Do kids belong on an overnight flight?

All Ed Lawrence wanted was a little rest.

He was on an overnight flight from San Francisco to Boston, which offered him six hours of sleep, at best. And he figured everyone else would want some peace and quiet on what’s traditionally called the “red eye” flight.

He was wrong.

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Two toddlers seated near to him decided it was playtime, and their rookie parents and other passengers indulged the young passengers. Lawrence, a frequent flier who works for a technology firm in the Boston area, didn’t sleep a wink.

“I wonder if kids should be on a red-eye flight,” he says.

His question comes at an interesting time. It seems two airlines agree with him, at least partially.

Malaysia Airlines this summer introduced a no-kids section some aircraft flying between Kuala Lumpur and London. And another Malaysian airline, AirAsia X, announced it would create a “quiet zone” in the first eight rows of the economy section of some aircraft starting early next year. Both moves seem designed to let passengers sleep on overnight flights.

Some parents might argue — and I might be inclined to agree with them — that a red-eye flight is the perfect place for young kids. As long as they sleep. I’ve made many cross-country flights with my three kids when they were younger, and I preferred the overnight flight because there was a reasonably good chance we’d all get some rest.

But my kids slept, and when they didn’t, they behaved. The ones Lawrence flew with did neither.

“It was a disaster,” he says.

Lawrence paid an additional $79 for an aisle seat with extra legroom. He sat next to dad, in the middle seat, and one of the toddlers, seated in the widow seat for takeoff and landing. Mom was a few rows back with the second child.

“During the the first couple of hours they had to get up a few times to see mommy or to go to the restroom,” he says. “Sometimes mommy came and stood right next to me. The parents passed the kids over me a few times.”

Meanwhile, Lawrence was beyond exhausted. He’d been up since 6 a.m. that day, had put in a full day of work, and just wanted a few hours of shut-eye before he landed.

“Finally, around four hours into the six-hour flight both kids start screaming non-stop,” he says.

Lawrence turned to the father.

“I want to try to get some sleep,” he told him.

“What do you want me to do?” Dad replied.

“Your problem shouldn’t be my problem,” said an agitated Lawrence.

Other passengers were unsympathetic to Lawrence. One of them suggested he was the real whiner, which made a bad situation even worse.

I feel for both Lawrence and the father, who was probably equally sleep-deprived.

But the experience raises some interesting questions: Are there passengers that should either be denied boarding or limited to certain flights? Who has more rights on a flight — the crying baby or the tired passenger?

I don’t know how to answer either of those questions. They may be unanswerable.

Lawrence says his flight was one of those times. “There clearly was no solution to a bad situation,” he told me.

Unfortunately, crewmembers often must mediate passenger disputes like this, and they shouldn’t have to do that. The rules should be clear, and everyone should understand them.

Obviously, some families with young kids don’t belong on an overnight flight. But how am I supposed to know it’s my family?

162 thoughts on “Do kids belong on an overnight flight?

  1. Noise-cancelling headphones, a unisom, eye mask, and a glass of red wine will do the trick. If they don’t, it’s not the kids’ fault- its that SLEEPING ON PLANES IS UNCOMFORTABLE.

    1. I completely agree, but I’d also suggest a window seat so that he doesn’t have to get up to let other passengers use the restroom. Or, did he consider taking the middle seat the 2nd toddler was in a few rows back and giving his seat to the toddler to use? Then the parents could take turns with the toddlers without disturbing anyone (or not as much).

      1. He paid for an aisle seat, not a middle seat a few rows back.

        Granted, he shouldn’t have paid for that seat in the first place, but he shouldn’t be expected to move because of another family’s poor planning.

        1. I’m not sure you can say that the family planned poorly. Nothing about the article suggests that. Perhaps there were no seats together when they purchased their flights, which could be months in advance. My point was that, given the situation, if could have opted to move to a quieter seat with less leg room and gotten his 6 hours of sleep. Or, he could keep his feel like he got his $30 worth and and continue to sit next to an antsy toddler. I would have moved.

          1. There’s nothing in the article to indicate he could have moved to a quieter seat, especially once the kids started screaming.

            If I pay extra for a seat, regardless of why I want the seat, you’re not moving me from it just because you think kids make you entitled to getting what you want.

          2. Again, from the article, I’m not seeing where the dad was feeling entitled because he had kids and was “getting what he wanted”. The kid was crying–that appears to be a given. The OP wanted him to stop. Although the article doesn’t detail what transpired between the dad and the OP other than a few exchanged words, it’s likely that the dad had done everything possible to console the toddler, and OP was annoyed that the child was still crying. The fact that the article states that other passengers felt that the OP was being whiny supports this. So, the already frustrated dad’s response was more than appropriate. What would the OP like for him to do? Sometimes toddlers don’t follow adult etiquette. It doesn’t mean that the father didn’t try or that he was a willing participant in the behavior. I’m still with the dad on this one. As much as I dislike screaming kids on a plane, it just comes with the territory. If the OP doesn’t want to travel with the masses and the inconveniences that come with it, he should fly privately.

          3. Other than the line about the parents and other passengers “indulging” the kids, I don’t even see any concrete examples of what the kids did that was out-of-line. He says they handed the kids off over him a few times. If they were true toddlers, that’s not a big deal. And he also complains about them wanting to go back to see mommy, which is perfectly understandable.

            It’s also interesting that other passengers labeled him the bad guy. If the parents were totally out-of-line, I doubt that would have happened.

        1. Even if one paid extra, priorities can change enough to give it up. Personally, I’m not seeing why anyone who wants to get sleep is in the aisle seat. It sounds what he would have preferred was to have a block of 9 seats all to himself such that nobody could bother him.

          1. Exactly. If the guy wanted sleep, why get an aisle seat? There’s an assumption that people in the window and middle seat might actually need to get up at some point. Poor planning on his part IMO. Sounds like he drew the short straw in that there was a toddler next to him, but note that the toddler had his own seat (not a lap baby) so the parents were at least that conscientious.

      2. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to do that – you can’t have 5 people in three seats, due to only having 4 oxygen masks overhead. I’m sure the family would have liked to be together if it were possible.

        1. Yeah, I wasn’t suggesting that all 5 sit in one row. Rather, that the two toddlers sit in the row with one parent and the parent takes turns managing the toddlers. That way, the OP could theoretically get some sleep.

    2. So how do kids get to Europe, Asia and Australia with their parents from the US? Slow Boat?

      Sometimes there is no option but an overnight flight – personally – I think it is bad parenting to take a kid on an overnight flight when there is an option – but when we lived on the east coast and came back from Hawaii our choices were red eye or red eye . . . or a 7a departure from Honolulu which leads to a red eye back to the East coast. Now there are am flights from the US to Europe but they take you to London, Paris and Frankfurt – and thats it.

      There are times when there are no choices-

      1. Exactly. I sell the 1AM SFO to East Coast to connect Asian arrivals. I don’t expect my Asian customers to rent a room for the night in Burlingame so that folks like the OP can have the airplane with other snorers. I am sure my passengers paid the correct fare.

  2. Most overnight flights are not completely full. Perhaps Lawrence should have asked a flight attendant whether there was an empty aisle seat available toward the rear of the aircraft. I would rather exchange the extra legroom at the front for some sleep.

  3. Unfortunately, the ultimate answer is that commercial aviation is public transportation, and in using public transportation instead of private transportation one has to expect that not everyone else will always be civil. It is not your own automobile, it is not your own chartered airplane. It is little different from a flying subway car. Yes, it would be nice if carriers did not charge extra to have children seated near their parents, and it would be nice if parents were able to control their children. But in the end, neither the carrier nor other passengers need be civil; they need only act lawfully. If control over the environment is essential, then the only real solution is to either use private transportation or book private accommodations that reduce the impact of others (though these days that’s only available on trains and oceanliners . . . no more roomettes on any domestic airliners!).

  4. I voted YES for a couple of reasons. 1. The flight is not described as a sleep in only flight for all passengers. 2. Who made you King or Queen? As LFH0 said you are just one of the public so expect others to be different. 3.Some people who fly the West to East redeye are merely connecting their Asian originated flight from the West Coast to the East Coast. Their body clock is about 12 hours ahead of yours. They may have slept during the 10-11 hour flight from Asia. They will be wide awake for the LAX/SFO to East Coast redeye flight. Just pop A Valium and drink a glass of wine. That usually makes misery disappear for a while.

    1. Please, please, please… be very careful about suggestions regarding
      taking a pill (prescription or over-the-counter) with a glass of wine as a sleep aide. They can be a deadly combination.

  5. I believe any seat is fair game. I hate kids as much as the next guy, but I have had to travel with my son frequently when he was younger. The parents should control their kids. I can’t choose not to travel with my child at a convenient time because someone on the flight might want to sleep. I will do my best to keep my kid quiet, but they also need due diligence to buy noise canceling headphones if they know that sleep is important on that particular flight.

    Like someone else said, this is public transportation. It’s no different than running into kids on a bus, train, or metro. Kids exist. We must all learn to do our best with the situations given to us.

    Also, if the family kept crawling over me, I’d consider swapping seats to the window so that I would be less disturbed. I know he paid for more leg room, but that usually applies all the way across the row, not just the one seat.

  6. When someone has an aisle seat, he/she should know other people could need to leave their seats for a number a reasons during a flight. What if it were an adult with “bathroom problems”?

    If sleeping during that flight was so important to him, he should have gotten himself a window seat. Did he even consider proposing to change seats, at least during flight (the child probably needed to be on window seat during take-off/landing)?

    Really, I’ve had my share of bad parents on board. These don’t sound like it. Screaming kids a bad thing, but seems he was not happy way before that.

  7. Lawrence sounds like a major jerk. Telling the father, “Your problem shouldn’t be my problem” he seems like the rude one here! It’s the big business holier than thou people that I think are the worst travelers to be around. He is on a public conveyance of transportation and everyone who buys a ticket has a right to be there. I know kids can be annoying, and I know there are some awful parents, but they also make noise canceling headphones, and it’s not like 6 hours is that long. But come, on, really? If he wanted to sleep, he should have picked a window seat. Paying extra for an aisle seat expecting to sleep the whole flight is just stupid because the inside people are going to get up and you will have to move. Expecting to get a full night of sleep on a plane is just stupid in my opinion, it’s nice when it happens, but you aren’t paying for a sleeper car, you are paying for a seat surrounded by over 100 other people. If the guy is too busy to sleep, then he should deal with it himself, I have no sympathy for this jerk.

    1. Like x1000

      As a usual aisle seat pax, I agree. It’s the better seat, but you need to be prepared to let people up.

    2. I entirely agree.

      Want to sleep? Then make better choices – window seat, headphones and sunglasses (or an eye mask). Or better yet, book a hotel room and fly back in the morning.

      The guy is a whiner.

    3. Yes, that was a very snarly comment. However, we should try to remember that this was a man deprived of sleep and at his wit’s end. I’m not saying that this excuses what he said at all, just that I’ve been pushed to my limit before and I’ve behaved in ways I normally would not.

      Now… Saying that, noise canceling headphones, an eye mask, one of those U-shaped pillows and antihistamines are always in my carry-on bag for longer flights. If kids bother you that much, then knock yourself out.

      Hopefully, Lawrence will see comments such as these and take the necessary precautions next time.

      p.s. I’ve gotten into an argument with a larger passenger who had an aisle seat and would not get up to let me out. This was the first time I had asked, four hours into a thirteen hour flight… but “I could wait” I guess until he needed to use the restroom. I ended up being very rude, and looking back I’m sure I could have handled it better. Once the stewardess heard what I said, I lost all sympathy and was the one in the wrong. I don’t blame her for thinking that; I deserved it.

      1. If I were a woman, I’d have told this jackass:

        “Either move or I’m pulling out my tampon and putting it on YOUR tray table.”

    4. He might be a whiner but the parents were just plain RUDE for passing their kids over him and standing next to HIS aisle seat for extended periods of time. I realize that there are limits on how much parents can control their kids but it sounds like they could have been more courteous to him. Also, for parents with children on overnight flights, I have one word – Benadryl. You can say “I won’t drug my kid!” but how is it different than giving them cough medicine or aspirin. Do it out of courtesy for the rest of the people on the red eye flight. It’s the right thing to do.

      1. Two thoughts about Benadryl:
        1. Not all kids react the same. While it does calm one of mine, the other two get hyper from it
        2. I give my kids medicine when they need it, not to make life easier for someone else.
        A question for Chris: Would you take medicine that you don’t need, medicine that can not have a positive impact on you all for the sake of someoene else?

      2. Passing them over him is far nicer than making him get up every time, and as far as standing there, what else are they supposed to do? I prefer aisle seat myself, and I much prefer them to pass kids over me than to get up every time. I have seen many parents do this without disturbing me, and when one person stands in the aisle and talks to the person in the seat next to me, I keep my headphones on, and again, it doesn’t bother me. I also always get up to let people out if they need to, that’s the responsibility that comes with an aisle seat and I am much obliged to do so, and do so happily.

        If you don’t want to be disturbed, take a window seat, otherwise expect the passengers you are trapping to have to get in and out. And if the parents and kids were connecting as Tony mentioned, the kids could have been asleep for their Asian flight, so now its day time for them. I’ve been on a West to East red eye after connecting from Asia and believe me, time is all twisted around. If the kids were just asleep for many hours and it is daytime to them, giving them drugs to make them sleep is downright abusive. I have no sympathy for this guy wants the aisle seat, but doesn’t expect the people he is blocking to not be able to get in and out. If he wants more sleep he could stay in a hotel and fly out in the AM, and if he had to work all day and work again the next AM, then perhaps he needs to evaluate his schedule. But booking an aisle seat on a public convenience and expecting everyone else to bend to his every need so he can sleep, and then contacting an ombudsman about it makes him a class-a D-bag!

        1. An answer for NYCommentator – YES. I see it done all the time with kids who are autistic as well as with people who have Tourettes Syndrome or Aspbergers. Austim of course varies on whether or not it is harmful if not medicated to the individual that has it, whereas Tourettes and Aspbergers are completely harmless to the individual that has it, but often gets medicated so they can function more normally in society. For the record, I am not bothered by anybody who has these afflictions but when I’m in a tightly enclosed space in an uncomfortable seat and trying to get some sleep, that changes the situation somewhat. There is nothing abusive about giving your kid Benadryl. But to some of the holier-than-thou crowd, one mention of it and it’s like I either said an ethic slur or suggested the kids be put in the cargo hold. It’s this sense of entitlement so many parents have and the attitude of “you don’t have children so you don’t understand” that somehow justifies the nonstop screaming and running around of their children on airline flights.
          As emanon’s question about what the parents were supposed to do – the answer I have is NOT pick the kids up at all and I further emphasize the fact that it is rude on the mother’s part to be standing next to Lawrence’s seat for long periods. It is a red eye flight and most people are trying to sleep. That said, I guess Lawrence might have had a better flight if he took a window seat. Still, the father’s reaction to his complaint was unreasonable and would have pissed me off.
          On the last red eye flight I took, there were several young children on the flight but I didn’t even notice them until after the plane had landed. Perhaps because their parents were actually parenting.

          1. So when the kid has to go to the restroom they should just pee on the seat so as not to disturb Lawrence? I really don’t know why they should just do nothing when they kid has to go to the bathroom. And as far as seeing Mommy, perhaps letting the kid see mommy is better than letting him cry for hours. The article says other travelers were humoring the kids too, I don’t see how that would be the case if these were bad parents letting their kids run amok. By taking them to the bathroom, and calming them, I think they are being quite responsible parents. I don’t see how standing in the aisle is that big a deal either, its public transportation, Lawrence didn’t pay for the aisle, he paid for the seat. Based on the description, I think if Lawrence were in a window seat, he probably wouldn’t have known the kids were on the flight either.

  8. If he needed to sleep, he should have slept that night and then caught a morning flight. His statement was correct, the parent’s problem was not his problem. But he made it his problem by being grumpy about it.

    I can’t sleep on a plane. There is always too much activity going on around me to get relaxed enough. Even on the overnight flights to Europe and even in the business/first seats that are lay flat. Do I blame the people around me for the fact that I can’t fall asleep? No. I have learned to accept it and plan accordingly by arriving in Europe a day before I need to be there so I can pass out at the hotel and then be ready and awake for whatever it is I need to do while I’m there.

  9. Wow, even on my worst, snarkiest flight, I was never as much as a douchebag as this guy. I’ve sat next to badly behaved children AND adults. I spent a redeye to Frankfurt wide awake because the family three rows back was having trouble keeping their kids quiet, but never would I write an ombudsman about it.

    But I have a solution for the OP:
    How about some noise canceling earphones, pal? I spent $400 on a really good pair and they work wonders on flights. Whether it’s a crying baby on a red-eye, a drunk who wants to talk to you for eight hours, or a yapping purse dog, you can’t hear it.

    True Story:
    A few days ago, we decided to take the baby to a family restaurant. It was her first trip to any eating establishment. Halfway through our meal, she started crying. We tried to soothe her, but to no avail. I apologized to the older couple seated next to us. The woman answered, “Never apologize for a healthy baby. That should be the most beautiful sound in the world to anyone.”

    Hearing that totally made my week.

    1. Honestly, I was worried you would side with this guy, but I’m glad to see that you found him to be as much of a douchebag as I did. Unfortunately, kids are going to cry sometimes, regardless of the timing of the flight. I guess I’ve been lucky that my son has always been a good flier. He recently got back from a school trip to Washington DC and New York. His flight out was a red eye, and while he couldn’t sleep, he was quiet and respectful of others around him.
      It’s nice to know that you had a positive reaction when your baby cried in the restaurant. Not everyone is so nice… me I know. I think fatherhood has mellowed you out some. I’m liking your posts more! 🙂

        1. Ahhhhh, it looks like we’ve found the manners police. I’ve never said I was classy. I’m honest, and I’m not going to sugarcoat my post because of the fear that I might offend your sensitive little eyes. I called him a douchebag because quite frankly it was the nicest thing I could think of to call him, and I didn’t want to use the word I really wanted to call him. I guess I could use the word idiot instead. Does that please your highness? Seriously dude, if you are offended by the words some of us use, you really need to get over it or else you are going to be in for a real shock with some of the other posts. And I’m sure that that correcting us will be met with similar sentiments as mine…you don’t like what we have to say, don’t read it.

          1. Don’t you just love it when newbs show up and think they’re going to change the rest of us? IMHO, the only one who wasn’t “classy” was @RetiredNavyphotog:disqus

            I’ve got your back, Julie… You might be an asshole, but you’re OUR asshole… (And the same can be said for me, I’ve been called an asshole and I’m pretty much okay with that.)

          2. Umm, sir, I was entirely with you on not calling people names and using vulgarities. But it sure looks like you’re doing some name-calling here. It undermines your moral high ground. May I suggest that you offer an apology for your comment(s)? It shows class to do so, and takes a strong man to acknowledge the offense. You don’t have to agree with @Julie Northrop’s or @ExplorationTravMag’s positions. Thank you.

          3. @ExplorationTravMag:disqus Awwww thanks girl. I got your back too. Apparently we are a couple of PMSing assholes. Just take it with a grain of salt. It sounds like newby is suffering from a case of E.D. and has nothing better to do than slam a couple of strong ladies!

          4. Yeah, it looks to me like @RetiredNavyphotog:disqus is in need of some serious counseling to find out why he has so much anger towards women that he thinks his obviously sexist and intentionally demeaning comment is appropriate in a group of intelligent, educated people debating an issue.

            If Freud were still alive and chiming in on the personal issues this poster is having would CERTAINLY apply some sort of “envy” on this guy. Wow…

          5. Sounds like you have a permanent case of PMS.
            No doubt you were the “mean girl” in high school who picked on others.

          6. , ah yes and it looks like the manners police likes to play the assumption game too. As far as me being the “mean girl” that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, I was the “shy, geeky girl with glasses” that got picked on to the point I faked sick so I wouldn’t have to endure the endless torture from the cool kids. I was the girl who had milkbone dog biscuits thrown at me and dog howls from the jocks. I had my head slammed into lockers from the popular girls. I’ve been called everything from fugly to carpenters dream. I remember one time my crush called me to tell me he wanted to take me to homecoming. I had my mom buy me a new dress (that we could ill afford at the time), got my hair done nice, only to be stood up and find out on Monday it was a joke. So don’t sit there and “assume” that because I said some guy acted like a douchebag and called you the “manners police” and told you basically the truth that calling any of us out is going to get you met with not such positive results, means that I was the “mean girl” growing up. Just remember, when you ASSume, you make an ass out of YOU. Oh, and while I may be a bitch, I in no way am in a constant state of PMS.

    2. It’s a little disheartening to see so many “dislikes” to this post. I swear, in today’s society, pets and animals get more respect than children do.

      1. I’m surprised about that too. People on here must really hate kids. I used to hate kids until reading all the comments here the last time kids were a topic and it really opened my eyes. That and I no longer fly to MCO weekly.

        1. My beef with MCO is not the kids. It’s the parents and the general behavior of people going on vacation. They’ve spent so much money on going to Di$ney, they check their common sense at the door of the aircraft.

    3. Although I do agree with the headphones, that don’t help when the kids are constantly getting out of their seats, and folks are passing kids over your head. These kinds of parents need to be at the BACK of the plane by themselves.

    4. I call bullshit on the noise-cancelling headphones – they cancel the engine noise but don’t muffle voices at all.

      Also? You or your wife should have removed the baby from the restaurant. Sure, babies cry. And good parents leave the restaurant, store, or church service when the child is inconsolable. However nice the old couple might have been about it, no doubt there were other folks’ whose dinner you ruined.

      1. You must be new here.

        Family restaurant? I deliberately went there because they do welcome children and babies. And, she wasn’t the only fussy one in there. Would I take my kid to a “nice” place and expect everyone else to put up with it? NO.

        And, if you call BS on the noise-cancelling headphones, perhaps you don’t have a very good pair.

  10. Too funny. I just got done reading John Rosemond’s column in my local paper and then this posting. I’m a very strong believer in John Rosemond; raised 2 sons to a successful adulthood with his advice and am happy to see my granddaughter similarly being raised. So, I voted with the majority. But since all the comments are with the minority, I’m keeping my comments to myself. 🙂

  11. If this passenger wanted to sleep he should have either booked a hotel room or paid the extra money and flew first class. I don’t believe that any airline promises a good nights sleep as part of your fare.

    1. I do agree that a good night sleep isn’t promised, and every passenger should understand that this is public transport, however I would be strongly in favor of quiet zones on larger planes, like there are on trains.
      If you have a business meeting in the morning or your company won’t cover an extra night, sometimes a hotel stay isn’t an option; First Class doesn’t solve the problem either: A few months ago, I paid full fare for a First Class seat; I got a window seat to minimize disruption. I had on noise-canceling headphones, but they don’t block out everything. Unfortunately, someone else in the First Class cabin decided this would be the perfect place to bring her small child. Instead of sitting quietly, the child ran up and down the aisles screaming– even during turbulence when the seatbelt sign was on, banged her hands on everyone’s computer keyboards, and was sliding her fingers all over the passenger next to me’s iPad despite his brushing her off. The mother did nothing to try to quiet the screaming, running, or getting in the way of other passengers.
      I heard her later at the baggage carousel complaining to a stranger standing next to her about the looks she was getting from other First Class passengers, as her child had every right to do as she pleased, and it isn’t her problem that other people were annoyed.

  12. Well, the core of the problem is this: whether the kid is behaved or not. A “no kid” or “quiet” zone of does little good when it’s a screaming infant, whose wails are often worse than fire trucks and can be hear throughout a plane.

    But Lawrence is definitely in the right to be upset: somebody else’s kid should never have become his problem in any way. Nor should they have been passing their kids over him.

    And a toddler in the window seat? Good lord, what were they thinking!? This is exactly why I prefer the window seat: not because of the view, but because I rarely get out of my seat on a flight, and so I am not interrupting other passengers, much less repeatedly.

    1. If the child was in a car seat (which is the safest place for a child to be) then it had to be in the window seat as per FAA regulations

    2. They were probably thinking that FAA regulations require a child in a car seat (and surely the toddler was) to be in a window seat.

  13. Parents should be able to sit together when they have children with them. I don’t understand why this is always such a problem. My kids always sat with me when we were on planes; heck, they’re grown and we still sit together. If they were late booking and the best they could do was sit apart, then even if he paid for extra leg room, if they guy needed sleep so badly, he could have traded places with the father. Sometimes we have to give a little to get a little. I’m not feeling it for this traveler.

    1. How in a three seat row would two parents and two kids be able to sit together? In this situation someone was always going to be split up no matter how the airline assigned seats – paying for seats is a red herring in this case. The parents should’ve been prepared for being split up because it was always going to happen.

  14. children are human beings and as such have free will. this is the ultimate problem for both parents and other passengers.

    i have a pre-school son. we have flown with him many times and try to pick flight times where we might get him to sleep or in cases where we can’t, we try to bring a bunch of small, fun, quiet activities for him to do. he is usually pretty good, and actually likes being on planes, but since he is pre-school age, his behavior, attitude and temperament can not be 100% guaranteed.

    sometimes there is little that can be done when a small child decides that he is not happy. we do our best, but there is often nothing more stubborn, obstinate, and ill-tempered than a cranky toddler (except for, maybe, a displeased ‘elite’ frequent flyer).

    we do our best and apologize if it’s not good enough. the chance that he may not be happy on the plane will never keep us from flying. we will just do our best to minimize the inconvenience. what makes matters worse are those fellow travelers who seem to have no idea that ‘making a child behave’ is not as simple as flipping a switch. i used to be one of those people, but now i understand that a child acting out is not a sign of a bad kid, a bad parent, or general disregard for other passengers, it’s often just a matter of bad luck and the uncertainty that is often part of raising a child.

  15. I work with kids at the local Y 5 months a year. I deal with 4-9 year old swimmers. It is not the kids that create situations, it’s parents! 15 kids – 10 great – 5 parent disasters. I have a choice; remove the parents from practice or remove the child from the team. Choice 1 is better. The airlines have no way of making this decision…..but, most airplanes have movable partitions. Make a family area. Cruise ships restrict the number of children on certain cruises, so can the airlines. Hold the parents responsible for the children’s behavior. That is what is the hardest. This tends to be more of a society behavior problem rather than an advocate problem. I would further suggest that the airlines develope a quiet zone – “oh” another extra fee that can be hidden in the cost of the flight.

    1. Cruise lines offer leisure activities that is incidentally revolving around transportation. Airlines offer public transportation (like buses or trains). Airlines can’t refuse passengers or introduce “women-only”, “singles-only” commercial flights.

        1. That’s a foreign airline running from Singapore to Hong kong. US regulations would never allow that discrimination.

  16. It is really up to the parents to parent their children. These parents were new, okay, but you should have some authority to properly discipline your kids.

    I know there will be some people who say, “well, they are children – they do what children do.” I agree, but they also do what their parents allow them to do.

    There are others who may say, “the parents obviously have no idea how to discipline their children.” There are some parents who are actually afraid to discipline their kids in public for fear of someone calling the police.

    This situation is hard to vote on. There may situations where your child is very well behaved and then there is that one situation where they change into the Tasmanian Devil. I think with proper training, a lot of toys and other distractions, as well as a firm hand and voice, I think children would be fine to travel on the red eye.

    With that being said, the passenger should realize that he should not be able to expect to sleep on the flight. I wonder if it would have been possible for him to book a hotel for a couple of hours and catch an early morning flight?

    1. THIS > “There are others who may say, “the parents obviously have no idea how to discipline their children.” There are some parents who are actually afraid to discipline their kids in public for fear of someone calling the police.”

      1. You can “discipline” your kids without being physical which is what you seem to be implying. It’s all about expectations and consistency – you can’t suddenly start parenting on a flight and expect your kids to listen/behave. It’s about what you’ve been doing up to that point – they know what behavior is expected and the consequences if they don’t behave. There is also the world of difference between a crying infant (involuntary behavior) and mis-behavior by toddlers/older kids which is usually due to the parents.

        1. I actually was not implying hitting, but I do understand where my wording may have suggested that. Even with firm words sometimes parents can get overwhelmed and start yelling and other people tend to jump in and tell them how to raise their child. That can often cause more conflict than the original situation. There are also parents who will do nothing hoping that their children will eventually tire out (name one child that ever tires out when you want them to :o).

          I agree with what you are saying and I apologize if my words suggested “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

      2. If you have to discipline them on the plane, the battle is already lost. The job of proper child rearing starts pretty much at birth and continues on from then. Most of these kids that make a lot of noise do it on the plane because they do it everywhere else…in the car, at home, at the supermarket, etc. It is a bit diffiult to get them to stop the whiny unacceptable behaviour once they get on the plane.
        It is pretty much all about the parenting. I don’t know why so many people have a difficulty figuring this out.

        1. True, because my sister and I were always allowed on planes, at fine restaurants, at the theatre, from a young age. But we understood how we were to behave, and all it took if we DID get out of line, was that “look” from Mom (I know most here know what I’m talking about!). But parents knew they were parents first, not best friends. So you knew the boundaries as well.

  17. A lot of the time overnight flights are the only option. Not so much for domestic flights, but 90% of all flights to Europe, pretty much any flight to Asia or Africa, Hawaii – east coast, and many to South America.
    Not saying that parents are never at fault for not controlling their children (of course they should) but there aren’t always options other than overnight flights.

  18. It is unreasonable to expect any airplane flight any time of day to be hassle-free, kids or no kids. Yet we are constantly hearing stories of passengers being wronged in some way. Poor, poor you! Seriously in this case, the Mom was obviously separated from the toddler unintentionally; that suggests this was a last-minute booking. Who knows what that family had going on in their private lives. On their way to a funeral? Re-scheduled from a cancelled flight? But poor Lawrence didn’t get a wink of sleep – in coach! Buck up, little flyers.

  19. Honestly how would anyone know if their kid would be OK with a redeye without taking one? My 4yr old still falls asleep within 10 minutes after getting into a long car ride. However on the flight home from vacation last year 9pm-12am she was awake the whole time. I certainly would have liked to sleep. Assuming the parents in the OPs story weren’t coming in from an international flight, I’m guessing they won’t be trying the redeye again either.

    For all we know the parents didn’t even choose the redeye. I certainly didn’t choose to put my 4yr old on a 9-12am flight, the airline chose to overbook my flight and gave my seats away. As long as the airlines choose to voluntarily overbook I’d have to vote yes, as there just aren’t a lot of good options flying from the west to the east coast. So if the airline takes away your seat which the parents planned for a good timeframe for travel having the airline say they can’t take the next flight because they have kids seems wrong.

  20. I flew from NYC to NAS on a three hour flight yesterday,, with a 3 year old kicking the back of my seat the entire flight. His mother never looked up from her book when I asked him to stop. I finally reclined my seat rather quickley, his sip cup fell, and he stopped for a few minutes. I find it’s often the parents, not the children who are the problems.

    1. Why didn’t you just hit him? You probably could have taken him. Maybe the next time you do something others do not like someone will knock your drink out of your hand or push you down.

    2. I had this same problem. I asked the child REPEATEDLY to stop nicely and with increasing severity. Finally, after three hours I said VERY firmly (all the while the ‘mother’ is sitting next to this kid and the ‘father’ is in the window seat in our row) “You need to stop kicking my seat NOW” at this point the ‘mother’ (and yes, there is a clear need for the quotation marks) starting screaming at ME and for the attendant and telling the attendant I was causing her child grief. The poor attendant, of course, didn’t know what was going on… after this point the ‘mother’ decided to move the child and sit behind me herself. The ‘father’ was half her weight and less than half a match for her. He kept quiet the entire time. Using your words as it was put in a reply here, is not enough. Jayne is correct, it’s the parents not the children that are a problem.

    3. Wow, you must be so proud. You knocked a child’s sippy cup onto the ground when they annoyed you. So you basically assaulted a three-year old, and write about it to brag. I’m actually speechless……..

    4. By the way- I didn’t know he had a sip cup, I just wanted to recline. His kicking was actually playing a song along with his ipad song, and the back of my seat was the base. I do have a kid, – and I traveled the world with him, and as a formr flight attendant, I actually know a few things about traveling children. First- you as a parent have to pay attention to them! If you travel with children, you cant throw yourself into a book and hope for the best.

  21. I think this is part of a greater problem/issue: air traveler entitlement. Not only the specific case, but part of a wider situation by which people feel they are entitled to a variety of things on board 40000ft up there.

    Red-eye flights are do not entitle passengers to a totally undisturbed flight experience. That is usually the case because most passenger are sleeping, but not a consequence.

    Addressing another issue raised by commentators, families are not entitled to seat together if they don’t pay for it, now that guaranteeing a window or aisle seat usually comes with some small or not-so-small extra fee. When load factors were lower, and seat assignments were made at the check-in counter only, for obvious reasons most if not all families would be assigned a row or close seats because that reduces overall movement in the cabin during boarding, de-boarding and cruise flight. But it was never a “family entitlement”, just the expected outcome of a system where seats were only divided according to service class (first, second/executive, economy).

    Back on my undergraduate days, I remember once taking a flight where most people had suits and notebooks (they were not ubiquitous in 2001-2) and I was one of the few in a “summer casual” attire with backpack. I remember well overhearing two fellow passengers commenting how unfair was that the airline had bumped some folks needing to work while letting “college kids on vacation” to board an overbooked flight.

  22. Who knows, maybe those toddlers saved Lawrence’s life. My father got DVT (deep vein thrombosis) from sleeping on a 6 hour flight and was told by the doctor in the hospital (he was lucky enought to be admitted to, instead of a morgue) “I’ve never seen anyone in your condition alive before.” Do your research and you’ll see that sleeping in economy class is a very bad idea. DVT kills more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined!

    Regarding the actual issue of kids flying on red-eye flights, why pick on the kids? I’ve had a senior citizen continuously kick the back of my seat and when I asked her to stop, she said she wouldn’t until I put my seat back upright! I’ve been in Lawrence’s position (but squished!) between an oversized mother and adult daughter who passed things back and forth over me, because the table tray wouldn’t go down in front of the mother due to her size, so she had to use her daughter’s tray! I could go on…but my point is that many times, children can be better behaved than adults!

  23. If these had been reasonably behaved kids, I might not have sided with the OP but it sounds as though the parents didn’t know how to handle their own kids with the, “What do you want me to do?”

    I don’t know, tell the precious darlings they’re expected to behave?

    I have no problems with kids being on flights at all, so long as mom and dad recognize not every other person in the world finds their child’s antics charming. I’ve been bringing my son along on assignments since he was about 10 and he’s always known respect of the other passengers allowed him to continue to go on these little jaunts with me. He nearly missed out on an assignment of mine to visit two amusement parks but I gave him another chance and he came through for me on not just that trip but subsequent.

    Parents don’t seem to want to be parents any more and it shows in the kids running wild. I think a better solution would be for the airline employees (FAs) to have the ability to go to the parents and tell them their kids running wild is causing a safety issue and if it doesn’t stop, they’ll call in a flight emergency to land so the family can be dumped in Podunkville, WhoGivesACrap, USA.

    IMHO, WELL-BEHAVED kids are always welcome. Little Johnny running around, spilling people’s drinks, slamming into seats should be left with the grandparents until he learns manners or the parents learn to tell their kid “No.”

    1. It’s hard to make a rule based on “well-behaved kids are always welcome”. The airline can’t know how good those kids are until you’re at 30,000 feet, and by then, it’s a little late to kick them off.

    2. I gotta laugh at all the non-parents who like to set expectations so high.

      Note to you: Kids are kids. They are not miniature adults. They act like, well, kids. Yelling and screaming at them doesn’t always work, and never works for very long. Yes, they talk and jiggle and wiggle and laugh and cry and scream — especially when they’re bored. Hey, I’ve felt like that on a long-haul flight and I’m a grown-up. Gee Mr. OP, you were annoyed, sleep deprived, irritated, etc. on a cramped red-eye. Guess what? So were the kids. And they’re KIDS.

      So when you have your own, I’m sure you’ll be a perfect parent. And you’ll never have that “I just want to crawl into the overhead bin because I’m so embarrassed” moment like other parents. And you’ll try, but kids sometimes don’t listen — funny how that works.

      But please, show a little patience. They’re kids. You were once a kid as well, and I’m sure you got into plenty of trouble (I know you think you were perfect, but you might want to fact-check that with YOUR parents.)

      1. As a parent, I expected my child to behave in certain settings. It’s called Common Courtesy and something a lot of people lack now a days. Yes, Kids fidget, they whine, they Cry… But there is no reason to let them cry uncontrollably. There is always a reason and it is up to parents to find and solve that problem with the child…

        If nothing else, for their comfort. I had to spend may nights sitting up with a fussy infant without waking the entire household. I never had help… Never disturbed anyone else either because I took the time with my child.

        1. I totally agree with you, but we weren’t there. Was it as bad as the OP claims? Seems like if it was, the other passengers would have been heralding him as a hero for saying something. Yet, by his own admission, disinterested parties seated nearby excused the kids and parents and labeled him a whiner. Since I wasn’t there to judge for myself, I’ll have to take their judgment.

        2. right, exactly, three year olds are totally on board with and comprehend ‘common courtesy’ in every situation

          you sound like the perfect parent. why don’t you write a book or get a tv show and explain to all of us how you achieved such perfection? society would benefit, right and children everywhere would never cry or kick the back of an airline seat again. why is your magic???? i’m waiting….

          1. Three year olds might not comprehend “common courtesy” but at that age, it’s a good time to start teaching them how to “be nice to others”. Three year olds DO comprehend “Be nice”.

            Being a “good” parent doesn’t mean being a “perfect” parent. I think the common theme in most of the responses is, “Parents, take responsibility for your kids” not “Three year olds should be little adults”.

      2. I’m a parent of two, one with special needs, and I’m completely down with the high expectations. If I take my kids on a airline, it’s MY responsibility to make sure they are rested, fed, and well-entertained and don’t scream, bounce, or kick the seat in front of them. If they ended up crying or wiggling, I held them, walked them, found a toy – I didn’t just expect people around me to cope with it.

        “Kids scream and yell, that’s just how they are” is the excuse of the incompetent parent. Seriously, if you are that bad at it, leave the kid at home with a sitter.

        I don’t know what the answer is, but airlines should make it clear when children’s tickets are booked that parents are responsible for snacks and toys and making sure their child does not disturb other passengers.

        1. This is my major complaint with flying to MCO. Parents don’t pay attention to Snowy and come to the airport completely unprepared or with unrealistic expectations.

        2. Good on you, Artemisia. If I see the parent trying at least, this goes a long way. But if I see children who totally ignore parents or are rude, guess what? This isn’t a flying problem. It’s a possible sign that parents are too lax with their children in regular life and haven’t taught them respect.

  24. Kids get stressed out being awake all night (proof, when they’re crying). Babies especially, if they don’t understand the sounds, sights, smells and air pressure, just imagine how scary a flight must be? If you can’t take them on a day flight, then dose them up. And yes, I’m a parent. Sometimes it’s kinder to help them sleep then to rant about your rights not to medicate your kid.

    1. I’d like to know what your pediatrician recommended or prescribed for drugging a child in preparation for a flight.

      1. Pediatricians all over the country recommend Benedryl for situations such as this. It’s pretty much harmless (but there have been cases where parents have OD’d their kid rather than be a parent) and it’s not unusual to give a smaller child Benedryl before a flight. Not only does it make them tired, it helps combat air sickness, if it might be a problem.

        1. Not so harmless. My granddaughter was given a pediatrician’s recommended dose for an extreme case of hives, that was not life-threatening. She turned into a holy hyper-terror and we just had to wait it out. I don’t think a plane-load of people would have enjoyed her on Benedryl.

  25. I do get a sense of entitlement here, whether or not it’s from “paying more” or simply from being a business traveler. I always took it in stride when some kid ended up kicking my set or looked behind at me.

    Getting sympathy for being in a bad situation isn’t helped by pretty much asserting that you’re more important than someone else. That’s the sense I get.

  26. I’m wondering why he didn’t just switch seats with either the mother or the father so that they both could have sat together. It might have made his ability to fall asleep much easier because he wouldn’t have had to deal with babies being passed over him or having the other parent standing next to him. My thinking is that he just wanted to be a douchebag about it and complain. If that guy had said something like that to me, I would probably have responded in a not so polite way.
    Kids are going to cry, it’s a fact of life. Many times a red eye flight is the only one available to a family, especially if the parents work until 6 at night. I personally don’t like them because I can never sleep for some reason, but I accept that I have to sometimes fly that way. I’ve been lucky with my son that he’s a great flier, and has been since he was a baby. He usually sleeps fine on red-eyes….lucky bugger.

  27. Since parents refuse to control children in many cases (reality check here), it is up to the airline to make arrangements. Put the kids together with parents in the back of the plane where all seats are free and they can easily sit together. Then they can have family reunions, go potty with the parent of their choice, and maybe get pointers on how to control unwieldy children from other parents.

    Please don’t tell me what parents should do. Let’s look at what they actually do and plan accordingly. Another gross sense of entitlement of parents passing children around over other passengers because they did not pay for a seat location. Hence, the person who did pay extra gets punished. Change the system and put all the high potential hyperactives together.

  28. I see Chris venturing into the brave world of children and flights again and we have the predictable comments from parents about how precious their babies are and that they should be allowed to travel whenever with no consequences.

    Sorry folks, the parents were plain rude and made no attempt at an apology. Passing a child over someone, excessively standing over someone are both rude. And except in very rare cases I doubt they had no other choice in flight times.

    People with children seem to be the new entitled class today. How dare you question their motives because “you don’t understand what it is like to be a parent.”

  29. Restaurants stock coloring/activity books and crayons to keep kids from disturbing other diners. Maybe since we have so few choices in airlines for a particular route, airlines feel like they don’t need to bother?

    I know they don’t have to, but I feel like airlines could make a huge dent in this problem by stocking a few child-entertainment devices for parents who might have forgotten that kids get bored on a 5-hour flight.

    1. Isn’t this the parents responsibility? You know you are going to be in a small space with your kids for 6-8 hours. A little common sense says bring snacks, books, activities. Yes the airline can do it (and some do provide kids activity packs – Virgin Atlantic, BA for example) to help with these situations but you shouldn’t expect someone else to do your job as a parent. It seems to me these parents were totally ill-prepared and over-whelmed with what happened.

      1. Of course it’s the parents’ responsibility. But what peace and quiet will that responsibility buy you at 35000 feet when the parents didn’t adequately prepare for the journey?

        I already said that the airlines didn’t have to. Only that it would be a sensible policy to do so. You can play the blame game until you’re blue in the face, but I just want to get some sleep.

  30. Well, I can sympathize with Lawrence on his need for sleep that he wasn’t getting, but unless the plane was full, I think that if he wanted to be away from these kids, he should have asked for reseating. If he couldn’t do that, I would have said, “Look, I’m sorry, but I need you not to pass your kids back and forth over me.” He might even have gotten some sympathy from the parents by explaining his situation to them-who knows. (I’m not going to make the automatic assumption that they would have ignored him, although it’s certainly possible, but giving them more details might have made it easier for them to understand that this was more than just “his problem” and that they were contributing to it.)

    I can also sympathize with parents who find that their family can’t all sit together.

    But ultimately, the airline has the right to sell whatever seats it wants to whomever it wants, even if it inconveniences other passengers by putting them next to small kids during the redeye period. So Lawrence, if he couldn’t get reseated, was pretty much stuck. It is annoying when parents do that and act as though their children never misbehave even when they’re doing exactly that.

    1. My big question: Who books an aisle seat with the expectation of sleeping through a flight? Even if there were adults on the inside seats, he still would’ve been disrupted several times during a 6-hour flight for bathroom and service breaks.

      1. Booking any seat with the expectation of sleeping through a flight is asking for trouble, because no matter where you sit, you will have to disturb someone if you have to get up, or they will have to disturb you. If you’re sitting in the window or middle seats, you have to ask them to make room for you to get up and come back to your seat; if you’re sitting in the middle or aisle seat, you have to make room for those who have to get up and then return to their seats.

  31. Sleeping in an Airline seat is next to impossible. I always sleep at the Hotel, and take an early morning flight. Some of my flights are nothing more than a flying day care center. My earphones work quite well with th volume turned up.

  32. If mom was just a few rows back, why didn’t they switch seats so the family could sit together, preferably back in moms seat if the OP had paid extra for his seat.

  33. I’ve raised my kids, I would DEFINITELY pay extra for an adults only section on long flights. I’d suggest this is a time to test the markets for the airlines.

    I was flying with them prior to the age of iPads… which are pretty much an endless source of entertainment as a generic device. When they were old enough, we flew well prepared with toys, snacks, books etc. and when we were flying with them we booked well in advance to get seats together where we could ensure they were not bothering anyone. I was ALWAYS watching their feet, they learned early on to be polite on a plane. It’s a matter of preparation and attentiveness when they get old enough.

    That said, I still remember the flight I took (thankfully short) from SD to Phoenix with my daughter when she was something short of two. She locked her little legs, stood up stock straight and screamed the entire way. NOTHING I did or said made any difference. Of course, everyone is looking at you like ‘shut the kid up’… and I sure wished I could have.

  34. This is really an airline seating problem. Airlines choose to separate families in order to give aisle seats to priority passengers. As a result, parents end up passing kids up and down the plane over the course of a long flight.

    Creating a “quiet zone” makes a great deal of sense, especially for red-eye flights. A “family zone” that’s near the restrooms makes sense too. But good luck convincing airlines to re-prioritize seating by noise level instead of simply window/middle/aisle.

    This is the advantage of the Southwest Airlines model, of course. If a flight crew sees a bunch of families and business travelers getting on the same flight, they can easily create ad-hoc zoned seating on the fly. A simple announcement in the boarding area (sleepers toward the front, families toward the back) solves the problem.

    1. I disagree. Why does a child have to be with two parents? Does the child need two to control their behavior for 1,2,3,6 hours because one is not competent to make modifications? Does Mom pass the kid to dad while he is at the office or on the factory floor? Does Dad pass the kids to mom while she is in a meeting with clients? A plane in for travel, transportation it is not a play zone, it is not the jungle gym at McDonalds. Sit in your seat, wear your seatbelt and BEHAVE or take the car!

      1. A child doesn’t HAVE to be with 2 parents, but as anyone who’s been on a flight where the airline chooses to split a family up can tell you, a child WANTS to be with both parents, especially if they’re both on the plane. If airlines acknowledged that fact, it would make travel that much easier for families and non-families alike.

        While you may live in a world where you can simply “make modifications” to a child, the rest of us live in the real world, where children are live human beings that can’t be reprogrammed like a computer.

        As for expecting a toddler to sit down and shut up for 6 hours… I’ll just hand my 18-month old over to you the next time we’re in the middle of a flight and she needs to go to the bathroom.

    2. Actually, the back of the plane is usually free, parents just want to be up front with the little darlings. Sitting in back actually makes more sense – get them on first, you are closer to the bathrooms and even the galley if you need something.

      1. We just flew with our 18-month-old two weeks ago. We would have far preferred to be seated in the back of the plane. Instead, American placed us on a bulkhead row with no under-seat storage, next to a “service” lap dog that nipped at my child and tried to eat her lunch.

  35. Travelers have had the experience of kids on a plane and unruly ones are not fun.

    Of course, neither is a drunken group of men.

    On a short hop in Southwest, we can all deal with it, but on a longer flight, it is tough and there is nowhere for you to go to escape the crying or screaming.

    Sometimes it is more about the parents who are free-to-be-you-and-me-tree-huggers and not the child and that adds to the stress level.

    I do think that it is unfair to all, even the kids, to fly a night flight and they could take another day to catch a day flight. They still may make noise, but it will not be as exasperating as a night one.

    I have always felt that families should be seated together and board first (SW) so that they do not get separated, and I have seen that several times, and when child-phobes get on, they know where to sit to be as far away as possible.

  36. I think a better question is whether somebody who either (a) can’t sleep on a noisy airplane; or (2) can’t deal with not getting sleep, belongs on a redeye.

  37. Since the article says “mom was a few rows back” i think this was a last minute travel emergency. (or they would have tried to be close together.) I think all the other passangers realized that this was not an ideal situation for the kids, and took pity. Should kids not be allowed on certian flights- yes. but untill that is an industry standard, we all need to show some compassion.

  38. Flight is for travel. Home/hotel room is for sleeping. I’m not condoning the behavior of the kids or their parents. Kids should be given a dose of benadryl or similar ‘calming’ medicine before any overnight flight. Talk to any pediatrician and he/she will not hesitate prescribing the amount for the kids. But those who expect more from flight should realize that they should have stayed at a hotel nearby and flown the next morning after a good night’s sleep. If we are creating limits, create limits for everything, why just kids. I have come across quite a few adults who snored their way on the international overnight flights. For those who don’t like to use earplug either for kids or snoring adults, it’s equally annoying. Don’t discount snoring, it can be as monotonous and troubling as the kids at times. If the kids need to be limited to certain seats, there should be a rule for
    1) those who snore on the overnight flights
    2) those who wear overbearing colognes
    3) those who forgot to use deodorants that evening before getting on the flight
    4) those who had beans or mexican food for dinner just before the flight
    5) those who brought fish as ‘to go’ on the flight
    6) those who spill over the handrest
    7) those who can’t leave their carry-ons alone for more than 15 minutes
    8) those who have to press their knees on the back of your seat because there isn’t enough leg space
    9) those who had more than a few drinks before the flight
    10) ….
    All those voted ‘no’ can fill in the blanks and take it further.

  39. It’s not clear if Dad and toddler paid extra for premium seats too. This scenario helps illustrate why marketing the same row of premium seats simultaneously towards passengers who want extra comfort and towards families who need to sit together with their small children might not be the greatest idea.

    BTW, my experience flying with my kids is like Chris’ — I find that red eye flights are the easiest for them to handle. The flights I worry about and generally try to keep my kids away from are of the early morning and late afternoon variety.

    I wonder if this family connected in SFO, with the kids’ sleeping schedules aligned to some far-away timezone.

  40. I don’t understand this point: “Unfortunately, crewmembers often must mediate passenger disputes
    like this, and they shouldn’t have to do that. The rules should be clear, and
    everyone should understand them.”

    The rules ARE clear. Children are allowed on red eyes.

  41. I cannot vote because the “kids” are NOT the issue…it’s the parents! My daughter loves nite flights…she makes sure her SEVEN children are busy and active all day , then she, her husband and the kids get a good nite’s rest, ready for “action” the next day!

  42. Everyone has the right to a reasonably peaceful flight experience.
    The bigger question is, if children should be allowed in business or first class and to make noise, where the airline has advertised to the passengers that they will ge rest/comfort/etc by paying a premium.
    We all know that kids are kids. However, the parenting standards differ a huge amount. Sometimes, a normally well behaved kid might be unruly or upset due to being sick or some other issue.
    However, it is these children that are ALWAYS bad that are the trouble.
    I’ve been on flights there there are dozens of children, yet it is usually two or three kids (mostly from the same family) that cause all of the problem. I’m sure few people have been on a flight where most of the kids were bad.
    do we ban all of the kids from a lot of flights, or just make sure the parents of the bad kids pay a price?
    something certainly should be done. I don’t have a problem with most kids, but it alway sseems there is a family that just doesn’t get it.

  43. Both sides had a sense of entitlement, that’s why the conflict happened. Mr. Businessman felt entitled to sleep on on red-eye and Mr. & Mrs. Overwhelmed Parents felt everyone has to tolerate their unruly kids since they do. Both parties were wrong and both need to realize that.

    I’ve been the tired businessman who wanted to sleep. In that case I give up my preferred aisle and take a window, or get a hotel and take an early AM flight. I find I’m not at the top of my game and usually pretty useless after a red eye anyway, so who’s kidding who?

    I’ve been the parent who taught his kids the proper way to behave in public, especially on an airplane. They’ve been flying since they were less than a year old and only had one outburst. (Our fault for letting our daughter sleep on descent, allowing the pressure to build in her ears.)

    Recently we got upgraded. They were a bit excited at the prospect, seated next to each other in the row ahead and started to get loud prior to takeoff. I took a moment to remind them that the upgrade could be quickly taken away and I’ll trade their seats to the people behind me. That worked.

    Last example, on a flight last week a mother and her little she-devil were seated ahead of me. The little girl kept kicking the seat ahead of her, which made the guy seated ahead of her turn around a few times with a less than sincere apology from the mother. When we landed he said to the mother that when he misbehaved like that, he got stuck with a hatpin by his grandmother until he settled down. Too bad TSA would probably take issue with a hatpin.

  44. I’ve experienced being stepped on repeatedly by parents walking their babies up and down the aisle and standing near the bathrooms, having my seat kicked, losing my hearing sitting next to a screaming child, etc. However, I voted “yes.” You take public transportation, you take your chances. OP should not have assumed everyone around him would cooperate with his desires. I do think that the flight attendant should have stopped the parents from handing children back and forth over the heads of other passengers – it’s not safe for all concerned.

    1. I think the key issue here is it IS a red-eye flight, where the lights are low, and it is expected most are sleeping or resting. So this constant running to mommy, or passing kids back and forth is just ridiculous. Teach the kids to respect “bedtime” and let them know it is rude to disturb the other travellers – my parents always explained those things to my sister and I, and that’s why we always heard comments from people about how well-behaved and charming we were. It’s really not that difficult, parents.

  45. I do feel there should be a kids section (families) and an adults-only on long or overnight flights. Seems I ALWAYS get the little “darling” with the clueless parent who decides kicking my seat for 8 hours is his goal in life – why should I have to suffer because their parents don’t know how to keep them entertained and well-behaved.!

  46. I fly out of SEA and when I fly home to visit my family, I take the red eye. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to nap on the first leg (which gets me into an East Coast major hub) for the most part but on the odd occasion I can’t thanks to noisy cabin mates (kids or otherwise) I chalk it up to bad luck,. (Second leg is a commuter jet short flight and no time for a nap)

    Mr. Lawrence would have been better served after the first or second time the toddler started doing his merry-go-seats to see Mom if he could switch seats with the kid. Yeah, it would have sucked to go from an aisle seat to a window seat but at least he wouldn’t have been disturbed and could have gotten a couple of hours of sleep.

  47. The problem isn’t the kids, it’s the parents who don’t discipline their kids or bring things along for them to do, or to help with the cabin pressure changes. I fly out on late sunday night flights for work for the week, and I’ve had chatty adults talking non stop in a loud voice prevent me from trying to sleep. I like the idea of a quiet section, but these days it’s hard enough to book a seat on a plane. We’ll probably be charged extra for sitting in a quiet area and would that be with extra leg room or without? I like the idea of kids and families in a separate section – like the back of the plane. I’ve had very small kids sitting near me in first class to that can’t be quiet. Should kids be allowed in first class? With what people pay for first class my vote is no.

  48. This is an airplane, not a luxury suite. If you can’t afford first class, neither should you expect a young family be asked to yield to your inconvenience.

  49. Sure, lets enact no kids on overnight flights. Of course you then prevent children from flying to a wide variety of places; especially since many overseas trips are done overnight. Maybe we should also prevent kids doing anything except going to school and staying at home. Then nobody has to deal with them. I’m sorry the op had a tough night, but tough. Recently spent a trip from Istanbul to Nairobi on an overnight flight. Must have been at least 30 infants and young children who refused to coordinate their crying and quiet times. That includes the one next to me. I survived the trip, surely the OP survived his, after all he did sent the email.

  50. I always find it interesting how being openly anti-kid, to the point of wanting to exclude them from public places solely on the grounds that you don’t want them around, is viewed as such an acceptable position. Substitute blacks, Jews, the disabled, the elderly, midgets, or pretty much any other group in the title of this post, and you’d get a very different reaction.

    When you take public transportation, you have to deal with the public. That includes the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, and yes, children. Don’t like it? Fine, there are private planes.

    Yes, some parents are obnoxiously indifferent to the misbehavior of their kids. The crew should be empowered to deal with this. And for egregious cases, there can be a warning system where multiple incidents of disruptive behavior can get you grounded. (Such a system could also be used for some adults, who I’ve seen behave far worse than any child on planes).

  51. Bad parents and kids running wild bug me as badly as anybody, but strictly going off the details in this letter, I’m not ready to say the parents did much wrong. The OP blames the parents and other passengers for “indulging” the kids. No way of knowing for sure what that means. Expecting the kids to never go back and see mommy isn’t a realistic expectation. And if the parents were complete fools and the kids completely out-of-control, it’s not likely other passengers would have labeled him the bad guy for complaining. Toddlers are in a stage where non-parents think reason should work with them, but that absolutely isn’t the case.

    If his first and only plan was getting lots of sleep on a red eye, he had a really poor plan to begin with. If this family hadn’t been present, he probably would have ended up griping about the adult who had the window seat that needed to use the lavatory multiple times during the flight.

  52. This reminds me of a flight a few years ago. There was this kid about five rows in front of me, opposite side, isle seat. This kid was bawling his head off. At first, I felt sorry for him because I thought he was scared. But as the flight went on, I began to realize that he wasn’t scared, he just didn’t want to sit down. So we’re getting ready to land and the instant the seatbelt goes on this kid, he starts screaming his head off. Eventually, his mom undid his seatbelt and let him STAND on the seat during landing.

    The FA’s, by this time, were in their own seats for landing, and didn’t see any of this. You know what happens next. When the plane touches down, this little snot nose goes flying, ending up in the isle. I don’t know if he was hurt, but either way, I didn’t feel a thing. But I did make sure to tell the FA’s what happened and give them my contact info so I could refute whatever story the mother made up when she sued the airline. I never heard from the airline, so I guess mommy never filed a lawsuit.

  53. The problem is that parents today are parents in name only. They give their kids a “time out” when they’re bad. Well, when I was a kid, my dad would take “time out” of his busy day to whup my a**.

  54. Do black people belong on overnight flights?
    Do Mexicans belong on overnight flights?
    Do children belong on overnight flights?

    Why is only one of these statements acceptable when NONE of then should? Children are people too mister fancy pants business man. We all were kids too at one point, and at more than one point we all were shitty acting kids. People have to take their kids places too.

  55. Gosh. I have been on overnight flights where a full-grown adult kept me up all night – getting up to go to the bathroom, annoyingly trying to make small talk at 2 am, singing along (softly, but next to me!) to his ipod, fidgeting, pulling out a laptop and typing (clickety-clickety-click)…. made me wish I’d not lost my earplugs somewhere in my carryon, believe me I looked for them! My point being that it’s never safe to assume you’ll be able to get some sleep on any form of public transportation.

  56. Good evening folks,
    I’m the Lawrence in the article. I thank many of you for posting fine notes and for earnest debate. For some, I think some additional info might help you understand what occurred on the flight.

    For those of you who have not written to Mr. Elliott and found yourself the center of a story, you must understand how he cant write three pages of description. So, a lot of detail is left out of the article.

    Eventually, I wound up sitting in the mother’s middle seat, next to the father. I got an hour or so of sleep, and had a fine conversation with the father (I hope the family had a great vacation in Maine).

    Some asked why I didn’t take a window. I’ve got three reasons: (1) My prostate. If you are an older male, you understand. (2) These days the airlines hold many seats back. When we business travelers make our reservations, often there are a limited choice of seats. My flight showed only middle seats left. Because I actually wanted to be able to hit the restroom myself or be polite to others and not force them to get up, I paid for the extra leg-room seat, mainly for restroom access. (3) No one wants a middle seat, and most of you don’t either.

    Some asked why I didn’t change seats. (A) IT was a totally full flight. (B) Tell me, would you have volunteered to change seats to sit next to screaming kids? If you say yes, I find it hard to believe you. You would rather sleep. Really admit it.

    Also not made clear in the article was how I had to stand for quite a while. You would be irritated too if you had to stand on a red-eye.

    Finally, I hope you’ll believe me when I say how I don’t hate kids. I am writing this from the Tampa airport. My flight to Tampa on Monday was filled with crying kids, all heading to wonderful Florida with their parents. I sat next to a Delta flight attendant [who was flying on a JetBlue flight] who was holding her toddler the whole way. Yes, the kid cried, but there was no problem as mom and I talked and both tried to entertain her child. Also, the JetBLue flight crew was helpful all around.

    Thanks for listening.

    1. There are a variety of reasons why people chose an aisle seat, yours is no worse than anyone else’s (in fact it’s better since you were trying to avoid having anyone else get up for your problem). No matter what the time of the flight, kids screaming for hours is no fun.

  57. They can be on an overnight flight, but in first class with their parents, where we belong, leaving the complainers to languish where they belong, in coach. Anyone who needs to be at their best the the next day doesn’t take a red eye from coast to coast. You really think that you can be at your best after 4 hours of sleep – which is what you get by the time you’ve settled in and eat then the meal if you are in first class? The only chance you get of a decent night’s sleep is when you fly 10 hours or more. Fly during the day and get some work done, and enjoy going to bed three hours earlier.. Many airlines even allow you to stay connected with inflight internet these days.

    1. You seriously don’t mind being next to a screaming child for hours on end? I find that hard to believe, no matter what the time of the flight. There is a limit to tolerable public behavior.

      1. Yes I do, however as a parent myself I have a little more understanding. Having said that, I have heard babies crying with the parents appearing to make no effort to calm them down, and that puzzles me when I see that happen.

  58. Two examples. First, my daughter, then 2 y.o., 10-hour flight JFK-Moscow. When the plane landed, we put her up on the seat… and the passengers behind her were amazed to find out that a small child was in front of them all that time. Second, our friends, same flight, two twins, same age. Screamed half the flight. Parents did all they could. I can clearly see the exasperated father asking an equally exasperated neighbor, “What do you want me to do?”
    Ban kids? But how are they supposed to see their grandparents, who are sick and can’t stand long flights (visa issues aside)?
    Put all kids in the same section of the plane? Right. One finicky baby will wake the remaining 15. Do you really want that? REALLY?
    A seat in coach inherently bears the risk of being exposed to this sort of situation. It’s nobody’s fault. Get ear plugs. Don’t plan on working after a red-eye. Pay someone to change seats. In the case of the OP, he should’ve just changed seats with the mom. Maybe the airline would’ve reimbursed him for the premium seat; maybe he would’ve gotten a voucher; maybe — just a few more hours of sleep. Confronting the father wasn’t productive at all.

  59. As my ex-lover used to say (he was a travel agent) to clients: “Do you want to sit in First Class or with children?”. It never ceases to amaze me how the majority of children of the last 20 years are spoiled and without manners. The majority of the people of my age (62) grew up with manners and common sense. Now those who didn’t are having (or have had) kids themselves and all hell breaks loose if I dare to suggest that little Timmy or little Susie are misbehaving. Spare the rod and spoil the child is certainly true. It’s way past time for parents to be responsible for thier offspring. And if that means they all have to stay home or drive in their own car instead of ruining the flight for everyone else on board, so be it. I can take only so many valium to deal with your brats.

  60. I have a toddler and have taken many international overnight flights with her as a baby and as a toddler. Flying with her always gives me a lot of anxiety. I prepare for every situation. I even prepare to bribe her. Bribing a child is not my parenting style but I understand that in certain situations it has to happen for the sake of the other people without children. All of the flights have gone well except for one. My daughter was crying the entire flight. I tried everything. Milk, bouncing, cartoons, blankets, etc. I did not know what was causing the freak out and I felt everyone was watching and judging. Blaming my parenting, etc. At one point I took my daughter into the bathroom and cried because I felt so bad for disturbing everyone. When I came out the flight attendant gave me the best advise. She said that if the people want to judge me they will have to get over it. She said that this was a public airbus and they booked their ticket knowing there would be all kinds of people on the flight including kids. She said that if they had a problem with children on a flight than they should have booked a private charter. After the flight my daughter slept and slept. Then she started to wheeze. What I found out is that my daughter had the beginnings of pneumonia and that was the reason for all of the crying. So be careful when you are quick to judge someone. Also remember that life just doesn’t revolve around you and have some empathy for others. Because at some point in your life you may be asking someone to have empathy for you.

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