Monday, April 16, 2012

Small Infants and Long Plane Journeys

I have every sympathy with the parents of small children. Really, I do. And I'll accept that there are times when the needs of a small child will trump the comfort of the adults around him or her.

But taking a small child onto a ten-hour flight, with the child screaming (sorry, that's not strong enough: SCREAMING) for fully half the time, and for almost the entire last two hours, is really not acceptable. In my book, that counts as cruel and unusual punishment. And it can't be good for the child either - by the end it had literally screamed until it was sick.

That was our experience on the flight over to Mexico. It was not a pleasant one.

The thing is, no matter how quiet your child is normally, there's no telling how they'll be on a flight. Travel is long and mostly uncomfortable for all of us - for a child who may not understand the noise and movement, and may not be able to equalise the pressure in their ears, I imagine it could be much worse.

(I will concede that there are, of course, times when parents may have no choice. Sometimes, a journey must be taken. But flying on holiday is not an example of this. Bluntly, go on holiday somewhere else - there is an entire continent reachable in a couple of hours, and you will never exhaust the possibilities therein.)

The parents did their absolute best to quiet their child, but it was a losing battle. Until the child has reached an age when it can actually communicate what is wrong so that some meaningful action can be taken, it is best not taken into that situation.

Or am I being completely unreasonable?


Kezzie said...

No you are right! I would have gone MAD!

Cap'n Ric said...

I don't think I agree. So I'm trying to think of a way to justify my position. Here goes...

The wench and I (I really hope she doesn't read this comment!) recently had occasion to take the first mate (a very small person indeed) on a plane. It was only a short flight, down to London, but I needed to go for work and wanted to take those two intrepid adventurers with me rather than leaving them at home to get up to mischief. We were understandably concerned at how the first mate would cope, and whether he would scream and cry all the way. He slept the full flight down and happily smiled away all the way back. We were relieved.

It is entirely possible that he would have been absolutely fine to take a 10 hour flight with no difficulties whatsoever. It is also entirely possible that on this 10 hour flight we would have had to put up with someone who is hysterically scared, someone who vomits the whole flight, someone who is incredibly ill and sneezing their germs all over the place, someone who is so large as to cramp my seat space, someone who listens to dance music for the whole journey (turned up so you can hear it), etc.

You really are taking a risk getting on a flight, and it's pot luck whether your flight is a peaceful one or a horror. It's not just babies that can cause upset. As long as the parents (or anyone in the situations above) do their absolute best not to interfere with the peace of the other passengers (as you note that they did in this case) I don't think you can really say that they did anything wrong.

You paid to get from A to B fast; any peace that you enjoy while doing so is an added bonus!

Steph/ven said...

There's a fundamental difference between a short flight (where a screaming child is, at worst, an inconvenience in your day), and a long flight (which is your day).

And I'm afraid I take issue with your other examples as well. With the sole exception of the obese person, those bad behaviours are likewise unacceptable - those people had no business getting on board a 10-hour flight. (Music-man is a bit of an exception, because the cabin crew could, and would, deal with the problem in-flight.)

The possibility of bad behaviours in other adults does not, I'm afraid, excuse the parents of small children from making bad choices. Everyone on that plane was going on holiday, so nobody had to be there. And a short flight from Manchester will take you to Amsterdam, from which another short flight will take you to anywhere in Europe. That family could reasonably have chosen to holiday somewhere else. They should have done so.

It's also worth noting that we were not on a budget flight. We didn't just pay to travel from A to B fast - we paid a lot of money to do so in reasonable comfort.

Chris Brind said...

I bought some noise cancelling headphones at the airport on the way out. Made the journey at least 50% better! Fully recommend them. Might be an idea for parents with kids who are disturbed by the noise as well. They even made the inflight movies watchable! :)