On a recent trip from Mumbai, India to Cochin, India our daughter had a complete meltdown. Despite the fact that she is well-traveled, and has flown trans-Atlantic over two dozen times in her short little 15 month life, just like the rest of us she sometimes can get travel weary. The flight, at only an hour and a half in the air, we thought would be a piece of cake compared to some of the 24 hour beasts we’ve tackled with baby.
But this one was different- when they boarded the plane she had been happily playing in a tots’ play yard near the boarding gate. We interrupted her fun time to stick her in an enclosed space, plus it was close to nap time. I wasn’t overly worried, knowing the plane would soon take off, the humming of the engines helping me to lull her to sleep in my lap. Perfect timing actually!
But, we sat, and sat, and sat, and sat on the plane, which was barely half full. And Veda wasn’t having it. She began screaming and crying, and no amount of distraction or boob offerings could stop her protests. Finally after half an hour of sitting on the plane, a flight attendant informed us that the pilot hadn’t arrived yet, causing the delay. In fact, the pilot was still in the air flying another plane. Why in the world would they board a flight, knowing the pilot is still in the air, flying another plane?
For another very long half an hour, I endured my toddler’s screams, super pissed off that we weren’t still watching her smile and laugh in the open space of the play yard in the terminal. Couldn’t they have boarded the plane once the pilot was grounded, at least? They only had about 20 passengers to board! I also felt bad for the other passengers, knowing how horrible it was to hear a young toddler uncontrollably screaming, and then of course the dirty looks and judgment begins, as if we are horrible parents, as if it’s the first time I’ve traveled with a child, or at all, and have no clue what I am doing.
The most annoying part was when a flight attendant brought over two packets of sugar and asked my husband if we would “please feed our child.” You want me to give her sugar? You think that’s going to stop this tantrum? You think I am starving my child? Do you even have children to be making such ridiculous requests? If you did, you would know that children sometimes lose it when they’re made to sit in a contained space for an hour, not going anywhere.
Finally, after an hour of the worst flight experience with my daughter yet, the pilot arrived and started the plane. Before the wheels were even up, Veda was finally passed out, lulled to sleep so quickly by the hum of the engine I had been expecting much more quickly when we boarded that plane. I stared at her little face, streaked with tears, and listened to her pathetic whimpering and gulps for air even after sleep had taken her.
Then today I read this article about a family booted off a JetBlue plane when their two year old couldn’t be calmed. The pilot made the decision to turn the plane around and kick the family off who had been trying everything possible to calm their fed-up toddler, claiming it was for “safety reasons.” They couldn’t get a flight back home that night, so spent another $2,000 on accommodation and new travel arrangements for the next day. Does the pilot realize that the child probably would have calmed once the plane was in the air?
I know how annoying a screaming child can be in a contained space, but give the little ones a break! We’re all exhausted from travel- a toddler is just very outwardly expressing what we all feel when we’re made to sit and wait, stand in lines, etc. It too will pass, JetBlue. You shall be on my blacklist.