Three-year-old kicked off Alaska Airlines for being fussy

A three-year-old kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight in Seattle strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of parents of toddlers. This mom asks – is toddler behavior any worse than that snoring guy dozing on your shoulder?

PRNewsFoto/American Airlines, Inc.
A squirmy, fussy three-year-old was kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight this week for refusing to wear a seatbelt. Pictured here is a 2006 demonstration by American Airlines of an FAA-approved Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) to enhance the travel experience for families.

It’s been a week for family travel news. Right after Sen. Charles Schumer went to bat for flying families, urging airlines to allow parents and kids to sit together without paying extra for window and aisle seats, this news tidbit comes in from the West Coast:

This past weekend, apparently, a 3-year-old boy was kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight for refusing to wear his seatbelt. Here’s the scene, as described to local press by the child’s dad, Mark Yanchak.

(Parents of toddlers, you will feel sympathy here.  Promise.  And then you will resolve to never leave the house with your kid.) 

Anyhow, the plane was rolling on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle, and the boy was fussy – crying, squirming, not wanting to sit still.  You know, being a toddler.

As dad struggled to get the seatbelt latched, mom, who was sitting in first class with the couple’s other son and her mother (nice arrangement, I say), came back into coach with a pacifier and some water. The two parents were eventually able to get the boy calmed down.

But by that time the plane was already rolling back to the gate, Yanchak said. And soon an airline representative asked Yanchak and his son to get off the plane.  Alaska Airlines later offered to rebook the family on another flight, but the Yanchaks declined.

“I’m not sure how the kids will feel about flying next time,” Yanchack said.

What a start to the vacation.

This story terrifies me.  As do various others like it.  (Check out our piece from March about another crew calling the police on an unruly 3- and 8-year-old.)

My Baby M, since she was 2 months old, has been on more flights than I can count, including a 19-hour jaunt from Baltimore to Nairobi, via London. And she is usually awesome, the celebrity of the plane, waving and blowing kisses to all.  (And there’s nothing like a baby to keep other Southwest patrons from sitting in your row, I must add.)

But she is also getting older. And more opinionated. And squirmy.  She is turning into a toddler.  And one of these days – I just know it – she’s going to lose it.  I’ll have forgotten snacks or sippy cups or the five bazillion toys I bring to keep her entertained.  I’ll tell her she’s not allowed to kick the seat in front of her, or that she really just can’t crawl down the aisle.

And I’m telling you, she’s going to freak out.

Because, well, she’s a toddler.  And testing limits is a toddler's job. That’s the beautiful – if also frustrating and often publicly embarrassing – push and pull over independence, the sign that a baby is growing into her own little person.

Now, should other passengers or the flight crew have to put up with that?  Probably no.  But a little patience and sympathy would be nice. I mean, we don’t kick the snoring guy off the plane, even though that might be appreciated. 

Luckily, it seems that the airlines themselves have come up with a solution.

Since Delta, American, et al (the notable exception, of course, being Southwest) will probably charge extra this summer for window and aisle seats, essentially penalizing parents for sitting together, it seems there is an incentive for just dropping your 3-year-old in another row.

Works for me.

I’m sure the folks in seats 21 A and C won’t mind.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to