Tykes on a plane

The skies are less friendly when you’re flying with children.

Air travel these days is tough enough, what with all the canceled flights and baggage charges and people who insist on barbecuing goats for their in-flight meals. Throw a few screaming children into the mix, and you can soon find your brains leaking out your ears.

Or, you could get thrown off the plane altogether.

That happened to a Seattle family last year. A woman and her four children (including two with disabilities) were flying Southwest Airlines from Detroit to Seattle, changing planes in Phoenix. The mom admitted her children had been unruly on the Detroit-to-Phoenix leg, but she was shocked when Phoenix police told her the family wouldn’t be allowed on the Southwest flight to Seattle.

Wendy Slaughter and her kids were stranded in Phoenix until the children’s grandmother ponied up $2,000 to get them last-minute tickets on Alaska Airlines. After the news media got hold of the story, Southwest Airlines contacted the family and said it would refund the entire cost of their one-way tickets.

Several things about that story reflect the troubling state of air travel:

--The family said they were warned twice about the disruptive children, but were never told they could get booted from their next flight.

--The police were called because of unruly children?

--These people were flying from Detroit to Seattle via Phoenix. That’s approximately 42,000 miles out of the way. No wonder the kids got antsy.

--The airline offered a refund only after the family was safely back home.

Though it probably was no joy to be sitting near them, my sympathies are with the family. I’ve traveled with small children and it’s no picnic even when the kids are on their best behavior.

In fact, air travel presents one of the few occasions where I concede that it’s much easier to be the parents of teens than of smaller children. At least teens can put on their I-Pods and tune everybody out and be their usual inert, surly selves for the duration of the flight.

With little kids, everything about flying goes against the grain:

--They have to sit still.

--They’re supposed to be quiet.

--Pressurized cabins make their ears hurt, resulting in shrieking.

--They’re surrounded by strangers.

--Their parents act weird because they’re worried about the children disturbing others. Kids sense that discomfort, the same way horses sense fear, and react accordingly.

When I fly these days, I usually jam foam noise-suppressors into my ears so the shrieking kids (and chattering adults) don’t bother me. But I’m still reminded occasionally how much easier it is to travel without the little beggars along.

Recently, I was sitting in an airport across from a dad and his five-year-old son. Dad, sensing that something was wrong, patted the kid’s back, asking him if he felt okay. The boy responded by throwing up. A lot.

Dad suddenly had several problems to solve. His day had taken a difficult turn.

Since I was traveling alone, I performed the Business Traveler’s Special: I offered a sympathetic look, then picked up my briefcase and relocated to a different part of the terminal, pausing only to thank my lucky stars that my kids have grown up.

1 comment:

Life without Clots said...

I will be getting my first air-thrill since 1987 this October. Not comfortable.