Flying with a Baby? Bribe Fellow Passengers to be Nice!

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For the past week or so I have seen a story circulating about a family with twin 14 week old boys who were on their first flight.  I believe that the story originated off of Reddit, but it has since been picked up by many different news sources.  From what I understand the twins were flying to meet grandparents for the first time.  Anyone who reads this site has probably either had the experience of flying for the first time with a young child, or has  had the privilege of being on a flight when a family with a young child sits down near them on the aircraft.  Don’t lie, I have no doubt that 98% of us say a silent prayer when we see a baby boarding that they will keep walking on down the aisle, many rows down the aircraft, passed our seats.  Heck, even I had a not-so-pleasant experience flying back from London with crying twin babies sitting directly behind me.  Babies sometimes cry, and it isn’t fun for anyone when that happens while flying miles above the earth.

Since we all know that flights with babies can be unpredictable, it is normal for parents of first-time flyers to be a bit nervous.  The reality is that most passengers on planes aren’t thrilled by babies being on-board (and some aren’t shy about sharing that sentiment), so it just makes the anxiety that new parents can feel worse.  These parents of the 3-month-old twins decided to try and take matters into their own hands by setting the stage for a happy flight from the beginning.  It other word’s they tried to “bribe” fellow passengers into being nice.  I say the word “bribe” lovingly, but that is essentially what happened.

The parents passed out bags of candy to passengers on the flight with the enclosed note:

“Hello! We’re twin baby boys on our first flight, and we’re only 14 weeks old. We’ll try to be on our best behavior, but we’d like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared, or our ears hurt.  Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and diaper changer) have earplugs available if you need them.  We are all sitting in 20E and 20F if you would like to come by to get a pair.  We hope you have a great flight!”

I’ve been asked many times since this story came out what I think of this idea, and I have mixed thoughts.  On the one hand, it is a very nice and thoughtful gesture on the part of the parents.  They knew that their twins may cause some disruption for the fellow passengers, so they are doing what they can to try and explain that possibility ahead of time, and offer not only some sugary treats, but also a practical solution of ear plugs.  I have no clue, but I assume that this potentially made the parents feel a little less apprehensive about the flight, and possibly made some passengers a little less annoyed about sitting near the twins.  I think that anytime someone is thinking of others’ needs while traveling, it is a good thing.

However, should parents of 14-week-old twins really need to take the time out of their day (and the space out of their carry-ons) to bring candy for fellow passengers, and write a note that explains that the babies may cry from time to time on the flight?  Do grown adults really need a treat to make them not get huffy and rude about a baby on board?  Do grown adults really need an explanation that a baby’s ears may hurt on the plane and this may cause them to cry?  I never had twins, but just my one 14-week-old infant was a full time job.  Getting ready to fly for the first time with a young baby while preparing goody bags for the rest of the plane sounds like a nightmare.

So while it was a very nice gesture on the part of the parents, and I commend them for being so thoughtful, I by no means think that every flying parent needs to start passing out notes and treats as a peace offering for other passengers.  Since we all have limited time and energy, I think that said energy is best served by preparing to keep you child safe, clean (i.e., not stinky), fed, and entertained on the flight.  Really that is all most fellow passengers want.  They want the parents to step-up and be the parents the whole time on the plane.

That said, I do very much believe in offering something to other passengers if you ask for someone to switch seats with you so your family can sit together, or if your child does something like throws a toy unexpectedly and hits them (yes, all children do things unexpectedly from time to time).  I like to offer to buy them a snack or drink on-board as I am either asking very nicely for them to switch seats, or apologizing profusely if C has done something unexpected (which is thankfully rare).  I also really love the idea of having some earplugs available to hand out in the event that your kiddo is “losing their “s$#@”.  In fact, that suggestion was listed in this post around this time last year.

So while I think that parents should be prepared to meet all of their child’s needs on board, and be mindful of others around them (including being willing to buy drinks or hand out earplugs when things go really poorly), I hope our society hasn’t gotten to the point where we need rewards for tolerating being in the same aircraft as a baby, or two.  Being a parent is hard work.  Being a good parent is extremely hard work.  I can pack enough for my child to keep her entertained on the plane, but please don’t ask me to pack on-board treats for all of the other passengers as well.  My “mom purse” is only so big.

The real question is, what do you think?  Is this something you would consider doing?  Have you ever received something similar on a flight?

Comments

  1. I have never considered doing something like that. We do come prepared and motivated to have a great trip. However, at the end of the day your children are still their own independent little people and sometimes if they arent having a good day. During these times no amount of consoling or soothing is gonna stop someone who isnt interested in having a good day. I think that the best you can do is come prepared on your end and try your very best to have your child entertained/comforted for the flight.

  2. I received a note and a little package containing earplugs and gum from a couple traveling with a 12 month old baby on a flight from Cabo to Charlotte last year, I thought it was a very nice gesture. The couple were actually French….the baby did just fine and the earplugs weren’t needed after all.
    I think doing something like this is a great gesture. Notes can be written once – stored and printed from the computer – so time wise, I don’t think it would take much time.

  3. Despite our constant attention, our son kicked the seat in front of him a couple of times. I told the flight attendant I would buy the gentleman whatever drinks or snacks he wanted. It was well received.

  4. To answer your question, should the parents have to take time out of their day to do this? No, absolutely not. People should understand the difficulties that this family may have on the flight. But there are a lot of things that shouldn’t be necessary that kind of are in our society.

    Either way, it’s definitely a great gesture and those are some considerate people!

  5. Something about this strikes me as a little passive-aggressive on the part of the parents.
    .
    Also, doing this does help to stigmatize the notion of families traveling. If you are in a situation in which a child genuinely causes discomfort or inconvenience to another passenger and you want to do something for that passenger, then good on you. But if you want to do something for all the other passengers just because you brought your family on board, that doesn’t seem right.

  6. Wow, I think this is so funny. If I got a note and candy with offers of earphones before the flight took off, I would get scared! Yes, my husband and I are two that always mumble under our breath “keep walking, back of the plane, back of the plane” when we see someone carrying a very small toddler or a baby. Then we “high five” when they take their seat way near the back. Now that my kids are older, I am a screaming baby magnet. If I am in a store or restaurant, the screamers tend to follow me from isle to isle or sit at the table right next to me. None of this was said to offend anyone.

  7. Should a parent have to do it, no. Should a parent be prepared, YES. We all KNOW the issues here. 2 simple steps will make this easy.

    1. 10-15 minutes before boarding, a little ibuprofen to dull the pain BEFORE it starts.

    2. Once on board, a little benadryl syrup to induce a nap!

    • You’re suggesting that I drug my child so people don’t have to hear her if she cries?? The pain mess I understand – IF the doctor played them. But Benadryl to knock my child out? I’m sorry, but we have vastly different definitions of parenting.

  8. For the progressive parents that do not like to discipline their children, please put your child (or more) in your own car, so that only you have to deal with them, while traveling.

    Thank you,

  9. @Jayson,

    You are the fellow traveller I used to carry ear plugs and HOOU coupons to assuage. Eventually I realized you lot were just ignorant and it didn’t matter what “candy” I tried to hand out and gave up on it. It is not possible to “discipline” a child below about 20 months to behave perfectly every single day. Every baby and toddler has bad days, tantrums, is sick or has ear troubles and you cannot “reason” with or threaten into good behavior a child who has at best a few WORDS they can speak. I recall travelling with my child at 19 months and he acted up once, and the jerk in front of me had it out with me in the terminal after the flight. I invited this stranger to attempt a conversation with my little one to explain why they shouldn’t scream when their ears hurt, needless to say he failed miserably once he realized he couldn’t get past the few words toddler spoke at that time. I asked if he thought a good beating would have made him cry less on landing, and he left.

  10. The difference between a baby and a grumpy adult? By about age 4 the baby will be a cheerful traveller who doesn’t kick seats or need special handling, and enjoys looking out the window. The grumpy adult will continue getting grumpier for decades.

  11. Too much intolerance from both sides. The Jaysons need to realize that babies are not doing it on purpose, and the Vincentes need to own the fact that they made a voluntary decision to reproduce and do everything they can to mollify the little one.

    • I am 100% all for tolerance and compassion on both sides. In the end everyone just wants to get to their final destination as quickly and smoothly as possible. Kids aren’t perfect – adults aren’t perfect, but we all have to co-exist in the same space.

  12. Crying I have no problem with. That’s what earbuds and noise canceling headphones are for (in addition to adults that can’t keep their mouths closed!). But bringing a carseat (not made for airplanes) and strapping it in so that the kid who just figured out their legs work is right up next to the back of my seat is extremely rude. Any kind of hitting and kicking against the seat in front is a parenting issue that every time I will confront the parent if it happens for very long.

    Noises can be blocked, seat shaking cannot.

    • @Curtis, I agree that parents should address kicking of the seat in front promptly and consistently, but I disagree that bringing a car seat is rude. It is brought primarily to keep young kids safe and in their seats. The downside is it does make the seat in front easier to access, but the bringing of the car seat itself I hardly find to be rude. Parents can choose the bulkhead seat or place a person in their party in front of the child in the car seat, but sometimes neither of those are realistic options. In that case, it is just another case of parents needing to parent the whole way through the flight.

  13. Great story, and thanks for brining it up. I seemed to have missed it.

    As for whether this should be the norm, I agree that it shouldn’t. We are all different, and think of ways to handle situations in our own way. This was unique, for certain, and the gesture was probably well received in part due to it’s uniqueness.

    However, the main point of it was to affirm to the other passengers that the parents get it, and this acknowledgement goes a long way. If the little ones did act up, then others on the plane could trust that the parents are taking proactive action to remedy the situation.

    It also invites others to help, so those without parental instincts can be sure that others with strong capabilities will be there to assist as needed, and you never know if it would be the 70 year old grandma sitting a few rows up or the 15 year old boy in the row behind making funny faces that would do the trick.

    All were welcomed to enjoy the little one’s first trip, too, which can be fun. This is like the FA announcing a returning service member from the Middle East or or a marriage proposal. All are welcome to enjoy the event!

  14. On the issue of seat-kicking, our family of four always gets seats two-behind-two. It allows us to seat the kids together, behind us (when they’re getting along) or to separate them in two rows (when they’re not).
    .
    Families with only one child can seat two-behind-one, so the child can still be behind a parent and one parent can be “off-duty” (of course, they get child duty in the airports on either end).
    .
    My kids have never been bad seat-kickers but we started this when they were very young and it worked so well that we’ve made it our regular practice since then.

    • @Larry, that is a very good set-up for your family of four. We moved my husband in front of my daughter when she was going through that phase…of course that only worked when he was flying with us. 😉

  15. I’m grossed out by them calling themselves a portable milk machine and diaper changer. What a nice visual about your private activities. You breastfeed and change poop. Wow. So have many other parents. You didn’t invent this!

    There’s something weirdly egocentric about their view of themselves and their attempt to control fellow passengers.

    ICKY.

  16. This reminds me of an “Up All Night” episode where the couple was taking their first flight with their infant daughter. They bribed everyone with free drinks in exchange for being patient if the baby started crying.

  17. I forgot about that episode and I love that show. We have seen every episode of “Up All Night.” Really, I joke about screaming babies chasing me around the store or screaming babies on the plane but I really think that it is God’s way of reminding me of how bad my middle son was when he was little. They do eventually outgrow it and as a parent we do whatever we can to calm them down. Glad I had my babies when I was young. Whew! I had more patience then.

  18. as a newbie parent who will take his (by then) 3 month old on a flight in December, I am surprised but not shocked by the disparity in reactions / comments. I will fly my wee one in 1st class NYC- Buenos Aires (11 hours) and while I hope he doesn’t scream up a storm I will not be handing out notes or candy. I’m am experienced traveler and have little sympathy for those who don’t google “what to bring on a flight so you can sleep undisturbed” e.g. if you don’t bring noise cancelling headphones on a flight – more fool you..

  19. Not to be mean, but I wish there was a family section in the back of each plane where all the families with kids could be seated together. The kids could kick and howl w/o bothering the rest of the passengers. Parents could swap flying w/children tips, goldfish, etc… Plus they’d be right by the bathrooms where kids need to go every 5 mins.

  20. One thing that I did for a passenger sitting in a seat that my son had been kicking occasionally during a flight was to point out that the airline credit card offer he was starting to fill out was available with a ~$200 bigger sign-up bonus online, and gave him some other advice on gaming frequent flyer programs.

    Also, when I fly with my kids and I don’t forget, I do bring and offer extra earplugs, but without fanfare (not necessarily a criticism of the couple mentioned in the story). That offer is usually declined, and I’ve been meaning to find some invidually sealed earplugs to see if that makes passengers more likely to accept them.

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