I was honored to be interviewed for the USA Today article by Charisse Jones regarding kid-free flights. The quote in the recent cover story article may seem as though I advocate for kids to have free rein on flights and other passengers need to just deal with it. However, my message has always been mutual respect for all air travelers and kicked seatbacks are never acceptable.
Air travel requires basic respect for every passenger.
- Transit time may be work time. Business travelers may count on flight time to complete major work assignments, prepare for a monumental meeting or presentation, or just recover from a crazy amount of travel mixed into the work day.
- Transit time may be vacation time. Family travelers may be headed to Disneyland or a beach vacation and be relaxed and in an informal frame of mind.
- Transit time may be grieving time. A grieving passenger may be traveling to attend a funeral or visit a terminally ill relative.
- Transit time may be a learning experience. New parents may be traveling with a newborn to introduce him/her to family.
- Transit time may be a commute before a grueling work schedule. Flight crews may be seated in the same cabin commuting to work.
- Transit time may be healing time. Patients may be traveling to or from exhausting, overwhelming, or intimidating medical appointments.
Basic respect for all means our right to sit in that seat does not give us the right to interfere with those sharing the same cabin.
For parents: It means parents monitor little legs so a kicked seatback does not occur. It means they also work hard the entire flight to stay two steps ahead of kids’ needs. Preventing meltdowns and keeping kids entertained is not easy, but it is the job of the parent. I also recommend avoiding early morning flights and rush hour at the airports to respect the hurried state of the business traveler. It’s best not to start a trip with sleep deprived children (and parents!). See below for tips on preventing kicked seatbacks.
For business travelers: Noise canceling headphones are highly advised along with patience and understanding the flight is a commercial flight and not one on a private jet. If the seatback is being kicked or children are disruptive, communicate kindly with the flight crew and either request a seat change or flight crew involvement to address the situation.
Keep in mind, children may be kicking the seat back without even realizing it as happy little legs tend to move naturally. Don’t immediately make a big deal about it or parents may get defensive and kids may then kick for the attention it got them. The fact is, not all parents are involved parents and the few children who are not parented on planes make it bad for all. However, most parents will apologize and work to prevent the issue from re-ocurring.
Help the situation by trying to work it out with all involved.
Some tips I offer parents in my seminars to prevent kicked seats:
- Decorate and personalize. Post photos on the seatback of the child’s favorite animals, destinations, family members, etc. Kids are less likely to kick a favorite photo.
- Educate and prepare. Prepare kids ahead of time to understand what they can expect and what is expected of them. The Shae By Air DVD Toolkit was created FOR toddlers. 3-year-old Shae’s behavior on the airplane is a model for toddlers and preschoolers to emulate. (This often works as kids want to be “just like Shae”.)
- Increase distance between legs and seatback. Use the FAA Approved CARES harness instead of a car seat for children 22-44lbs. (airplane use only). Car seats tend to position little feet right near the seatback unlike the CARES harness where kids are seated farther back and down into the actual airplane seat.
- Avoid making a big deal about the seatback. Some children will kick it when told not to just for attention. Use distraction to turn attention away from the seatback.
- Communicate and be polite. Always make eye contact and communicate with the person seated in front of your child. Tell them quietly at the beginning of the flight to let you know if your child is kicking their seat so you can stop the behavior.
- Sweeten the situation. Sees candy or chocolate for those seated around you may be something to consider…
- Remove shoes when the child is seated.
Kicking children off airplanes is a dangerous thought process. Where does that thinking end?
Instead, understand your own weakness and find comfort solutions for yourself so you can enjoy the flight. Noise canceling headphones are a great investment and a good start to a quiet flight.
We can’t control those around us, but we can focus on our own comfort, respect, and kindness to alleviate the hassle air travel has become.
UPDATE: In a new article on airplane etiquette, the Wall Street Journal highlights issues air travelers face when sharing cabin space with the general public. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704396504576204442583904246.html
Mutual respect and self-sufficient travel comforts may be the answer here…
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