Spontaneous Circle of Women Calm Hysterical Mother and Son at LAX

Beth Bornstein Dunnington was flying from Los Angeles to Portland on Friday. Waiting for her flight at LAX, a toddler was melting down at a nearby gate.

A toddler who looked to be eighteen or so months old was having a total meltdown, running between the seats, kicking and screaming, then lying on the ground, refusing to board the plane

The boy’s pregnant mother melted down, too. She “couldn’t pick him up because he was so upset” as the boy ran away from her, laid down on the floor of the terminal, kicked and screamed. She “put her head in her hands” as she sat down on the floor too. She cried.

Then six or seven women from other gates knelt down in a circle around them. And they all combined to help the woman and her son.

I sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to the little boy… one woman had an orange that she peeled, one woman had a little toy in her bag that she let the toddler play with, another woman gave the mom a bottle of water. Someone else helped the mom get the kid’s sippy cup out of her bag and give it to him.

American Airlines Terminal 4 LAX

These were women who didn’t know each other, they didn’t speak to each other, but they all helped and the mother and her son went off and boarded the plane without further difficulty. The women then all dissipated, returning to their gates, never talking about what just happened and instead going their separate ways. We don’t know what airline they were flying, Alaska, Delta, American and Southwest all operate Los Angeles – Portland.

Ms. Dunnington observed on Facebook that “we were strangers, gathering to solve something. …I will never forget that moment.” And we all need feel good stories about travel, sometimes, I think.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A nice story and a nice break from the more frequent air travel horror stories one hears and reads about.

  2. Please Gary, you don’t have to write an article for every event that happens in a plane or in an airport. How is this newsworthy or relevant to your blog? Please stick to what you do best, because you do it very well.

  3. Moms. They raise their kids the best they can into a world polluted with war and bullying by men. This is another reason why women should rule the world, because war will be banished, petty egoism and bullying like has ended the US reputation in the world world go away and the focus would be where it should be – on a prosperous society that leaves no one behind.

    Instead we get hideously fat bloated bullies that no woman would ever get close to (even the paid one) because they’re so singularly repulsive and grotesque in all ways. This is who men and their sub wives put into power to finish off the great USA, when they could have instead had the most qualified President in our history, a woman and nurturer. And they wanted to make sure that women got the message of what the 700 pound bullies would do to them if they tried to lead, so these most grotesque thugs on earth colluded with an enemy country to hack and trash her with lies like that she ran a child prostitution ring out of a DC Pizza parlor.

    This is who your men in power are American, the most hideously bloated bullies on earth, people who any modern fit person would sneer at on the street. And they know it, which is why they’re having their revenge by taking us all down to the tub of putrid lard they waddle in.

  4. It will never cease to amaze me that people who comment on this blog (and other blogs), and who are freely and willingly reading this blog that Gary uses as a vehicle to write and cover whatever he wishes to discuss (because, after all, it’s *his* blog), then have the gall and nerve to tell him what he should and should not write.

  5. Nice story. Can’t help but think: what if they were going to a funeral? You know, what if a grandparent had died and they were utterly grief-stricken.

    The kindness of strangers. Pass it on.

  6. So what happened after they board? Another circle of kind strangers jumps into action the moment the child melts down again? The women at the gate is a nice story but more like a cautionary tale. Parents need to be well prepared when flying with young children—simple things like having their drinks and snacks handy in a diaper bag without need for a stranger to fish it out for them.

  7. To Chancer, You obviously have never traveled by yourself with a child. Stop judging and have some compassion. It makes someone else feel good and makes you feel equally good.

  8. Was coming into the comments to see if someone would mention Trump and I was NOT disappointed.

  9. Thank you for publicizing this wonderful story. Made my day … (Ignore the naysayers.)

  10. @ Gigi – I have plenty of compassion—for the child whose mother obviously shouldn’t be flying solo with her infant. When she gives birth to yet another kid she can’t handle, hopefully she has another adult to accompany her on their flights, unless you think that circles of kind mothers always spontaneously appear to comfort distraught children.

  11. Gary,

    Thanks for this heartwarming story of strangers coming together. I appreciate that you found space for this story despite having a readership mostly focused on travel knowledge and expert opportunities. I have traveled widely, deeply, and greatly for many years and the experience can be dehumanizing. Surprisingly, it has been the unexpected kindness of strangers that has humbled me and provided the most lasting memories.

  12. Thanks for sharing this story. I am a pretty seasoned and organized traveler both before and after kids. 10 years ago I remember being pregnant and flying by myself with a two year old and I’ve not forgotten the kindness of strangers – men and women – who helped me out that trip. Nor the woman a few years later who looked after my wandering 18 month old while we were preoccupied with a hellish TSA moment. Today it is much easier but I always look for an opportunity to pay it back.

  13. What a great story! Kindness from others really makes a difference. And we all can find some way to show kindness, even just a smile in a crowd can turn someone’s day around

    Reminds me of a time in 2000, I worked at Worldspan and we’d fly DL non-rev pretty often. One night my wife wanted to get to family for the weekend, flights were pretty full so we took a chance and just headed to ATL. We lived near a MARTA station so we rarely drove to the airport, but that night I was going back home so we drove. The DL gate was a mess for our flight, there was no way we were making it, and we were higher than buddy passes on the list. We were sitting trying to use the phone to find other flight options that night and noticed a pregnant mom, worn out, with a toddler. My wife spoke to her and found that she was traveling on a buddy pass, had been in the airport all day with no flights available, and was now looking at a long night in the airport. She was out of baby food and diapers. We invited her to our house but she didn’t want to leave the airport in case she found a flight. We ended up getting a list of things from her, driving to a grocery store (there are no good options near the aiport, very sketchy neighborhoods, but we were pretty well accustomed to it), got her the items, went back to the airport to the gate to give them to her. Sure, it took an hour of our time but she was incredibly relieved to have some help.

    There’s always someone we can help, and airports typically provide them easily to us. Good job to these moms for helping this little family make it. It took very little of their time yet it made all the difference.

    And to those comments criticizing acts of kindness or of Gary writing it up, shame on you. Give a little of yourself and you’ll feel so much better.

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