When European airliner Ryanair announced on April 1 that it was going to offer kid-free flights, many people didn't know whether it was an April Fools' Day joke or a real option.
For a minute I thought someone was suggesting that kids fly free, which sounded like a great marketing strategy. Living in L.A. with family back East and in Europe, my family of four finds ourselves on long cross-country (and sometimes international) flights at least once a year.
But in Ryanair's case, kid free actually meant no kids allowed. No fooling. “When it comes to children we all love our own, but would clearly prefer to avoid other people’s little monsters when traveling,” Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said in a press release.
This idea confirms the attitude that I often feel from others when traveling with my kids.
Don’t forget that as a family of four, we have paid thousands of dollars for our seats, four times what the lone “inconvenienced” traveler seated near us paid, yet still we are scorned.
Look, I know we’re loud. Sometimes our kids scream when the air pressure hurts their ears, or when we tell them they can’t have any more blue potato chips. And toddlers do think “peek-a-boo” over the seat is a huge thrill (over and over again…for hours.)
The seat back is a lot of fun to kick, because when you’re little, you want to move. But really, a kid-less flight? Do we deserve that? We’re on our way to see grandma and grandpa.
How about instead of banning kids, introduce an airline that bans loud obnoxious people? Or what about the windbag pontificators that are three seats in front of you who believe that their opinion about the situation in Libya needs to be heard by passengers on the entire plane? Or let’s simply ban the folks who can’t take a hint, and insist on trying to make small talk from takeoff to landing when it is clear that you are reading or would prefer to be. Or how about people who pound mini vodka bottles and, then inebriated, start to sing Barry White? What about those who haven’t bathed or wear too much cologne or perfume? Even Chanel No. 5 can be overpowering on a cross-country flight. What about overweight people who need to put up your armrests in order to fit their full sized bottoms in the seat? Don’t even get me started about those pesky senior citizens who hold up the line and always needing extra help while stuffing their luggage in the overhead bin.
I jest, but really because I’ve experienced traveling from all points of view. I’ve been the single gal and the business traveler whose seat has been kicked from NYC to L.A. And it’s true, it’s not the greatest experience. I’ve been the harried mother of an infant and a toddler who cried and tormented each other, and me, across the country. Not my fondest memory. I've been the mom on the red eye all night long with my angelic sleeping child only to be across the aisle from someone else’s colicky baby (poetic justice). I’ve been the mom flying solo watching another mom try to wrangle her unruly brood. And you know what? In those moments when I watch her struggle, and the kids flail, I don’t think, “Wow, I sure wish they were not allowed on this plane.” Instead, I think, “I’ve been there. How can I help?” Even if you haven’t experienced being a parent traveling with a small child, a little compassion would go a long way.
A lot of compassion for families may even make us chose your airline. Maybe that’s the better idea: a family-only airline that plays Tom and Jerry videos for four hours straight. Or how about a clown to entertain the kids for 45 minutes or a magician? I’d pay extra for that. Crayons and goldfish crackers could be passed out while the kids all take turns having seat kicking contests!
As long as the airline could provide enough mini vodka bottles for mom and dad to consume on such a flight, I think my idea might fill a lot of planes, keep us all traveling happily, and enable us to continue perpetuating the human race.
To me, the idea of a kid-free flight goes in exactly the wrong direction.
LA Mom Blogger Lee Rose Emery shares her adventures as a mom in the car pool lane at LACityMom.com. She is a weekly guest columnist for Hollywood Patch.