I’ve been flying with my kids since they were each only a few months old. I’ve flown with them by myself, I’ve flown with them with my husband; and I feel like I’ve finally got a handle on making it through the airport and onto the plane with all three kids in tow (and in one piece). But while I may have mastered getting all of us to the airport on time and keeping all three kids occupied through hours of travel … I can honestly say I have still not come to terms with the way that airlines treat passengers traveling with small children.
Case in point: Last Sunday, after an exhausting (yet fun) four-day trip to Disney World, my family arrived for our flight back home to New York. We’ve never had any major issues while traveling, and thankfully any issued that we have encountered have been quickly resolved. But this particular trip proved that our luck had run out.
When I booked tickets for all five of us a few months prior to the flight, the only seats that were available were separated from one another. With three children ages six and under, I knew this wouldn’t work. I called the airline phone number, but they were unfortunately of no help, telling me that I needed to get it handled at the gate before my flight. Since this has happened to us before, and it’s been taken care of right way, I trusted that this would do the trick.
But that was my first mistake.
All five of our seats were spread throughout the plane, so I got to the gate early to make sure we could be placed together. But as soon as I explained my situation, the gate agent told me that the flight was full and there was nothing she could to do assist me. I told her that my youngest child was only 2 years old, and that he couldn’t possibly sit alone — but she insisted that he had to, because there were no other seats for him.
“So, you’re telling me it’s perfectly acceptable for a 2-year-old to sit alone on a flight?” I asked, thinking that surely this would evoke some empathy and understanding.
Her reply? “Yes.”
Flabbergasted at her lack of compassion and apparent unwillingness to work with us at all, I boarded the flight. I followed her instructions and sat all of my children in their seats alone, just as they all simultaneously began to cry.
Desperate to fix the situation, my husband and I immediately alerted the flight attendants to our situation, and were told that they would see what they could do. With three children crying and screaming for their parents, you can bet they wanted to nip this in the bud fast. To my relief, they quickly stepped in and took us to the back of the plane, where I was seated with my younger children in the very last row, and my husband and our oldest daughter were seated next to each other in the middle of the plane. The flight attendants explained the situation to the passengers that were assigned the seats we wound up taking, and thankfully, they were all happy to accommodate.
Now, while I’m more than grateful to the helpful flight attendants and the kind passengers who gave up their seats without even batting an eye, I can’t help but keep thinking: Why did it even need to happen in the first place?
I can only hope that soon enough, it won’t be able to. For months, the government has been trying to make flying with kids easier for parents by requiring airlines to put children and their guardians next to each other on flights. But honestly, it shouldn’t take this much for airlines to step in. In a day and age where children are flying all the time, it shouldn’t take crying children begging not to sit alone, or stressed-out parents pleading for an airline to help.
I’m not asking for any special treatment while flying. No red carpet, crayons, coloring books, special snacks, or even entertainment are needed from an airline to keep my children happy on a flight. I can handle that part on my own if need-be, and by now, I know the ins and outs of flying with children well enough to make a long flight rather uneventful for the airline and its passengers. So yep, I am more than willing do my job as their mother and keep their behavior and well-being in check while flying.
Now the airlines need to do theirs.