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Plane and simple
by Asa Butcher
2008-07-11 08:53:11
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Recently there was a news story about a two-year-old autistic boy and his mother being removed from a flight scheduled to take-off from a North Carolina airport because, according to the mother, her son was screaming uncontrollably, while the airline American Eagle claimed it was because the mother kept her carry-on bag on the floor in front of her seat. Whether you want to believe the mother or the airline will probably depend upon whether you have ever travelled with a child, let alone one with autism.

After reading the news story I began to browse through some of the comments and was bemused by the apparent division of two groups of opinion: one sided with the mother and the other with the airline. Those defending the mother's and child's actions often focused on the child's disorder, while those who believed the flight crew was right to remove the pair from the plane concentrated on the unruly toddler's crying disturbing other passengers.

Whether the child was suffering from a disease, disorder or illness is beside the point because the flight crew discriminated against the child on the grounds that it was crying; they did know about the child's disorder. I can't believe that this was the first time that this flight crew ever had to deal with a child in meltdown and it is incredible to think that they didn't know how to deal with the situation. According to the mother, the flight attendant kept coming over and tightening the seatbelt, reprimanding him and yelling at him. Now, how would you deal with that if a flight attendant did that to you, not a child?

Children and babies have never been the most desired flying companions, but they have the right to fly just as we all do. I travelled for many years on aeroplanes before my daughter was born and have experienced the discomfort of travelling with a crying baby or toddler in the midst of a mid-air tantrum, but I can confidently say that it actually the adult passengers that cause more irritation. I have sat beside, between and behind passengers who have no concept of personal hygiene, moderated alcohol consumption or limb control.

Child passengers, when compared to some adults, are perfect travel companions yet children are painted with the troublesome brush. If a baby is sat in the window seat it doesn't bother you when it needs the toilet, a baby doesn't have music escaping from its headphones, a baby doesn't set up a mobile office on the dropdown tray, a baby doesn't fiddle with the air vents, a baby doesn't try to read your book over your shoulder and a baby doesn't try to steal your armrest.

The first time I actually travelled with my daughter she was three months old and it was one of the most stressful journeys I've ever undertaken. She isn't autistic, she doesn't suffer from any disorder, she was just a baby and my wife and I had no idea of how she would respond to the experience. The outward journey was perfect, she breastfed on take-off and slept on landing, but the return journey was a little tougher.

If one minute of your baby crying at 3am feels like five minutes, the one minute of your baby crying during a flight will age you in years. As a parent you are desperately trying to calm the baby down using all means at your disposal, sometimes those 'means' are kept in your travel bag, and you are the one the most stressed by the baby's distress. Listening to other passengers tutting, sighing, clucking and muttering doesn't help at all - I must admit we once let our daughter kick the back of one tutting gentleman's chair on purpose… parental stress relief!

Once the baby turns two-years-old and you are forced by the airline to pay for a full-priced seat then other passengers can quite simply shut up. If airlines don't want the possibility of a crying baby or troublesome child then they shouldn't sell tickets to them. If other passengers can't handle a crying baby then they should buy ear plugs from the Departures Lounge shops. Children, like adults, are free to fly regardless of any disorder and everybody should remember that the next time they think of clucking their tongue at a helpless parent on landing or take-off - you try explaining to a baby why its ears are in pain due to the change in pressure.

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Thanos2008-07-11 11:13:01
This story made me angry as well and I fully agree with you, there are some passengers which behavior is unbelievable.
Apart of that the crew should be trained to deal with cases like that and not just kick mother and child out.

Richard2008-07-11 19:37:16
I remember a time flying to London with my two kids, and hearing the people behind me say "I came away to get away from my kids , and I get two sitting in front of me" so I part my plan into action, just to make his flight , that little bit better. I told my kids (I know bad dad :-) ) that the bloke behind wants to talk to you, and as I know they would they asked him question after question , banging the seats as they moved around, it was great and gave me the time to sit and read my newspaper.

Jack2008-07-12 06:07:34
I totally agree. This is outrageous. As a parent and grandparent, I find this discrimination against babies being...well, just babies. The change in ear pressure, fear of the noise and large swarms of people, I have even heard an adult or two cry when we have some severe turbulance in flights.

It is sad too the way many people look at parents and caregivers when trying to control a 2 year old or a fussing infanct. The look is almost like "this is your fault!...shut that baby up!". Children have long been under-reported victims of discrimination. This is just another example. They have no fewer rights than adults (save driving or paying taxes...).

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