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.)
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.