United Flight Attendant Forces Special Needs Toddler To Walk Up And Down Aisle Of Delhi Flight

A United Airlines flight attendant parent-shamed business class passengers on a delayed Delhi – Newark flight, after their special needs three year old woke up nine hours into the journey. The crewmember chastised the passengers for their lack of parenting when the boy was hungry (United didn’t board his child meal) and the mother had to improvise for food and tend to the kid at the same time.

The child was crying until his mother got him calm enough to eat. Then, happy, he played with toys but “let out a few small squeals and laughs” at finding shows he likes on the plane’s inflight entertainment system. That’s when a flight attendant came out and stared “rudely rebuking” the mom.

The flight attendant says she’s a mother and she “know[s] how to be a mother” and that this passenger is failing at it.

The boy’s father says they were “forced to our ler son walk in the aisles” which was apparently more disturbing (and excited the child more) than keeping him in his seat.

Interestingly, the child’s father notes that “[t]here was actually constant kids crying from coach” though the parents were in business class. Are crying children keeping more passengers awake in the back of the plane different – and ok – but not in business class?

The passengers complained about their experience and United offered $100 travel vouchers against their “$23K” tickets. What they wanted was an apology, not a “voucher and a form letter.”

I don’t envy the task of asking parents to calm their children on a long haul flight. It’s easy to cross into condescension and into scolding. Here, from the perspective of the parents, that’s clearly what happened – and should be both a learning and a teaching moment that the airline uses (but is not likely to).

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. Re: The statement, “seeing a kid in Business class is like finding a bug in your salad’ is a very stupid and irresponsible and reeks of racism. It seems Really Real is referring to His/her kid. The Basu family was Not traveling free, they had paid about $23000 and they expected professional and civilized service from United FA which they did not get, possibly due to incompetent and Racist United FA. This FA should be fired.

  2. 1. Sure the guy might seem like a complainer but if he is the father of a special needs person, chances are his bad experiences describe the kind of treatment special needs families get. Maybe not all but could be a good percentage. Also people who pay big bucks want their money’s worth. There are people complaining about getting less fries at McDonald’s! Lol!
    2. Generalizing Indian kids – this is just lame.
    I used to take my kids to gymnastics class where there was a woman with bunch of kids in the waiting/ viewing room. She wasn’t attentive to even 1 of them. Had a newborn in stroller who kept wailing all the time and all she said was “Tch tch what is it with you now?” Agreed it wasn’t a business class journey but it was a weekly ordeal for everyone else in the room.

    Irrespective of race, smart kids are usually quite talkative, interactive & busy toddlers. Most of these kids become quiet by the age of 5 or 6.
    A lot of Indian kids are smart so maybe they seem more disruptive.
    What’s more annoying is finding a 2+ year child with a binky & sometimes to make matters greattt they even stick a toddler tablet in their hand. Take either of those away and the child screams like banshee. Don’t know why they try to take it out either when they are the ones who cultivated that habit.

    Only one wrong here is United Airlines. If you care so much about your business class people then you should about this family too, implicitly. If you can’t then don’t allow booking ticket for anyone under the age of 12 in business class. They can’t have it both ways.

    People hung up on ticket price need to get out more. 23k for 3 in business class on long international flight shouldn’t come as surprise. He should have said tickets but it’s common sense that it’s not price per person.

  3. Professional complainer. Actually I feel sorry for the flight attendant and customer service staff who dealt with them.

  4. What is wrong with people, now you can’t get on the plane with kids. Children are unpredictable, you plan everything out before you get on the plane, and sometimes dealing with them doesn’t go as planned, lol. I use to travel with my son, and it was a challenge, so I do understand and sympathize with the parents. I’m sick of grown ass adults getting their panties in a bunch about kids on the plan, invest in some good earplugs. LMAO!!

  5. I did not witness what happened, and so I will refrain from commenting on the incident. But I have been treated rudely by United FAs. That’s why I don’t recommend flying with them.
    Frankly, I’d rather be served by a non-discriminatory, impartial, efficient and cost-effective robot than a human that does not treat people with dignity and respect.
    The good news is that that day is fast approaching when AI and robots will rescue us from all sorts of rude service providers!

  6. @Yours Truly, I have flown United in Polaris and while the FAs were not rude, they weren’t exactly friendly or welcoming. The service was okay but not spectacular compared to other airlines’ business class product.

    I agree with you on the AI product! I would even say that AI can be programmed to be nice, courteous, efficient, and anticipatory of customer needs. Sign me up for that.

  7. What you Gary Leff (the writer) have wrong is that nobody, particularly not a flight attendant should be asking parents to calm their children. They should ask what can they do to help children feel more comfortable. Long flights suck for adults, we feel tired and frustrated, more so a child. People seem to forget children are people too, not pets, and also (depending on age), they paid a full price ticket too.

  8. I flew United from Switzerland to Newark with my daughter. My daughter was body search before boarding the plane. I ask why, nobody had an answer. I find out from one of the airport employees that because we visited Austria(dope city). The food was terrible, a couple of the flight attendants weren’t nice.
    It was my first time flying United, all that left a bad taste in my mouth.
    They are bad workers all over, some are worse than others.
    I asked my travel agent never to pick United for my flights . We are customers, we should be be treated fairly, and we courtesy. We don’t fly, airlines don’t make money.

  9. Are there ANY kids, anywhere, who aren’t special needs…or something else…. nowadays?????????

  10. United Air Lines is the WORST when it comes to specual needs, period. They Forgot my elderly grandmother for a flight one time, then made her feel like it was her fault, despitw us having set up well in advance, and tripple checking that ahe required asdistance much like a minor travelong alone. And a few years later we gave them another shot traveling with our 2 Austistic children, concidentaly for the same grandmothers funeral, and they were absolutly horrible, so much so that we paid extra to change airlines to go home. And in both situatuations customer service did absolutley nothing to compensate. They will never get our familys business again.

  11. Sorry, but if there are issues with passengers prior to boarding please consider ALL the other passengers that have to tolerate that.
    Hundreds of people in a tube for hours.
    Either take a road trip or a private flight.
    Maybe the airlines could possibly start booking flights for parents with small children and “special needs” people

  12. A quick on-line search for the best US airline will tell you that DELTA is at the top! Here’s why:
    There are two simple and logical rules for finding good service in the skies: One is the performance of the company stock; the other is whether their FAs are unionized.
    To that end, DELTA has some of the best FAs. No surprise that unlike United’s FAs, DELTA’s FAs are not “unionized.”
    As for their stock price, over the past five years, DELTA beat UNITED by a factor of about 2!
    The proof is in the pudding!

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