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crying child Imagine you’re 6’1″ (like me), a tad claustrophobic (like me) and no fan of air travel (I think you know where I’m going with this). Now throw in a packed flight from Philadelphia to Miami, and a young couple and their boisterous 18-month-old (“Sadie just loves to chat!”). Top it off with three hours of jostling, screaming and general unease — and those were her parents.

It could have been worse. At least the kid settled down for half an hour to ogle a “Yo Gabba Gabba” DVD, which I also found relentlessly fascinating.

I love kids. I do, really. But I’ve never been cornered in an airline seat for so long with a raucous child, who was so adorable it was almost easy to brush off her antics. And her parents were (somewhat) sympathetic to my plight, going as far as to offer me a napkin when an exploding juice box ended up splashing my face.

As luck would have it, a colleague headed in the same direction on another flight had a child seated near him, though with far less intrusion. (Ok, he was asked to switch from one aisle seat to another to accommodate the family, and was rewarded with a snack and a free cocktail for his effort. Envious? Me? A little.)

The New York Times recently addressed this very issue, reporting that some people are pushing for separate sections for families onboard planes, and others are pushing for kid-free flights. Let’s face it: This has been an issue forever, and the article’s 350-plus reader comments attest to that fact. The Times went to Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter for his take on the childless flights, and he wasn’t too encouraging: “This is an industry that’s working very hard to return to profitability. No way is any airline going to discourage someone from taking one flight over another. I just can’t see that happening.”

I can’t see it either, and I don’t really want to resort to that anyway. Kids are kids, and I probably squirm more during a flight than anyone. Over the long term, it’s the adults (drunk, loud, obnoxious, obese, etc.) who cause more vexation on a flight than anyone.

As for kids, I have a few tricks to ease the pain when I’m seating near some rowdy young’uns:

Keep your cool. Don’t scowl, mutter, grumble, etc. The kids aren’t going anywhere, and being angry for hours on end during a long flight is a waste of energy.

Engage with the parents. They’re going to be your true allies, and they feel your pain more than you realize, so offer an encouraging word or hold baby’s binky while mom and dad wrestle him into his seat.

Say something. Sometimes parents don’t realize that junior is kicking the back of your seat, so let them know. Nicely. (If they knew it all along and brushed it off, shame on them.)

Bring earplugs or an iPod. When the going gets rough, try to tune it out.

How do you cope when trapped at 32,000 feet next to a crying child?

Read More: Avoiding Children While Traveling

— written by John Deiner

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6 Responses to “The Hue and Cry Over Babies Onboard”

  1. Aja says:

    Kudos on having such a positive and constructive attitude! As annoying as they can be, kids are people too!

  2. Nancy says:

    I don’t think children free flights/sections are the answer. What’s next? Obnoxious free sections? Fat free sections? I mean come on, if you fly enough, from time to time you end up sitting next to someone that makes your trip less then pleasant. I was glad to see your post took the high road. Good suggestion for dealing with this situation.

  3. Lissa says:

    As a mother and the editor of Family Vacation Critic, the notion of a child-free section is disturbing. I wrote about this subject a couple of months before The Times covered the survey. In my own blog I asked many questions… What if the child section is sold out but the rest of the plane is not? Are we not allowed on that plane? What if we’d like to sit in First or Business Class? Are we not allowed because it’s not a child section? Will a child-section be in the back of the plane? Etc. I also noted that once upon a time smoking sections were on planes and it did not stop the smoke from creeping into non-smoking sections, just as it will not stop a crying baby from being heard throughout the plane.

    When I’m not flying with my children, I’m just like everyone else when I see a parent coming toward my row with children in tow. I think “please don’t sit by me,” so I do get it. But as a mom, I’d be sympathetic to those parents and even try to help out if I see someone struggling. I then put on my headphones and try to drown out any noise. Typically children quiet down and I hardly notice they are there.

    My proposal to all of the people who think children make a flight unbearable and want a special section for the plane: create a special section for people who want to be guaranteed a special section away from children. It can be in the back of the plane and up to those without children to select it.

  4. rtyecript says:

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

  5. Chuck says:

    Sometimes, we can’t do anything about crying babies. Once, my wife and I scheduled a flight during our son’t naptime. He normally sleeps well on planes.

    But, departure was delayed 90 minutes, due to the plane being stuck in a snowstorm and unable to depart for O’Hare. Eventually, they found another plane.

    By that time, our son had missed his naptime, wouldn’t go to sleep, and cry all the way to Atlanta. There were 22 other children under the age of 5 on the plane, according to the F/A, and most of them also spent part of the flight crying.

    Trust me. We tried to wear out the kid. I walked him down the length of Coucourses H and K at O’Hare and let him run around an empty gate. But, if a toddler misses a nap, he or she won’t be pleasant

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