably talked more about that encounter since it showed us that there was a whole side of travel with children we had not seen. Every trip was a chance to watch parents. We talked to them all, we asked lots of questions, we helped, we observed.
Since our son was born we have travelled over 115,000 air miles with him, several hundred miles by ship, on three continents. Some of those miles were in our lap, when he was less than two years old, but since then he has had his own seat on the plane. This time gave us a new perspective about travel, and lots of observation time about kids and travel.
We have seen single moms traveling with multiple kids on planes, somehow being part-Sherpa and parent. We have seen every gadget imaginable with kids. We have watched kids get sick and vomit on their parents. Lending a hand, and wipes, and clothes, to those who needed it. We learned the airline rules with formula, milk, and which airline terminals have milk. We learned that if you put snacks in one ounce containers and they spill them it is a lot easier than carrying a box of Cheerios that is tossed on the floor of the plane. We learned that if you travel with an infant, you need extra clothes, extra wipes, extra bottles, extra pacifiers – and sometimes they are for a fellow parent. We also learned that if you travel overseas be certain to have diapers (as our 14 hour flight from Beijing to Seattle with two diapers – for that see here). We are believers in less is more, but anticipate. We plan travel to suit our needs, but we love the airports in Seattle and Portland that have kid areas and allow our son to get his wiggles out. We will sometimes favor evening travel, hoping he will sleep, but never assume he will, and always anticipate he won’t. We are thankful for the kindness of others- the lady who gave us her carton of milk, because she overheard us fretting that we didn’t have any for our son. We are thankful to the fellow passenger who helped my wife, when she was traveling with JJ, by bringing the child seat on the plane. We parents also love the many kid-friendly flight attendants, pilots, and staff who would go out of their way to waive, say hi, and engage our son.
We also see who NOT friendly to kids on the plane. Before JJ, I was one of the “not kid friendly” people on the plane. Someone would have a child, I would ignore them, pretending they didn’t exist. We see those people now. But we have evolved- those who love kids, who smile at them, engage them, and love to waive and laugh at them.
Who is a better traveler – a child or an adult?
Give me kids every single time. Sometimes they cry, and yet, a child crying is a lot easier dealing with than a rude adult who insists on making a scene with a flight attendant.
A child never muscled their way around me to get a better seat on Southwest Airlines.
A child never got drunk on a plane, became loud and obnoxious.
The adult sitting next to you could be a serial killer, the child won’t be.
The adult could be obese, taking up room, the child won’t be (some exceptions, obviously).
I have heard more adults with illness, coughing or hacking on a plane, than kids. And as a physician, I’ve been asked over 20 times to attend to plane passengers who were ill — never once a child.
If the plane is delayed or late, the child won’t grumble, they just keep on. When you get there is a mystery to them- it is just more time on the plane. More walks up and down the aisle, more of a chance to see other kids and smile and chat. But delay a plane, get a few upset adults and one thinks the plane is named Bounty and they will mutiny.
In the last 115,000 miles we have heard babies cry, but have had more interactions with rude adults, than unpleansant interaction with a child .
As for first time parents – there are a few of those, they are nervous, and every parent on the plane is there to give advice, lend a hand (or a wipe) and share a toy or blanket. The majority of parents, are not first time. We all, however do something that adults don’t do on a plane:
we think about our fellow passengers, we don’t want our child causing you concern. We want our child to be polite, respectful, and kind.
The lessons that we teach our children, about how to behave on a plane, seems to have been lost to many adults, who somehow feel it is their “entitlement” to have the perfect trip, with perfect service, and be territorial about their “space.” Adults, it appears, have no trouble being rude, no trouble being loners, and lots of trouble smiling.
Smile at a child the next time you are on a plane- and watch them smile at you. Afraid to smile at the obese man with a surly attitude sitting in your middle seat? Hmm.
Perhaps, your thoughts about kids on a plane have changed. Perhaps you had what we call “confirmation bias” where every time you heard a child cry or there was an incident you remembered it, but never the adult.
So, after thinking about it – what are your thoughts about traveling with kids?