Jerks on a Plane

Airplane cabin economy seats

Growing up, I was always raised to think appropriate behavior was something to be learned from adults. I really didn’t think I’d have to give lectures to an adult about how to be an adult (even though I am one now), but then stuff like this happens.

A woman was traveling with her family on a Delta flight between Fort Lauderdale – Detroit on Monday when she got into a verbal altercation with a fellow passenger, who complained about her kids. They were allegedly being noisy and the passenger let the mother know by berating her parenting skills and throwing in “This is America!” for good measure. Because kids being rowdy doesn’t happen in America. The charmer who spewed this nonsense apparently lives in a version of America where berating a mother in front of her children is not only ok, but proves the fact that she is better behaved than they are.

The flight attendant escorted the family to the back of the plane and several passengers tried to console the mother, who was crying after being repeatedly insulted and then relocated. Once they landed, a Delta representative apologized to the family. I can’t imagine the kids being any more disruptive than the drama that occurred as a result of the passenger’s antagonistic behavior towards the family, but why have a peaceful flight when you can make the news section of Buzzfeed with your bad attitude?

Regardless of whether the mother was being harassed because of her religion or her kids being loud, this is an absolutely despicable way to behave towards another person. Making a mother cry in front of her children makes you the ultimate ass**** and there is absolutely no excuse for it. 

We obviously don’t know the full story – just the family’s account and a grainy video. However, hostility towards families on planes is not uncommon. Unless you want to charter a private jet (and let’s face it, if Conrad Hilton can’t manage that after two in-flight feakouts, there is no hope for the rest of us), then you shouldn’t act like the airplane is your private sanctuary and that not traveling with kids somehow puts you above everyone else. Bring noise canceling headphones or spring for first class, because kids are everywhere and they are bound to cry, occasionally get loud and throw tantrums. You don’t get to claim priority over everyone else, because the fact is you bought a coach ticket just like the people you’re sitting next to. You’re no better or worse, except in the way you behave towards your fellow passengers.

If nothing else, let’s take one thing away from this incident: There is no good reason to make another person feel small, especially in front of their family. There’s always a civil way to express your discontent and pretending you have the moral high ground by being a jerk does not make you better than the people you are insulting. Most of us learned that in preschool. Some people have yet to master that concept halfway to the grave. 

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  1. well said! As a parent to a toddler, I so greatly appreciate it when strangers on a plane make me feel like I don’t have to worry if my son does make a scene. So far so good, he has travelled really well. When others pull faces at him so he smiles, we love that too! No excuse for someone being so rude to the mother, I would stand up for her any day of the week.

  2. why could they not move that woman to the back (or better yet, off the plane).

    seriously, this whole antagonism against kids, people of different religions or color is #firstworldstupidity. in most of the world people will try to help if you have kids and struggling. not make it worse.

    sad times we live in.

    • I don’t know both sides of the story so I don’t want to jump to conclusions about why. But I do think in general there’s too much animosity directed towards families traveling with kids and it shouldn’t result in adults screaming or insulting each other in front of their kids.

  3. I love my 2 granddaughters more than anything else in the World and do everything I can to be a good guardian when I am in charge of them for a day or two.

    The problem is more complex than you are portraying. I was once on a 14-hour non-stop from Singapore back to the US and the child in the seat behind me was kicking the back of my seat for the entire trip. I begged the adult who was with him, his grandmother, to get him to stop, but she just threw up her hands apologetically and said she could not do anything.

    He finally stopped when he fell asleep…………… on final descent!

    All of us have compassion for how difficult it is to take a child on a plane, but failing to control them as you would back at home in a theatre or restaurant, for example, is unacceptable IMHO.

    • I’m not saying parent’s shouldn’t check their kids when they’re behaving badly. If I were you, I probably would have turned to that kid himself and told him to stop kicking, if his grandmother wasn’t going to do anything about it. What I’m objecting to is this general hostility exhibited towards families when they board a plane. Sometimes there’s not much the parents can do – like in this particular incident, when the child was crying because he was sick. I know my niece always cries during take-off, no matter how much my sister tries to calm her down. In situations when the parents are trying to calm their kids down and it’s just not working, people need to put their headphones on and deal with it rather than argue and agitate the parents (and everyone else) further.

      • I actually spoke to the boy who was around 6 years-old, and he refused to stop kicking the back of my seat. I, then, spoke to a flight attendant who politely asked the grandmother to take charge of her grandchild, but to no avail. Her attitude was that it was simply beyond her control and the flight attendant was too busy to bother again. I did not sleep a wink that flight. Thankfully, I was on a leisure trip and wasn’t on business, needing to be sharp for a meeting on arrival.

        There is a fine line here. If a parent or guardian cannot quiet his or her child, it is not fair to others on the flight who expect some degree of peace. I remember a few years ago, while taxiing at Honolulu International airport, a young boy, perhaps 5, was screaming at the top of his lungs. It went on unabated from the moment we pulled away from the gate for more than 15 minutes and neither the parents nor the flight attendants could get him to calm down. Eventually, the crew returned to the gate and discharged the family. No one wanted that to happen, but this was a very unusual incident. I think you’d agree, for example, that it would totally unacceptable to take a child to a symphony hall for a concert and allow him to disrupt a performance for 15 minutes. If parents cannot control their children, maybe they should not take them on a flight until they can IMHO. I’m not talking about a little bit of crying which most of us are quite used to. I am talking about uncontrollable screaming.

        I can say from personal experience how it is sometimes impossible to quiet a child. My oldest granddaughter when she was 6, loved making me squirm in public by doing all the fun things children do at that age. She was so noisy and disruptive in a nice Japanese restaurant once, I had to literally rush dinner, pay quickly and take her outside as soon as I could. So, I do understand the difficulty this caused me and other parents, but I had to be more selective about which restaurants I could take her into and eventually get her to buy in to acceptable behavior.

  4. hollyatclubthrifty

    I have kids so kids crying or screaming doesn’t even bother me. I can tune it out.
    As a parent, you don’t always have control of your kids. We have had pleasant plane rides with our kids this far, but I am well aware that we are due for a tantrum of some kind with as much as my kids fly these days. I like your trips- bring ear plugs or sit in first class for heaven’s sake. Don’t berate a young mother who is probably already horrified by the situation.

  5. My kids are older now but still sometimes get those nasty looks upon boarding for no reason. I cannot stand that. And when they cause no trouble during the flight the people who initially glared at them then pretend they don’t exist. Then we get to another country where people often are much more welcoming of families. Liking kids – imagine that!

    • That must be awful. When I traveled with my family as a kid between Europe and the US, they always put us in bulkhead seats (together) and came around, checking on us and letting us know they could warm bottles up for us if we needed. This was KLM and I remember them being very attentive, despite the fact that my parents had three kids under the age of 10.

    • To put my feeling into meaningful context, I recommend y’all watch the rom-com “Two for the Road” with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. Henry Mancini’s favorite. In it they were hitchhiking through Europe and fell in love, naturally. At one point the couple meets up with another couple and at a rest stop their belligerent child tosses the car keys into a field because he is not getting his way. After searching for them for several hours, they finally find the keys and continue their journey.

      The line that comes to mind was Finney saying to Hepburn, “but I thought you wanted children?” and Audrey responding, “yes, just not THAT child!”

      When I was growing up, we would not even think of misbehaving like children do today. My father would have none of that. It’s unfortunate that there have been far too many authors who have espoused parents ignoring bad behavior, even rewarding bad behavior. I see it all the time. What everyone needs to remember is that we love our own kids, but don’t expect us to love yours if they are mean, rude and inconsiderate of others. I’m talking about those who are old enough to know better. You cannot expect a child to behave in public on Sunday morning in church when there is no discipline at home the rest of the week.

  6. Before I condemn the behavior of either party, I would want to know how bad the children’s behavior actually was. Frankly, some people just do not know how (or teach their children how) to behave in public, or, in this instance, on an airliner. How do you make a parent step up to the plate and discipline their children when they are out of control in such tight quarters?

  7. I think part of the problem is the ever more tightly packed sets which we have to endure is causing more hostility among passengers. As a person without children, I have seen parents abandoning their need to correct their children by deliberately not sitting near them. This is more of a issue to me.

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