Toddler Exposes State of Air Travel

I got back two weeks ago from traveling alone with K-Pants on three flights. I get very anxious flying with Mr. Pants. Packing a toddler on your lap for hours and hoping he’ll be saintly is a bad wager. But you know what I realized? The toddler is not the bad part of flying: Flying is. (Especially since I give Mr. Pants a little something to make him sleep most of the way.)

K-Pants is simply the bellwether that exposes the ugly state of air travel.

Like the Terminix guy. We know termites are bad. But we don’t fully understand how horrible they are until the Terminix guy comes to unveil the rotted out house.

K-Pants is my Terminix guy.

Pre-Pants, I could get on a plane with a book and some headphones, pop a sleeping pill, and write off the whole experience as a bad nap. Not anymore. Now I have to travel with my eyes open.

And what I’ve discovered is that the stress on airline workers is so great that many rely on badgering the innocent to let off some steam. I don’t really blame them. Air travel sucks. But I’m a little tired of the maltreatment.

For instance, pregnant and with a toddler in a baby carrier on my front, I wandered up to the boarding gate of my first flight…

  • Excuse me. Will you be boarding families with young children first?
  • The attendant’s eyes popped out of her head: We don’t do THAT.
  • I shifted to show her that I was actually pregnant AND carrying a toddler and a diaper bag and a carry on. That’s about 60 lbs. of human and miscellaneous cargo.
  • She raised her eyebrows with an expression that said, You chose to procreate. We don’t have to cater to your whims.

Cool!

At least, I reassured myself, I was seated at the back. They board the back first—after the platinum-silver-copper-chrome-varnished-opal members. But I looked at my boarding pass and I was in group 4: code for “steerage.”

Apparently United now boards window seats first, then middle seats, then aisle seats. Right-e-o. So if you’re trying to be a considerate parent and sit on the aisle so you have a quick escape in case of outbursts, you are punished with steerage boarding.

  • Isn’t there anything you can do to help us? I asked another attendant.
  • Well next time you can buy a window seat.

I would love to do that except that next time you’ll be boarding by color-coordination and ambidexterity. None of this makes any sense!

Some very funny blogging friends and I posted tips on surviving air travel with kids a little while ago. And while I do follow the advice, I think the best dictum I can give right now is just stay at home.

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12 responses to “Toddler Exposes State of Air Travel

  1. That is HORRIFIC.

    You should find United’s twitter account and link to this post. There is NOTHING acceptable about how they treated you!

    Screw the stress on airline travel workers. What.Ev.Er. I fly JetBlue and I’m sure they’re stressed but I have never been treated like that by anyone on JetBlue.

    So sorry you had to go through that!!!

    • I love your righteous indignation, Mrs. Momagement! I’m just so used to this kind of treatment from flight personnel. I need to write a letter, and I have to sing the praises of a very kind flight attendant we had ON the flight, also.

      Thanks for the solidarity!

  2. Yes, it’s not easy being either a traveler with children OR an airline employee these days. As I’ve learned, many of the employees make very little money and suffer more than their share of abuse. I’m sorry it’s fallen on your and K-Pants.

  3. What a passive-aggressive idiot that last flight attendant is! You can’t BUY a window seat – at best you might put in a request but even then you will be told in no uncertain terms that requests are not guaranteed!

    There are plenty of a-holes who deserve to be yelled at and/or not accommodated, but you, jolly Momsicle, are not one of them!

    Sorry, I’m a little cranky today. But this post reminded me of why driving across the US was the right decision: if they treated Momsicle and the Pants that way, can you imagine what my poor dog would have gone through?!

  4. Lauren hit that nail on the head. I hope you typed a “nastygram” to the CEO. I would have. She was rude–period. And if I witness someone being mistreated by any employee of an establishment, I am quick to write them or all an 800 number! 😉 I also hear that Virgin Airlines is better. Can’t vouch for it, but that’s what some are telling me. I don’t even know if they fly to that area…

    • Nastygram. 🙂 Excellent phrasing. My husband has recently flown US Air and Delta and they boarded kids first. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a magnet for weird airline behavior.

  5. I flew solo with S this summer when he was 6 months old…on United. I did tweet about it and heard only more negative experiences from other moms. Thankfully one of the legs there was a flight attendant that took pity on me and helped me get all the stuff (2 bags, a caraway, and the baby) on the plane and to my seat. That being said, thank goodness for the kindness of strangers because so many people helped me that day.

    Now as far as medicating S…we might try that tomorrow on our return flight. What was I thinking booking a flight at nap time?

    • Thinking of you! …and hoping the trip more than made up for any flight inconveniences. I love scheduling flights at naptime so that K-Pants sleeps. Fingers crossed for S!

  6. Complain complain complain! Last trip I sent letters and got air miles and they shipped toys to my children. Just write a letter…

    • Okay, you are reinvigorating me. I used to complain every time something like this happened, but now I’m just so used to it. I need to regain the disgruntled-consumer spark! 🙂

  7. I flies with my naughty 2 1/2 years old really offen and I always feel the privilege and favor from the airlines while traveling with my kid. We always get to board and leave the plane first and also get our meals first. When when my kid gets really cranky, the flight attendant always show up with toys or snacks. Oh man… and I am talking about travel in India and some small flights in Asia.
    I thought giving more care to infants, children and senior citizen was an international standard… I think what they treated you were really unacceptable. You should give a complaint to their HQ or something. I’m sure they really need to do something to compensate what causing you an inconvenience.

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