Travels With Bob

 Travels With Bob

Terror At 30,000 Feet: Screaming Kids On A Plane

Flying is always an adventure. Sometimes it’s great and other times even a short flight can seem like an around the world trip. One of the biggest problems on any airline is a child…or children…who scream, run around, kick the back of your seat and parents who ignore them.

Conde Nast, one of the better travel-oriented magazines just did a big piece on that problem and suggestions on how to handle the situation. Basically, there is no way. I know that from personal experience.

Some years back flying from Madrid to JFK on Spanish charter line, Spantax, we had literally eight hours of a symphony of twins taking turns letting everyone on board know that they didn’t want to be there. When one was quiet, the other began screaming. When that kid’s tonsils got raw, he quieted down and his brother took over. This went on for eight solid hours.

The flight crew did nothing to attempt to intervene. The parents pretended to be sleeping. That was akin to sleeping on a battlefield in the middle of an artillery barrage.

Then there was the time on the way back from Tahiti on Air France. All went well until we changed planes in Los Angeles and boarded an American Airlines jet. A missionary and his wife, along with several offspring, boarded. The wife and her daughter sat behind us. Apparently, the young girl wanted to test the seat back to determine how sturdy it was.

The flight attendants ignored it. I couldn’t because it was my seat back. I took it for as long as possible and eventually turned to the mother, who sat looking at the top of the cabin. She totally ignored all requests to stop the little monster.

There were no other seats available on the flight and the little darling exercised as though she was training for the Boston Marathon. It was a test of endurance and they won.

On a flight back from the Dominican Republic, a grandmother was traveling with three of her grandkids. We were sitting in the gate area waiting to board, which was about an hour off. The grandkids, the boys about 11 or 12 and 15 or so, were tearing up the seating area. Grandma sat, doing something so that she could ignore them. The sister, about 17 or 18, was fairly quiet.

I told my wife not to worry since we were flying First Class and this classless family would, in all probability, be back in Cattle Class.

As a political reporter for a major daily newspaper, it was my job prior to elections to prognosticate the outcome. My record for picking election winners was probably about 60% at best. My prediction about where the Munster Family would be seated fell somewhere into that category.

We boarded and the girl and the older sibling sat in front of us. Grammy and her little hyper grandkid sat one row ahead on the other side. I opened the shade on the port hold and the girl leaned over her seat and pulled it shut. I “banged” into her seat as I reopened it. She got the message.

It all quieted down as we taxied for takeoff. Quiet, that is, until we hit about 32,000 feet and the captain turned off the seat belt sign. That was the signal for the boys to get up and begin climbing on seats, banging into others (mine in particular) and running up and down the aisle. That went on for about 15 minutes before I totally lost it. The flight attendants had obviously gone totally blind and deaf.

There was only one thing to do. They left it up to me. In my best Army Staff Sergeant voice, I stood up and shouted “BASTA, enough!”

Grammy must have put in her hearing aides. Or maybe not because she could have heard me from another airplane. She got the message, and the little darlings were finally ordered to sit down and be quiet.

They glared at me, but they obviously never had their parents much less a former Green Beret Staff Sergeant glare back at them. They got the message.

OK, these are the stories. What can you do? The first thing is to attempt to speak to the adults traveling with the kids. On the Spantax flight, we did nothing because it was obvious the parents were actually trying to quiet them. The children were young, and it was a losing battle. But at least they tried.

On the American flight, I tried to speak to the mother and was totally ignored. A request to the flight attendant was equally ignored. Something over the years we learned about the American Airlines flight attendants. But that’s for another article.

With the flight from the Dominican Republic, much the same as the American flight, the attendants ignored both the situation and the requests. That’s the time to take direct action. No cursing. No physical act that will get you in trouble. No vulgarity because then you become just as bad. But my action immediately got the message across in no uncertain terms.

After the flight, a letter to the CEO of the particular airline can bring results. No vulgarity. Just a simple retelling of what went on and what the crew did not (or did) do. That normally will bring a response and sometimes even an offering from the airline.

I hope you enjoy your next flight.

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