Flying with babies and kids while smiling

Traveling with babies, toddlers, and even kids can be tough, but I have learned to smile, smile, smile. After nearly a million miles flown under my belt, I became a mom flying with a baby. I was no longer a frequent business traveler in first class. Suddenly those perfectly warm smiles and greetings from the flight attendants became a rare thing.  I was ignored at best, or worse, harassed. “Please remove your sleeping baby from that sling before take off” or “Is your car seat FAA approved? Let me see the proof on the label underneath, even though you just installed it and put your sleeping baby in it.” That kind of outrageous nonsense.

There are have been many stories about confrontations between flight attendants and moms that get sensationalized in the media. But I began to wonder: Could that really happen to me and my baby? Get kicked off a plane by a flight attendant because I didn’t want to wake my baby by pulling her out of her carrier?

Then I realized it was me and not them. Without my awareness, I was no longer boarding the plane as a business customer and looking at flight attendants in eye, smiling, and giving them a greeting. I boarded each plane harried, exasperated, sleep-deprived. I gave off bad energy. I was making myself a target. I was being profiled as the least desirable type of passenger: the bitchy looking mom with a crying baby.

I assessed the situation and wondered if I could get those toothy greetings from the flight crew if I worked for it. I did. After you have broken down your stroller at the end of the gateway and you feel like your arms will fall off from lugging your family’s personal belongings, stop. Take a deep, cleansing breath. Smile. Board the plane and make eye contact with both flight attendants. Give some sort of greeting and ask them how they are today. Acknowledge that you are entering their turf and surrounding to their authority for the safety and comfort of passengers, including you and your family.

When the flight attendants are standing in the aisles demonstrating safety procedures, respectfully watch (as best you can) and encourage your kids to listen. Make eye contact and smile as much as you can as they inspect each row before takeoff. Once I brought this back into my flying ritual, I got platinum level service for me and my family for many years straight.

Then recently, with our second, I had one of those situations where my toddler was sleeping on my lap and we had started to descend. I could tell that this was a descent that might bother his ears, so I wanted him asleep as long as possible. The flight attendant informed me that I would need to put him back into his seat for landing. I nodded, but we still had a good 20 minutes in the air, and I wanted to transfer him at the last possible minute. She came back and used a stern, scolding voice with me that was loaded with so much anger. I welled up with a few tears like a little girl. I took a deep breath and sincerely apologized, “I am sorry. I am not trying to be disrespectful, but I am concerned about the other passengers because my son will cry, and I am struggling to balance this for everyone’s comfort.”

My honesty and respect wasn’t what she expected. She even apologized, “I’m sorry if I seemed rude earlier.”

Every flight attendant has encountered some terrible parents in their flying time, it is obvious. Don’t be that parent that sets them off after surprising frustration of many previous experiences. Let them know you are not that parent. Smile. Show respect.

We wish you a pleasant flight!


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