28 November 2011

Flying with little children during the holidays ?

An article at the Wall Street Journal offers a variety of tips and advice:
Parents are complaining of airline seating policies that create "baby ghettos" in the back of planes. Even worse, families are increasingly split up, leaving small children in middle seats in the company of strangers unless passengers arrange seat swaps on board...

Several factors are at play. First, many seats on flights are reserved for elite-level frequent fliers or full-fare business travelers. Routinely full flights have less seat-assignment flexibility. Also, airlines are increasingly selling choice seat assignments for extra fees, an expensive option for families. And bulkhead rows at the front of coach cabins that used to be ideal for traveling with infants, offering more privacy for diaper changes and more space for restless toddlers, now have to be reserved for passengers with disabilities. As a result, families often end up separated or at the back of the plane...

The plane's configuration can also affect placement. On smaller regional jets, for example, some rows don't have an extra oxygen mask to be used on an infant traveling on an adult's lap. That means someone who reserved a seat and has a lap child must be relocated, splitting up a family... [it seems to me that any adult with common sense could "buddy-breathe" with a child in an emergency, but of course rules are rules]

Ms. Hoobing thinks the hardest part of travel with kids is boarding. Airlines typically no longer let families with small children board first on flights. Instead, they often come after first class and top-tier frequent fliers. Kids and parents—lugging car seats, diaper bags, videogames and toys—clog the aisles and delay general boarding. Though airlines provide leniency, such as exempting diaper bags for carry-on bag limits and waiving checked-baggage fees for car seats and strollers, they have tightened restrictions.

On June 1, for example, American stopped letting parents check jogging strollers, non-collapsible strollers or strollers heavier than 20 pounds at the gate. United already bans gate-checking strollers that don't collapse.
Over 400 comments at the link, many by experienced, savvy travelers.


  1. We never flew with our very active, loud second child. Ever. We lived across the country from family, in many different states and we never subjected fellow fliers to his antics. Family understood and came out to see us instead.

    As a frequent flier now, I read the comments with great interest, searching for stories of particularly outrageous behavior on airplanes. I recently had to travel in the dreaded center seat, with travel made more uncomfortable by a parent taking the aisle seat and her four year old son sitting in the window seat. No, she did not want to switch with me to be next to her son. And for the next several hours sippy cups, crumbly crackers, DVDs, the laptop, toys, clothing, tissues both used and unused passed through the space between my face and the book I was reading. They owned cats, determined by the smell of the mother's outer jacket. And the mother praised her son's legs as they slid and thumped the seat ahead of him, "I am so proud you are remembering all your yoga poses."

  2. why not make a section of the plane for people with children? first class, 'middle class' and children class. Seating away from screaming children while the 'necessary' amenities are provided to those flyers.

  3. Anon, that is exactly what the airlines are trying, thus the complaint from the article:
    "Parents are complaining of airline seating policies that create "baby ghettos" in the back of planes."

    I deal with this too when I often travel, but I think many people get far to upset over the inconveniences they must face in life. It's a lot better if you just relax and take it in stride.

    Having said that, the mother who wouldn't swap seats to be near her child is a poor example and I sympathize with you. I'd be tempted (though I'd never follow through I know) to say to the mother "I *really* like children. I don't mind sitting close to yours." If that didn't get her to move, then she's a completely unfit parent.


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