Wouldn’t it be great if flights were guaranteed to be free from screaming and tantrums? Air travel is stressful enough without little munchkins kicking the back of our seats once we settle in for the cramped flight. Right?
Even as a parent, I agree that screaming and tantrums cause tension FOR ALL.
However, requesting child free flights is unrealistic and a very, very dangerous way of thinking.
I recently was interviewed for a New York Times article on this very topic. Although the article contains some of my quotes, there are a few that were not included in the article which I believe to be important when discussing this sensitive topic.
1. Why stop with screaming kids? Why not set restrictions on obese travelers or slower elderly travelers? Or what about those passengers who eat tuna or strong smelling foods in an enclosed cabin? Don’t forget restricting those with offensive body odor or strong perfume. How about the talkative passenger or one who swears loudly or those who are disrespectful to fellow passengers and flight crew (Jet Blue incident involved a disrespectful adult!)?
Elimination may seem the obvious solution until we realize we ourselves may be offensive to others- and then where does it stop? Are we holding the business traveler up in airport security? Does my laptop bother the passenger next to me?
2. Mutual respect is required by all. I was a business traveler before I was a parent traveling with my son. I understand how air travel can be a commute or the only time one can prepare before an important meeting or just have some much needed rest after a day of meetings.
I also learned my carry-on bag needs to provide for my needs. And if I am irritated by noise, nasty smells, or tension I need to pack with those needs in mind. Noise canceling headphones, essential oil towelettes, or an eye mask may be appropriate. I cannot control the passengers around me – whether toddlers or nosy, smelly neighbors. Finding comfort in my own space is my responsibility.
I do not believe this “war” is between business travelers and kids. Instead it is about a lack of respect and sometimes a lack of parenting.
We all need to respect that a commercial airplane is public transportation.
If someone desperately needs some peace and quiet when flying, then there are plenty of private jets to be chartered. However, commercial airline prices include putting up with the public – whether screaming or not.
Flying takes us all out of routine. Parents and children both can get overwhelmed by noise, tension, delays, time constraints, and off schedule eating, napping, and even pooping.
Preparing for family travel is essential. And this preparation needs to start weeks in advance of flight. Remember that kids react better when they know what they can expect and what is expected of them. Understanding a child’s viewpoint goes a long way when traveling by air. Especially true for toddlers (the ones usually causing the uproar), flight preparation begins with understanding what a plane looks like inside and where they will sit. I highly recommend the Shae By Air DVD Toolkit FOR toddlers for this purpose.
Preparation also needs to include packing a carry-on wisely. The carry-on needs to provide for the potential needs of the whole family for 24 hours. Delays, cancellations, teething, diarrhea, colds, etc. can happen at any time – and usually occur when resources are limited. (Do not rely on the airlines or airport for needed supplies). Traveling with toddlers requires extra preparation – but it can be done and be a fascinating experience for all!
Eliminating kids from planes may sound great until the business traveler wants to travel by air with kids for the family vacation. Then what happens if the scheduled flight is canceled and the only flight options left are designated child-free?
Elimination is not the answer.
Preparation, mutual respect, and noise canceling headphones go a long way for all!
Enjoy your flight!
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