Airlines, listen up. Give families a break
Why aren't there child-friendly airlines? Christopher Noxon wants to know.
Please excuse me. Really, I couldn't be sorrier.
That knocking on the back of your seat? The chewing gum smeared on your
tray table? The whining and screeching and crying – the incessant,
high-decibel weeping? All my fault.
I am the airline passenger you dread most of all, more even
than the religious fanatic or flatulent fat guy. I am the passenger
accompanying small children.
I'll also take the blame for the soggy chip that landed on your
cashmere sweater during beverage service and the little sourpuss two
rows up that's been staring at you since takeoff.
I feel your pain. I agree wholeheartedly that children and air
travel don't mix – they bring out the worst in both. With kids on
board, leisurely, meditative trips become chaotic, emotional ordeals.
Likewise, sweet and docile children become spastic hellions upon boarding a commercial airliner.
And it's only getting worse.
As rising fuel costs and increased competition prompts airlines
to cut back on little 'non-essential amenities' like legroom, food and
courtesy, the kids are getting crankier.
We grown-ups may gripe and moan scrunched into a middle seat
for six hours with nothing to sustain us but a Sandra Bullock movie and
a bag of peanuts, but kids aren't so easily pacified. They won't stand
for it. They act out.
And so they make everyone around them miserable.
You, my fellow passengers arrive at our destination angry about
Kids Today and the parents who let them run riot. Meanwhile we parents
are exhausted and embarrassed.
Add beleaguered airline staff to the mix and nightmare scenarios ensue.
Doping or dopey parents?
summer on a Continental Express flight in Houston, flight attendants
objected when a 19-month-old boy "started saying 'Bye, bye plane' over
and over," according to reports. "You need to shut your baby up," the
flight attendant reportedly told the mother, before adding: "It's
A big controversy followed, with critics raising a stink about
a flight attendant who would dare suggest doping a child. While the
stewardess sounded tactless, I can't say I entirely disagree with her
Let's just say that my 2-year-old always seems badly congested
just before takeoff. Benadryl has been one source of relief during a
marathon of family travel this month, flying with three kids under the
age of eight across the United States before taking a quick round-trip
jaunt from Los Angeles to Denmark.
How about kid-friendly airlines?
I do find myself wondering. After all, families represent a sizable
portion of air passengers. We may be a nuisance, but we're also a
We shell out for family vacations, family automobiles, family restaurants – so where's our kid-friendly airline?
Rumors have circulated for years about Disney Air or some startup
devoted to families, but the closest we've come is Family Airlines, an
upstart outfit based in Las Vegas that submitted an application to fly
with the US government earlier this year.
Their plans are sketchy so far, but they're definitely on to
something. Let solo travelers fly in plush recliners and Zen-like quiet
– bunch us families together in mutual chaos, wherein the only people
we can annoy are our own kind.
Ideally, the planes will be painted in garish SpongeBob yellow
and vivid Princess pink (ancillary revenue: kid branding product
placement!). On board, swashbuckling pirate pilots and plush costumed
stewardesses offer headsets, juice and balloons.
It's easy to imagine the rest: TV monitors and video games at every seat and bubble machines spurting forth at takeoff.
Turbulence could be known as "wacky bumpy time," complete with
dramatic sound effects and music and passengers could do the wave up
and down the cabin and bounce beach balls between rows.
And while we're at it, let's steal an idea from the old movie
palaces and include a "crying room." That way bawling infants and weary
parents could huddle together and save the rest of the passengers the
Sure, much of this is probably impractical. When airplane
bathrooms are no bigger than a broom closet, crying rooms are probably
out of the question.
But on behalf of unruly family travelers everywhere and the
innocent bystanders who can't stand them, the airline industry should
get creative and stop ignoring our pain.
Instead, capitalize on it. Forget the in-flight wi-fi – where's our in-flight bouncy castle?
What are your tips for travelling with children? Toys? Games? Sleep? Drugs?