BABY ON BOARD

By Alix Barré

What’s one of the worst nightmares of frequent travellers? Something as simple as the cry of a sweet, innocent child might just do the trick.  If you have ever been stuck on a plane full of crying babies on long distance flights, you will probably understand what I mean. It seems I am always surrounded by several babies when travelling – crying babies. It can easily turn into the trip from hell, especially if you’re travelling over long distances. Before you start screaming “oh, discrimination!” this will not be a post bashing babies and being intolerant towards families, but rather a post explaining how it could be nice to have solutions to what I consider a genuine problem.

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The first time I experienced my first flight of hell was on an 11- hour flight after already an 8-hour flight. One row in front of me to my left there was a baby and in front of me there was a 2 year old. They combined forces throughout the entire flight crying one after the other and sometimes at the same time, but not one moment there was silence. I pushed my earplugs so far into my ears they were touching my brain, but it barely helped. The parents in front of me that were ignoring their child and watching movies especially displeased me, the little girl was obviously also bored and turned around dropping stuff on my father’s table. Giving them back to her parents did not make them nudge one bit, they continued watching their movies without any care for anyone else. In most cases it is the attitude of the parents that gets on my nerves more than the cries. I have seen so many parents that do not care at all about the passengers around them. Sometimes an act of kindness or even just showing you care can make the situation more bearable and all the difference. For example these awesome parents that gave a note and candy to passengers explaining it was the first flight for their twin babies and apologising in advance in case they cried. They also offered to give earplugs and in the end the babies didn’t even cry. I’m not saying that you should apologise for having  children and  travelling with them, but at least take care of them and don’t be rude to the other passengers.

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Scoot Airlines, the budget subsidiary for Singapore Airlines, created some seats in a children free area for an extra fee. Other Asian companies have begun providing this service for passengers: in 2012, AirAsia X began a similar service in their premium economy cabin, as well as Malaysian Airlines, who has this for the upper-deck economy cabin of the A380 jumbo jet which is used for long-haul routes. The BBC Travel Blog wrote an article wondering if these initiatives would become global, but it is unlikely. The founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, George Hobica, said: “I don’t think that we’ll ever see child-free zones on US carriers, any more than we’ll see the return of smoking zones. In the politically correct United States, it would be considered discriminatory to exclude passengers with kids from certain cabin sections.” This is a kind of thinking I simply do not understand. Honestly, what is wrong in providing a space where kids are put together and can also play together and then not disrupt the travels of others? I see it as a plus for families and people without families.

The fast trains in France were considering creating special wagons for families. Some were created on select destinations and for distinct periods. For example, for the winter holidays, they will be available. In these wagons activities are available for children, such as drawings and creative workshops. The outcome has been positive. Children enjoy themselves and no longer ask all the time the famous sentence: are we there yet? From my point of view parents benefit, children highly benefit and frequent travellers as well. I was once on the train and a mother alone with two children asked me if I could watch one of her kids while she took the other to the bathroom, I had no problem with helping her but the kid had been hectic and running around. I asked myself what if she starts running around and falls? I am not a mother and it is not a responsibility I like to take on. When you are with other parents you can be sure that at least you’re leaving them in good hands. My little cousin of 7 absolutely loves it when other kids are close to him because they can play games together on the Nintendo DS. A family wagon is an amazing solution and one I feel could be more permanent than simply during school holidays and only on selected lines.

The complaint of screaming children on planes is also ranked high along with unpredictable delays a survey of 2000 travellers reveals. I don’t think it is unreasonable to want to travel without hearing the cries of a baby for hours long. A long distance flight can already be hell enough especially considering they stack you up like sardines in economy, but that’s a complaint for another day.


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