Flying with Babies

3.26.10: Should it be for adults only?


I am pretty annoyed about this article on CNN about babies and children on airplanes. They cry, misbehave, kick seats, poop their pants and generally act like babies. Some people are upset enough by this, they’ re suggesting babies and small children be banned from air travel. Why? Because they bother them.

My response: Oh grow up, people. Who among us hasn’t done something on a plane that hasn’t bothered someone else? There are those with bad breath, the non-stop talkers, the armrest hoggers, stinkers, cussers, creeps, and more than a few drunks. There are those who do airplane therapy, dumping their entire life story on you when all you said was a polite, “howya doin?” There are those who are so afraid to cry they break into a sweat and hyperventilate. There was that one guy whose thighs overflowed onto my lap and that other guy who watched porn videos on his IPod throughout the whole flight. Once, a lady scolded me for my reading material – a fashion magazine I’d picked up in the airport – because it objectified women. Another lady asked if she could read the Bible to me. When I said, “no thank you,” she called me a bitch. These are adults I’m talking about.

Babies and little kids cry on airplanes. They get bored, hate being confined and don’t let people know about it. They get hungry and have to go to the bathroom at inconvenient times. Sometimes, they kick seats. Big deal. Is this any reason for child discrimination? If it’s your seat they’re kicking, ask the parents to tell them to stop. If the crying gets on your nerves, put your headphones on. Be a grown up and add a little empathy. It’s a moment, not forever. Deal with it.

It’s the parents I feel sorry for. People can be so mean about it. Parents of cranky kids are already tense, tired and trying. So why give them the stink eye? What are they supposed to do? There’s not that much you can do to guarantee a child will be quiet and happy beyond the excellent suggestions made in the CNN article. If you’ve done all you can and your child is still noisy, you can only hope for the kindness, patience and maturity of strangers.

Parents, when you’re flying with little ones, ask for bulkhead seating, take advantage of pre-boarding, beg your flight attendants for help and pack a carry-on bag for every contingency you can think of. Tell kids who are old enough how you expect them to behave and hold them to it with bribes, gifts and prizes for good behavior. Toss in a big package of earplugs and Hershey’s kisses to placate your fellow travelers. Make every effort you can to make the flight pleasant (or at least tolerable) and then hope for the best.

And those of you who think air travel should be adult-only occasions? Your intolerance is childish. Maybe you shouldn’t get on that plane either.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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