Babies on Planes: Yes or No?

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Have you ever traveled with a small child and felt somewhat unwelcome? Join the club. Take a look at these recent incidents plus some new tips for coping with kids while traveling.

First class ban

There’s been a lot of talk about this lately – do babies or children of any age belong in first class? While I do feel a twinge for anyone who paid full fare – as in, thousands of dollars – who is seated next to a crying infant, it’s not like the parents of the baby got their seats for nothing (either by paying for it or traveling many miles for the upgrade).

TSA ‘Humiliates’ Breast Feeding Mom

True, Malaysia Airlines has a ban on babies in first class, but that’s the only such ban I’m aware of. Face it, most families are watching their pennies and will travel in economy with the rest of us.

Tip: Parents with crying or screaming children in any class should make an effort to calm the kids. The biggest complaint I hear about babies on board is not about the kids but about do-nothing parents. Even if you can’t calm the kids, showing that you’re trying to do so can mean the difference between angry mutterings and cheerful resignation from seatmates.

Toddler meltdowns

A family on a recent JetBlue flight was kicked off the plane because two young children would not allow themselves to be buckled up. The mother was quoted as saying, “We were holding them down with all of our might,” which sounds like it was quite an ordeal – one the pilot decided to end by having the family removed.

Did you know? Kids under 12 can keep their shoes on

Tip: Prep your children ahead of time about the do’s and don’ts of flying, especially the importance of buckling up and speaking quietly. Be sure they have toys, games and favorite foods as distractions. If nothing helps, brace yourself to take another flight either at your own instigation – or the airline’s.

Occasional problems

Sometimes, a calm child will act up in mid-flight, and if the above distractions don’t work, here are a couple of other things you can try:

Tip for seat-kickers: Take off their shoes. When they kick again, it will hurt and they’ll stop (confession: I haven’t personally tested this one).

Tip for generic misbehavior: Turn to the rows around you and say the magic words, “Drinks are on me.” Then get out your credit card.

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More from Rick Seaney:

Babies on Planes: It’s War!

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Published: March 14, 2012