JetBlue came up with a one-time fix to ease passengers on a flight with multiple crying babies.
On a flight from New York to Long Beach, Calif., last month, the airline did something unexpected. They promised to award passengers with a 25-percent discount on their next flight for every time a baby cried during the cross-country flight. So if the passengers experienced four incidences of crying babies, they would get a free return flight.
The move was featured in an ad released this week as a special gift to mothers on Mother's Day. JetBlue's stated aim: to build compassion for the mothers of the crying babies, because it isn’t for easy for them either, the airline said.
“We’re hoping to inspire that conversation and know that while it may be tough for you to sit next to a crying kid, we hope you can think about the stress that parent is going through,” Morgan Johnston, a JetBlue spokesman told the Boston Globe. “And maybe we can be a little bit more supportive of moms.”
The ad developed by Boston firm MullenLowe, is part of a series of ads that the firm has been creating to build compassion among air travelers, the Globe reports.
The ad features the moms who brought babies onto that cross-country flight and shows them getting ready to fly, expressing fears about having their babies cry on the plane – something which they know may prompt annoyed looks from other passengers. Then the ad continues on to show one of the babies starting to cry, and then the stewardess making the announcement about reduced-price tickets depending on the number of baby outbursts. The ad conclude with the passengers clapping the fourth time a baby cries – as they all know they will be receiving free return-trip tickets.
Though JetBlue is unlikely to make such an offer again, it says it hopes that people who watch the ad will be able to sympathize with mothers who have crying babies, the next time they fly. By Thursday morning the ad had garnered more than 660,000 views on Youtube.
The issue of crying babies and unruly children on a flight is a divisive one among travelers. But a majority of travelers rank having unruly children as their main concern on a flight, according to a 2015 Expedia survey studying airplane etiquette. More than half of the 1,019 respondents (53 percent) said they are annoyed by parents traveling with loud children. An even higher number (61 percent) said they dreaded seat-kicking by children the most. And another 37 percent said they would be willing to pay extra to sit in a quiet zone if the airplane offered one.
So what's to be done about infants and children in airplanes?
For one journalist in the UK, a solution could be child-free flights. Kelly Rose Bradford, a mother of a 12-year-old herself, suggested that parents shouldn’t travel with their toddlers. She also suggested that airlines should have family sections where mothers with children could sit.
"Is it really necessary to take a tiny baby on a long flight?” Bradford asked the UK talk show This Morning, US weekly reported. “I think there's an element of selfishness from parents who insist on not changing their lifestyle once they have their children because there are some things that just aren't practical."
Her sentiments resonated with a lot of Twitter users using the hashtag #childfreeflights, with some contending that they would be willing to pay extra fees for children-free flights. And though many agreed with Braford, others argued that it would be discriminatory, saying that passengers should be more compassionate.
Some experts have suggested other strategies ranging from sleep-inducing meals to toys to choosing off-peak flights.
Susan Bartell, a psychologist specializing in parenting issues, and Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician from Atlanta, Georgia, say that passengers can help parents with crying babies. They suggests various tips for passengers on a CNN blog, from asking a flight attendant to intervene with passive parents to keeping a friendly tone.
As the pair told CNN,
Give parents the benefit of the doubt. Shu, who flew with her son many times when he was an infant, recalled getting dirty looks from other passengers when she would board a plane. "When the kid never made a peep during the whole flight, they were very relieved," she said. "It might not be as bad as you're expecting it to be."