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Kids On a Plane

A few weeks ago I met up with Michelle from Miles, Points, & Mai Tais. She’s a mom who travels frequently with her toddler and had some horrific stories about the way fellow passengers and even the airlines react to having a child on board. A major issue seems to be around families sitting together. It blows my mind that airlines would seat parents and their kids separately, then make such a fuss about rectifying the situation.

I’ve been on a few Southwest flights where the flight attendants had to run auction-style giveaways to get passengers to switch seats with families. Prizes usually start with a free snack, then a free alcoholic beverage, two free alcoholic beverages, then all of the above. Yet, people are hesitant to volunteer.

On my recent trip to Maui, my sister and I were seated in the second to last row, with a stranger taking up the aisle seat. Moments after we sat down, a woman came trudging up the aisle with her infant sleeping in her arms, and her husband and two kids trailing behind her. I let her take the aisle seat. She proceeded to convey to me quite seriously, “Don’t have kids. Just don’t ever have kids. Trust me.” I laughed it off, but she was stone-faced and serious. Just the anticipation of how people might react to her family stressed her out. Ironically enough, none of her kids made a sound during the flight.

After noticing her husband and two kids sitting in separate rows, I offered to move so he and at least one of the kids could sit together “Really? Would you?” she said in relief. Her husband looked shocked. It wasn’t an issue and the seats weren’t any less comfortable, so we made the switch. On our way down the aisle, people patted us on the back and commended us for giving up our seats. The flight attendant standing nearby (who was doing nothing to help the family fix their seating arrangements) smiled and said, “We’ll make it up to you girls.” We were offered complimentary entertainment systems.

Upon arrival, I had to make my way to the back of the plane to get my carry-on. The couple thanked us again and the other passengers around them echoed her thanks. A man standing nearby asked which bag was mine and got it out of the compartment for me.

All of this fanfare made me wonder – why didn’t anyone else offer their seats? There were plenty of couples who could have done so. Why didn’t the flight attendants help out? And why do people display such animosity towards children and families in general? I have to admit, I was one of those people who got slightly annoyed when families boarded the plane. I criticized fellow travelers for not being able to control their wailing children. It wasn’t until my niece came along that I realized there is only so much a parent can do. Sometimes kids throw tantrums and all the pleading and bribing in the world doesn’t help. And it’s often more inconvenient and stressful for the parents, who have the scornful looks of fellow passengers to deal with.

In any case, now I know better. I’d love to get some feedback from readers about this. How do you feel about traveling in a cabin with kids, and do you ever volunteer to switch seats with a family? If you’re a parent who travels with kids, how do you deal with seating arrangements and cranky kids?

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Ariana Arghandewal

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