Friday, December 23, 2011

Tips for flying next to a crying baby

Flight VX 882 - mood lighting doesn't help when a baby's crying
Happy Holidays. It's that time of year when adults without children find out how loud a crying baby can be.  And passengers with grown children suffer wailing baby flashbacks.

Last summer on a Virgin America flight to Dallas, I learned that mood lighting doesn't help if five babies are onboard, and three are crying.

Last night on Flight 882 from LAX to DFW, I spent the first hour of the flight annoyed about the restless toddler who keep touching me and my belongings.  His Mom kept failing to keep him out of "my space."  Initially, I tried to block out his noise by cranking up the sound in my headphones, while praying the flight attendants would give him food, drink or a sedative to quiet him down.

But the minute I engaged his Mom in conversation, my anger dissipated.   Her two-year old son was named Landon.  That morning her husband and young Landon's Daddy had shipped out to Afghanistan.  She fought back tears as she told me that this was his first deployment since they had started their family.  Although she blamed Landon for misbehaving, I think he was picking up on his Mom's distress about his Daddy.

At that point I looked at little Landon and realized he was essentially spending the flight as a human carryon with no seat to call his own.  He preferred the floor to his Mommy's lap.   She paid $8 for him to watch "Cars" and ordered a meal hoping to get him to settle down.

Our flight initially encountered turbulence, so in-flight service seemed to get a late start.  When his Mom rang a flight attendant to ask about the meal she had ordered for her son, the flight attendant said they would get to him soon.   Although she was pleasant, she didn't grasp the fact that the kid might calm down and stop making so much noise if he received food and drink.

I finally got up, walked up the aisle and asked for some apple juice for the kid next to me.  The flight attendant quickly poured it for me, and it seemed to settle Landon down a bit.  It was another 10 to 15 minutes before his meal arrived.

I wish Virgin America's RED entertainment system let parents note urgency for food.  Since she ordered a kid's meal, you would think that the flight crew might realize the kid's meal might be for a noisy child.

If you're flying over the holidays and sit next to a young child, I'd recommend engaging the kid or the parent so that you may feel compassion rather than annoyance if wails break out in flight.

I hope all the airlines will consider serving kids food and drink first, so that all the passengers can have a more peaceful, quieter flight.

My only baby pictures tend to be snapped at zoos, since I live with two quiet cats.
Pictured: Jamie, a giraffe born at the Dallas Zoo last summer. (Photographs: Terry Gardner)

Disclosure: My flight to Dallas last night was complimentary.  I'll be flying back on Southwest to write a comparison piece about flying both to/from Dallas. 

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