I’ve long been jealous of the strange flying experiences that seem to seek out Lucky. Very little strange seems to happen to me in my travels, and I finally had a bit of contrast this weekend to reflect on why that is.
- I fly mostly at peak business travel times. The planes are filled largely with very frequent flyers, business travelers who know the drill.
- I avoid flying at peak holiday times, the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving or the Sunday after for instance, “Amateur Day” as it were. (At least domestically.. I’ll go away on major holidays but usually flying long haul.)
- When I go somewhere for the weekend, I’m flying to interesting places when all of the interesting people are leaving those interesting places.
Mileage running, or arranging travel without the constraints of a full time job, allows for seeking out off peak times with the lowest fares or low demand times for confirming upgrades. Those are the sorts of flights with infrequent flyers and the most price sensitive flyers, and I also suspect they’re the flights that offer the most antics.
As part of my question for American Executive Platinum status while at the same time getting myself more than half way towards re-qualifying for the status all during the month of January — thanks to Double Elite Qualifying Miles and the Oneworld Mega DO — I did two roundtrips to the West Coast this weekend. And finally got a little bit of interesting passenger action.
Flying out on Friday there was little out of the ordinary. Loving American’s inflight wireless internet, something I didn’t have on Star Alliance carriers in the U.S. generally. Although I miss the consistent seat power, especially with my underpowered laptop that I recently wrote about figuring out a replacement for. I’ve even gotten consistent pre-departure beverages which is a real departure from my earlier American flights. So far, so good.
Heading back East on Saturday morning I was followed through the security checkpoint by Billy Crystal and his slick looking handler. Everyone was being sent through the nude-o-scope (I opted out). Everyone, that is, except Billy Crystal. He was sent just through the
x-ray machinemetal detector. It does pay to be special in LA — even at the TSA checkpoint — something Britney Spears learned years ago.
Next stop was American’s Admiral’s Club which had a line to get in about a dozen people deep. Billy Crystal came in behind me, noted that he wasn’t getting much special assistance, and his handler explained that American does offer Concierge Key status but that he didn’t know how to obtain it. Literally no seats open in the club.
Over the weekend I made an In ‘N Out run with Tommy Danielsen who happened to also be at the Sheraton Gateway LAX (the best true airport hotel there, though the nearby Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey is of course a better property, the Sheraton shares a shuttle with the Radisson next door, has comfortable and clean rooms and free bottled water, internet seems to be free for Golds as well as Platinums and there’s a Starbucks in the lobby that sadly always seems to open about 5 or 10 minutes past the designated 5:30am start time).
Where the werewolves and other such creatures seem to come out is on Saturday flights, and I rarely take Saturday flights. On the first leg there were three kids in the cabin, the oldest couldn’t have been more than three. One cried quite a bit, the other two yelled and shrieked on occasion.
I wasn’t ready to re-start the “babies on a plane” discussion, though, until the next flight where a family with two kids in First didn’t do much to keep the kids quiet and they cried, wailed, and screamed for the entire five and a half hours. On an evening flight, though at least it wasn’t a redeye.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, and I believe that the key is courtesy. I want to acknowledge up front that parents have a right to fly. And that I have no issue or qualms with kids per se, it’s only screaming kids and their parents who don’t seem to prepare for the trip or do much to relieve the tensions of the situation.
And I am also explicitly not making the case that babies shouldn’t be permitted up front. Because screaming babies in coach are just as much of a problem for coach passengers, and screaming babies at the front of coach are just as much of a problem for first class passengers as well.
I do, however, think some principles ought to apply:
- Take a baby that is likely to cry only on those trips that are absolutely necessary
- When considering what trips to take, go for shorter ones rather than longer ones
- Consider driving on those shorter trips instead of flying
- Avoid those flights where other passengers are most likely to be trying to sleep, it may be more convenient for a parent to take a kid on the flight where they think the kid will be tired and sleep but the cost of guessing wrong is huge for everyone else. A tired kid who won’t sleep is even worse..
Sometimes flying, and flying long distances, will be unavoidable with kids. For those times preparation is key. And so is inflight courtesy, I’ve seen too many parents on planes simply seem to decide that there’s nothing they can do and aren’t going to bother tending to their child.
The parents need to do whatever they can to quiet the screaming child. It’s all well and good to say that (1) they have as much right to fly as anyone else, and (2) there’s not a lot they can do when the small child cries but at the same time it’s worth remembering that the one individual’s ‘right’ is impinging on everyone else’s rights on the plane, and therefore extraordinary efforts need to be taken to minimize the disturbance for others, keeping kids calm and quiet for the benefit of everyone else. And if that fails, at least consider apologizing to seatmates and neighbors. Being nice will go a long way toward reducing tensions of the situation.
Perhaps I’m just spoiled because midweek flights between 7 and 9 am or 5 and 7 pm just don’t usually seem to have that many kids. Especially like the one who came into the first class cabin from coach and walked into my row to start playing with the iPad of the person sitting next me! Literally a child who had had no previous contact with anyone up front just walked up, walked into the row and started touching the iPad screen. They decided the moving that was playing wasn’t for them, they started looking for games, found Angry Birds, and started playing. Eventually the mother came up, just sort of stood there, asked the perhaps three year old to stop but they wouldn’t. They just kept playing. The mother didn’t engage or apologize. When a flight attendant told them that they needed to leave the first class cabin, the mother went back to her seat and got her iPhone to draw the kid away (“Look! Shiny things!”). That worked. For a little while…. because the kid came back and did it again. No apology forthcoming from the mother at all.