So technically it was BusinessFirst, not first class, but that is a minor detail in this story. Both are impressive cabins to someone like me who hasn’t ever sat in one! Today on our flight from London to Houston we sat in business class right in front of a family with twin 14 month old boys. They were twins dressed in identical polo shirts who were extremely cute. They boarded right behind us, and when they took the seats right behind ours there was a small part of me that thought “oh rats I was really hoping for a nap”, but the majority of me didn’t mind at all that we were seated next to the toddlers. Who better for them to sit near, right?! I honestly sort of like sitting near other families as it gives me a chance to learn from tricks they use while traveling. Besides, I had my noise cancelling headphones, and even if they cried for a bit, there is no way they would cry for the duration of the flight…or so I thought.
The flight started out okay with at least one of the babies crying some, but I figured that they would settle down at some point. During meal service they were a bit cranky, but again, we thought that was temporary. After the meal service I put my earphones back on, cranked up the volume on a movie, and figured they would be asleep by the time the movie was over. During the movie I could hear crying off and on, but I held out hope.
When the movie ended I noticed that one of the twins was sleeping comfortably on the lie-flat seat, but the other one was still up and getting madder, and madder. I tried pretty much in vein to sleep for a couple of hours, but really just laid there praying the babies would get some sleep. The one that hadn’t slept was so upset and tired. I think the parents weren’t far behind. Truthfully, by that point I wasn’t much behind either.
I eventually gave up on sleep and just started watching another movie (with the volume turned way up in my headphones) and decided to write this post. I know that babies in premium cabins are a hot topic, and my flight today was proof that a baby really and truly can cry all the way from London to Houston with very few breaks between the cries. I’m fairly certain that if we kept flying on past Houston the babies would have continued to be upset. Since they were twins, I can’t swear that it was the same baby crying the whole time, but I’m pretty sure that there was one who was much more unhappy than the other.
The truth is that while every baby is different, 14 months can be a tough age at which to travel. For many babies the time they become mobile (and nap less during the day) until the time that they can verbalize their needs and have a larger attention span, can be a bit of a tough travel time. For many babies that means around 9 months to between 18 and 24 months. Our daughter was a very unhappy infant, so for her the first 9 months or so of her life would have been even more of a nightmare if we tried to fly with her. However, we knew our limits and stayed grounded. Thankfully we had no emergencies or other events that forced us to fly before we were ready. She started talking very early, so she could easily tell us what she wanted by 18 months, and thus flying wasn’t so bad for her as a toddler.
These babies on my flight couldn’t talk, but they sure didn’t want to sit still. They could have also been getting sick or teething for all I knew. The parents seemed to be trying, but from what I could tell they were a bit light in the “activities” department for the babies. They kept trying to just lay with the unhappy toddler in the lie-flat seat, but that clearly was not working. Toddlers of that age absolutely need activities to keep them occupied during the flight. Books, small interactive toys, movies, etc. are all good things to consider. Of course, there are no guarantees that would have helped in this situation, but I would have tried walking around the plane and/or other activities when laying next to the kiddo wasn’t working very well.
A bigger question for some is whether or not infants and toddlers should be allowed in premium cabins in the first place. My daughter will be almost three years old before her first premium cabin flight. Some would say that is still too young (heck, it’s almost 30 years before my first one!), but I think that is the right age for us. Some babies are very chill and calm and could probably fly from London to the US without making a peep, but some have the lung capacity and tenacity to cry the entire 9-10 hours in the air. I would hate to have a blanket rule take away the ability for parents to decide for themselves what is best in terms of where to sit on the airplane. That said, it is also a shame to have a flatbed seat and not be able to sleep due to listening to a baby cry for hours and hours and hours. It would have also been a shame to be sitting upright in economy next to twin crying toddlers for the entire flight as well…in fact it might have been even worse without the creature comforts of sitting up front! Sitting in a premium cabin doesn’t guarantee a peaceful flight; it just guarantees a better seat.
There is no question that listening to almost ten hours of crying took some of the “magic” out of the business class experience. If you don’t believe me, this is just ten seconds or so of the crying. Multiply that by about 500 or 600 and you are closer to how long it actually went on. I would consider it a fairly extreme case of crying on an airplane simply due to the duration.
But really, in the end it was just bad luck. How many times in your life are unhappy twin toddler boys seated directly right behind you on your first international business class trip? I guess that was a trick question, but it still can’t be an overly common occurrence. Airplanes are still just public transportation whether you are in row 1 or row 41. The outbound flight was free of crying little ones, and on the return flight we weren’t quite as lucky. At least it wasn’t a nighttime flight where we really needed to be sleeping. I hope that the babies, and their parents, get some sleep in the near future at their final destination!
Crying babies on a plane aren’t fun for anyone, but I am 100% sure it was a lot less fun for the kiddos and parents than it was for me. About all I could do to help was just smile and wave at the babies from time to time. Soon I’ll post about the more peaceful outbound flight, and give some tips on logistics if you do travel with your own little one in a first of business class cabin. The logistics when flying with toddlers in “fancy” seats are actually trickier than you might think!
Have you been stuck next to a kiddo that cried for hours on a flight? Have you been the parent to a kiddo that had that experience? I’d love to hear how you managed in either of those situations!