Okay, I didn’t really think I would post about this, but it’s stuck in my craw.
JetBlue, not exactly known for the quality of its flight attendants (remember the guy who cursed out a passenger and then exited via the emergency slide?), recently kicked off a family of four whose toddler was, well, being a toddler.
To sum up: This family’s two-year-old had a 3-5 minute tantrum prior to take off. The little girl wanted to sit on her mom’s lap, not in her seat with the belt (been there). The parents, a pediatrician and a doctor, did their best to work with their over-tired, off-schedule toddler, and got her to comply. They did this while being bothered by the flight attendants, who apparently did nothing more useful than ask to parents to “comply with FAA regulations.”
Once the child was calmed, seated, and buckled (in 3-5 minutes), the family was informed that the pilots had made a decision that for the “safety” of the flight, the family was being removed. The plane was turned around, and, as that was the last flight of the day, the family of four (including a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old) was stuck until the next morning.
Now, I wasn’t there, so I can’t say that this is exactly what happened, or know if there was some other exacerbating interaction between the parents and flight crew, etc.
However, what I find more disturbing is that the majority of Americans might side with JetBlue on this issue. In an online poll, 71% of respondents agreed with the airline’s decision. Seventy-one percent. I’ve also
seen plenty of tweets applauding JetBlue for removing the family.\
As a parent who has flown many, many times with my children (including intercontinentally), I was dismayed and unsettled by JetBlue’s decision to boot the family. Apparently, penguins aboard an aircraft are totally fine, but normal, tired children? Not so much. Maybe Delta is just more competent than JetBlue. Your call.
While claiming that a 3-5 minute toddler tantrum is a safety risk is laughable, it is nerve-wracking to realize that the same thing could happen to my family. Or yours. It’s not the first time a family has been removed because of a child’s behavior.
Traveling with children is not easy. They are out of routine, probably tired, forced to be confined for long periods of time in small, enclosed spaces. There are delays. There is security. There are strange people, environments and experiences. As parents, we are also tired, trying our best to keep our kids behaving as well as can be expected in an increasingly hostile environment (71%, people, 71%).
In addition, children cannot be controlled, nor can their behavior be predicted. When a tantrum strikes, sometimes a parent just has to buckle down and wait it out. To do this on an airplane is beyond stressful, and for it to only take 3-5 minutes is pretty quick, in my experience.
Yes, traveling is stressful and expensive. I understand that people who do not have children, or do not want children, or do not like children, may not want to ever have to see a child or be in an enclosed space with one. It may be inconvenient, but it’s not dangerous.
An opinion that I have heard, too many times, is that small children shouldn’t fly. We should have our out-of-town family come to us. We should drive. If we have to fly, our children should be heavily sedated. We should do anything but inconvenience the masses of Americans who do not want to fly with us and our tired children.
When did the rights of parents and families to travel become less important that the rights of individuals? When did a noisy child become so completely unbearable? On my last trip, I had to listen to conversation and deal with behavior I found unpleasant. I dealt with it. It’s part of travel. It’s part of life.
Is there a trend of increasing intolerance of small children on flights? I don’t know. It feels like it, but I’m not exactly an unbiased observer in this discussion. Will I feel more nervous and defensive the next time we fly? Yes, unfortunately, I probably will.
To take a look from the perspective of the airlines, we should take into account their need to comply with FAA requirements. This includes having children 2 and older in their own seat, buckled, as well as for all passengers to be able to hear the pre-flight safety shpiel (hard to do if there is a howling child).
Where is the line between compassion and compliance? How much time should a parent be given to calm their child? How much leeway is understandable and how much genuinely unfair to the other passengers? Should there be national regulations, so that parents are aware that if their child is not able to be calmed within a certain amount of time, they will be asked to leave the flight? Should they be reimbursed for the considerable inconvenience?
What do you think? Will this incident make you rethink traveling with small children? If you are of the opinion that small children shouldn’t travel, do you have other suggestions?