Yes Virgina, A Baby Can Cry in First Class from London to Houston

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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!

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  1. 9.5 continuous tantrum on an overnight nonstop from tel aviv to new York in business class. Flight departed TLV at 1am. Living hell the entire way with the parents basically doing nothing to try to keep their little snowflake in check.

    Between the screaming and crying, the child running/playing in front of our feet, and the dad laying down for a nap on the floor in front of us (exit row on upper deck of 747-400) this was NOT a great end to an otherwise incredible vacation!

    Sorry parents. Keep the kids that age in the back. (go ahead…flame away)

  2. You are going to get lots of feedback with people pointing to this as a reason not to fly with kids at all. I have flown London to Atlanta 4 times with my son in business (and many many more in economy) starting at 4 months and he has never cried the entire flight, or actually any of the flight. This is the problem with anecdotal stories, everyone has them!

  3. That is so weird the parents only tried to lay down with their babies. After about 2 hours of that I probably would’ve tried to take matters into my own hands and see if the parents would let me try to entertain the fussy one. Or let me offer some books or other activities if I had a small child.

    “Long flights can be tough for little ones, does he like cars or books?”

    I’ve watched my fair share of kids that age, and it might be nice for the parents to have a break. Then they could think clearly about other crying interventions.

  4. -I would have offered to help if I had anything to offer, but I was sans toys since my kid wasn’t with us.
    -The point of this isn’t to say that children shouldn’t be in the front. It was more to just share my experience and point out that there is sometimes more parents can do when kiddos are upset. That said, it is also important to know your own limits as a traveling family and that will absolutely vary from family to family. You have to be ready to manage your kiddos for the entire duration of the journey and believe that your kiddo is ready.

  5. I hate to say it but it does prove a point. You are very understanding with this family and you fly a lot but what if this as once in a lifetime trip and you paid thousands of dollars for that seat? On the other hand this children would have done the same thing on coach with worse conditions. At least you had a nice seat.

  6. Kids shouldn’t be allowed in premium cabins. Unfortunately some parents ruin it for everyone. While some parents might try to calm down their toddlers, others simply are oblivious to it and if you pay thousands of dollars or miles for those seats you’re just being personally inconvenienced, period. Bottom line is that kids are kids, and you can’t always predict or control what they’re going to do. A plane is a very confined space and it’s not like you can just step outside. If you choose not to have kids or not fly with them you shouldn’t be imposed someone else’s. Parents, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t fly first class with your toddlers. You’ll be ok.

  7. @DaninSTL, I don’t know if it proves a point so much as it is just another example of how everyone in the family needs to be up to the challenge. That is true whether it is a two hour domestic flight on Southwest or a 10 hour journey in a premium cabin. There is no question that there is an impact on other passengers when that doesn’t happen. It would have no doubt been worse in coach, but it did put a bit of a damper on our experience up front as well.

    @Michael, ha ha. It is certainly not the end of the world to not fly first class with toddlers. It is also not the end of the world if you do. All I ask is that everyone tries their very best wherever they are seated. In the end, sometimes there will still be bad luck and it won’t work out as well as you had hoped.

  8. Oh my! Why did you start this debate again?? Yes, crying babies happen. More often not. I’ve had hundreds of flights – many transatlantic business class – and never heard a baby cry for any length of time. As you said it was bad luck. I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip!! Rather than enduring this debate 🙂

  9. Imagine what it would be like on SIN Flt. SQ21 non-stop EWR – SIN for the 18 1/2 hours!!!! Some people shouldn’t be parents. I feel sorry for their children.

  10. This is something that I struggle with as well…. and even more so after booking First Class tickets to London on British Airways.

    Not because we worry about if Westin will cry it is a matter of how much he will cry.

    For Westin, he has medical issues that cause him intense discomfort and he translates that into crying. He has even been classified as “one of the most irritable babies I have even seen” by his Neurologist who sees thousands of children. But no one knows this when we get on the plane.

    We know he will cry and we know he will disturb others… but should we be forced to stay home? I don’t think so.

    When Westin breaks down, we try to take him into the galley or even the bathroom. For us, when we are in First Class it makes taking care of him so much simpler. We can get out easily, we have more room to comfort him, more room to play with him, and closer access to galleys to try to tuck him away. I think that traveling with less room in Coach would only make things worse for him.

    I was on a flight from DFW to New Orleans a few weeks ago in First and the lady behind us was acting totally crazy. She was talking loud, cussing at her seat mate for not talking to her, and making the flight … scary for everyone in First Class. She was even touching my shoulders in the seat in front of her.

    If we start saying babies can’t fly in First Class because they might disrupt people then we should say “loud, disorderly people” can’t either. Maybe it was a medical reason she was acting this way or maybe she was drunk (she did order a Heineken and Vodka shot – odd mix). I knew getting on the plane I have no guarantee of anything and only the hopes of getting to my destination in one piece.

    At the end of the day… I feel bad knowing Westin does and will make someone else’s flight less enjoyable. That will happen in First or in Coach and even worse if we are in the first row of Coach because everyone would be impacted. I hope the people we disturb will be able to take another flight someday that is more peaceful. This is a luxury we will never have when traveling with him as he will likely always be this irritable even when he gets older.

    PS – to the people on AA flight #14 on May 5th from Maui to LAX sorry Westin did not sleep at all and cried most of the flight.

  11. Actually, I have a much better story 🙂 Flying JNB-CDG on AF, upon arrival to my (economy) seat, I realized the rest of my row (2 seats) plus three seats behind me were filled by five kids of the same family (actively brawling already) – with parents nowhere to find (and thus to swap seats with).

    I went to the purser and politely asked to be reseated. The purser told me she’d check with the captain and be back. And there she came, informing me that the captain “sympathizes with me” and that he allowed her to move me to the only other available seat on that flight (hopelessly full otherwise) – in La Premiere 😉 What a gesture!

  12. I’m glad you included the video. The crying was nothing like I was imagining in my mind as I was reading your post. It sounded annoying! Cudos to you for being polite.

  13. @DL, I’m not sure that this a debate that will ever end, but I do think that there are always things to learn for both sides when it comes up. It was some bad luck, and I also look forward to sharing the details of the rest of the trip. It was a fantastic experience!
    @Rich A, logic would say the kids would have to fall asleep at some point, but then again, that’s what I thought this time!
    @Stephen, very good points. I agree that first is likely far more comfortable for you all than coach. That is the sort of thing I kept trying to remind myself of yesterday at points when it was starting to get to me. For all I know one or both of their twins had some issues that they were managing as best as they could. I hope that your next journey goes as smoothly as possible!

  14. @Lively, humans are biologically wired to be disturbed my crying so they respond to the baby’s needs. I’m not sure that there is any form of crying that would have been easy to ignore, because it is supposed to bother you. That said, the video was a pretty good representation of what went on for the majority of the flight (and that is just with an iPhone over the noise of the airplane engines and all themselves).

  15. Depending on the airline, you might have been able to complain and been compensated with miles or travel vouchers. Thank god for noise cancelling headphones. And free alcohol.

    • @Grant, I wouldn’t have felt right doing that as the flight attendants were doing all they could to try and assist the family. There was really nothing else the airline could do. And yes, thank goodness for the headphones!

  16. We’ve been to Australia and Ireland with our son and only had one “incident”. The last 1.5 hrs from Australia were torment. He wasn’t crying, but he was whining, fussing and loud. Believe me we tried our best! 🙂

    I agree that you need to pack activities for your child. If you think you have enough, pack 5 more. Flight attendants can also be a blessing in that on more than one flight the attendant offered to take my son to the back and show him the “kitchen”. Five minutes of bliss for us parents!!

  17. Just got back from a trip to London with my 16 month old daughter… we debated business class vs economy plus (for many of these exact reasons) and ultimately landed on economy plus. Luckily, my daughter didn’t cry at all, but she only slept about 1.5 hours of the 8+ hour flight. Here were the things that helped us: (1) We purchased a seat for her (and installed her car seat onboard) with extra legroom due to economy plus, (2) we had a row of only 2 seats so she could have the window and I had the aisle (I was traveling alone without my husband), (3) we spent lots of time “walking” around the plane and in the galley chatting with the flight attendants to keep her distracted, (4) we selected day time flights both ways (no red-eyes). The day time flight on the way over was great as I didn’t feel the need to “sleep” so I could keep her entertained and we arrived in London at 10PM BST so she was asleep by 12AM (which was close to her normal bedtime). She slept great that night and for the rest of the entire trip and we never had any issues with the time zone change! We have been offered upgrades on other flights before but I have always declined them as I am not sure I would take her in business/first class until she was at least 2+ years old… even then it is very risky!

  18. While I do not enjoy crying infants in any cabin, I want to share my first premium abin experience. We flew from LA to Tahiti on Air France in business class with my daughter and her 8 month of on. He was a pleasure to fly with. The disruption came from my neighbor across the aisle. Around 4 am while we were all dead asleep he started looking for and couldn’t find his passport. Making noise, turning lights on. Needless to say e woke everyone around him up. So, the 8 month old didn’t bother anyone, the adult dd. just goes to show, ou never know.

  19. I’ve had a baby scream so loud on a flight that my ears physically hurt and then had other experiences where the baby/toddler was well behaved and the parents attentive. Parents who know their children will be disruptive yet say they have a right aren’t thinking about anyone but themselves. Their child is uncomfortable for hours and so is everyone else around them.

  20. Honestly, I think it boils down to preparation and also the entitlement mentality of some people in society these days. My job takes me to Europe and Asia quite a bit and I’m always flying biz to those places about 8-12 times/year. I have flown with crying babies, wandering toddlers, noisy adults talking away with seemingly no clue that everyone else is trying to sleep in a dark cabin, drunks, idiots who leave their window shades open during daytime long-haul flights, and people collaboratively working in the middle of the night (I flew with a colleague to Asia one time and he was horrified to wake up due to a loud businessman working with 2 others on a PPT. The guy was in the aisle and bent over with his butt hovering in my colleague’s face). Unfortunately, many people do not give a damn about their fellow passengers and feel entitled to do whatever the please because they bought a ticket. And this behavior is reinforced because many airline crews will fail to take control of the situation. If you ban kids from the premium cabin, you should also ban all people with bad behavior. Point is, any flight has the potential to be miserable in a number of ways and you need to be prepared. As a parent, you should bring small toys, activities, food, and other necessities to keep your child entertained and comfortable. As a passenger, you should bring eyeshades, industrial-quality earplugs that will block out all noise (or similar in-ear noise cancelling headphones), and be willing to notify the FA if there is a situation that needs to be controlled. Bonus, if you want to be the good Samaritan on a flight, keep a $1 sticker book in your laptop bag and offer it to the next kid situation you encounter. Flight crews should be prepared to intervene and control situations of bad behavior by adults or kids. Some European and Asian carriers have good training – the FAs will tell adults to keep quiet or bring out a teddy bear/coloring book for a toddler. Bottom line, if you believe your first or business class ticket entitles you 100% to a perfect travel experience, then you need to be booking a private jet not a public carrier.

  21. OMG! That makes me a nervous wreck on an airplane, really. Sorry, I can’t help it. Trust me, I have done my time. My boys are 17, 18, and 22 years old. My middle son was a little screaming monster (I say this jokingly). I would never have taken him on a plane at that age. We hardly took him in public. JK 🙂 Screaming children on planes and in restaurants make me crazy. Your video was hoot. Reminded me of our last flight with a screaming baby but luckily it was a short flight. Bless your heart! Guess there just isn’t anything you can do. Yes, I love those noise cancelling headphones!

  22. Malaysian Airlines is the only airlines I knew that started a rule that no kids in FC. I dont know if they have taken a revenue hit due to that rule.

  23. It’s almost every flight that I am on that has children crying. My girlfriend says this is to prepare me for the rigors of parenting. I always feel at the time it’s bad luck. But the engineer in me wonders if there isn’t some elegant solution to stressing out a child like this & disrupting most/all of the plane with crying. I am eager to get on a 787 Dreamliner with promised better cabin pressure. And curious if the 787 might result in less crying situations. And if not, is there ever going to be a team of aerospace engineers to tackle this common problem?

  24. @Jennifer, what a great flight attendant! I know people don’t want to “over pack”, but I agree with your approach to how many activities to pack.
    @Jamison, oh yes, I have the right kind. 😉 They helped, but “blocked” is not the end result.
    @LF, ha ha…I’m sure you are not the only one with that thought. No magic cure for baby crying though. 😉
    @Lisa, very well thought out plan. Good job!
    @Bill, adults can be way worse that babies for sure!
    @Julie, I think parents should do everything within their power to keep the kid and other passengers happy, but I don’t feel that you should never be able to travel if you have a kiddo with a difficult temperament or special issues that make them fussy for the long-term.
    @Erik, well said.
    @Kathy, not much you can do in those situations but wait it out, smile politely at the parents, pass along a toy if you have one, and pray to the god’s of sleeping children (that last part didn’t work this time). 😉
    @ketelone, I would be interested to learn how it is working out for them. I bet other airlines are watching closely.
    @Knarf, I love the way you think! I think that being in a small confined space will always be tough for some babies (and parents). The 787 improvements may help the young infants, but the toddlers will likely still encounter some of the same challenges of being bored and confined.

  25. For those people who say parents who know their child will cry shouldn’t fly must not understand how children work. The most well behaved child in the world can have a bad day, and there is absolutely no way of predicting this. Just like a grown adult can have a bad day. It boggles my mind why this is such a hard concept to understand for people.

  26. Well, you already know that I’ve flown with my kids at the pointy end of the plane on domestic and international segments, so you know that I am OK with doing so. But you are correct in that parents have to know their children, parents need to have lots of entertainment options at the ready for kids, and you also touched upon something which I completely agree: It makes a world of difference when a child is able to verbally communicate and express their needs in a non-crying manner. When those elements are in place, a larger, flat-bed seat with more personal space for children is a fantastic thing. As to those who make the argument, “What if there’s a couple taking a once-in-a-lifetime-trip in First Class? Why should the experience be ‘ruined’ for them?” I say, as someone who is a top-level elite frequent flier who often flies up front, if I’ve paid for the ticket in either cash or miles, why should my family have to kowtow to the needs of people who travel up front infrequently?

  27. checking my 4 year old’s “flight memory” he has now logged in 28,645 miles, but i will never say he wont act up on a flight, i guess we have just been very lucky and or prepared. one saving grace when flying is his mini computer “DVD machine”. This DVD player is used only on airplanes, not at home not in the car and it is a real big treat to get to watch it. my son loves flying because it like being at grandma’s house there are almost no rules, he gets cookies, treats, to watch movies, a new toy, and gets to go some place fun usually with a pool.
    We also get to the airport early, and dont get stressed out about the diffiulty of flying, this helpd to translate to a much calmer child.
    @stephen we will also be headed BA F to LHR next easter maybe we will see you.

  28. As a father of four and a travel enthusiast, I have had the pleasure of experiencng four different personalities while flying and as my family grows. Each one of my children behaves differently. What worked for one, did not work for the other. What upset the other, made the other happy. Combine these experiences into one big family trip where a family of six flies together becomes a challenge for the parents. A challenge not only to pacify for 1+, 2+, 6+ or even 12+ hours, but know the limits of your travel.

    Most recently, what worked for my other 3 children just did not work for my 2 year old on a recent transcontinental flight. My 2 year old has a huge sensitivity to motion. So turbulencefreaks her out to a point of crying. For 6 hours, mommy and I had to tag team to make sure the 2 year old was pacified as well as the other 3 children were behaving. What got us through was not ipads, ds lites or dvd players. What got us through was being a loving parent to our daugther and understanding her sensitivity. Softly singing nursery rhymes in her ear, comforting her with a simple, “it’s going to be ok” when there is sudden turbulence, actively particpating activities with her such as coloring, sticker books and reading is what worked. Basically, being a parent. Yes, it drained both of us at the end of our flight, but, that’s what being a parent is about. It’s these experiences you cherish even though they can be upsetting, annoying or ugly. Actively, participating in the development of your childen and loving them completely when they are at their most intolerable is the fool proof remedy for a child.

    To put this all in perspective, I recently, flew on a flight without my children in first class and sat next to a family with a newborn on their lap who just was not having it on this flight. The problem is, the parents just tuned out and let the child be. It’s tough to tell a family, “Look, parenting doesnt stop when you enter a plane” In the end, I just had to deal with it regardless how I felt on other peoples parenting skills. Everyone has a right to fly, choose the airline they fly with and how much they spend to sit. There is nothing you can do. You can vote to restrict people to fly with you, but then you start opening a huge can of worms. Because what you find annoying and not annoying may not sit the same with the person next you. You start denying babies from first class cabins, then you might as well deny all the smelly feet that goes with it for those who like to take off their shoes; that’s my peeve.

    When you strip everything down from our peeves and insecurities, we are all living in this world together like it or not. So sharing the same space and air is not an option, it’s a part of human life. How you deal with it is just a different story.

  29. I agree with Andrea on this one. Many people on this post have simply blamed this situation on the parents for not having enough activities for the children, but sometimes all the activities in the world won’t cure a crying child! Just because a child is crying for a long duration, does not mean the parents are doing everything they can do under the circumstances. They are most likely much more embarrassed, frustrated, tired and annoyed then anyone else.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would be frustrated, and it would make for a long flight. Heck, I would most likely ask for some type of compensation! But for those posts that mention “some people just shouldn’t be parents”, or “my kid would never behave like that” are just flat out wrong in most cases. These parents could be some of the best in the world, but things happen (especially on a plane, where you are away from your comfort zone and it’s hard to get comfortable).

  30. @ Stephen Thomas – Yours is one of the most selfish posts I have ever read. You have no problem making your problem everyone elses. The FA could resolve the noisy lady issue but you use that to absolve you and your wife’s guilt or blame for causing this most unpleasant situation with Westin for all involved. It is painfully apparent Westin is too young and immature to fly, but either you don’t care, or are totally oblivious to that fact. Your posting and personal philosophy is definitely one of the most severe cases of “me-ism” and “damn everyone else-itis”. I say all of this as a grandfather who previously thought he has seen or heard it all.

  31. I really think parents need to think carefully about the age issue when deciding to fly – 12-18 months old is really the WORST time to fly with a child, and I hear this almost universally from friends with kids. My husband and I have had mostly very positive flying experiences, but we even had what we now call “the flight from h-ll” when our daughter was 17 months old. And that was a just a daytime flight from the East Coast to the West. We cut back on non-essential travel during this time window because it just wasn’t worth it to ourselves and it wasn’t fair to others. If we have other kids, we’ll do the same when they are this age. I never would have attempted an international flight with twins without a seat at this age… first class or not. It really just comes down to common sense!

  32. It couldnt have happened to a better person. It is one thing to defend parents rights to fly with small children (expecially when you have some), but experiencing the hell of an international first class trip ruined by screaming rugrats from hell, is another.

    you didn’t offer to share your wisdom and tips and tricks you offer here, to the parents to help quiet their spawn? You were too polite to say anything and suffered their screaming in resentful silence like everyone else in the cabin?….i’m surprized

    you were probably the most understanding passengers in the cabin, but still you were annoyed like any normal person would be. I hope this moderates your stance that people with young children should drag them along on long vacations, despite the chargrin of their fellow passengers…tricks and tips aside if kids want to cry and act up for an entire flight, there is little one can do.

    Finally, if you really didnt mind too much and still think first class is a place for young families, I hope all the crying babies that should have been on my flight wind up on yours instead….because I am not as understanding.

  33. @Rich A, I disagree about the Thomas family being very selfish. I see how you could come to that conclusion, but knowing what I know about how and why they travel that is not at all the conclusion I would come to. They have written several posts on their travels with Westin for this site that you could read to see why I have that perspective. That doesn’t make it any better for those seated around them if the kiddo is upset, but I am not sure I would dub them as selfish.
    @tripswithtykes, I think the worst age does vary some from kid to kid, but 12-18 months is a common very tough time for some. They do not want to be confined, but cannot talk (very well), and don’t probably understand very well why they can’t get up. On the plus side, they can be entertained more than some young kids, but it is still tough.
    @Wise2U, it really was tough wanting to interact with the family more, but not really being able to without being what I thought to be overly intrusive. Usually I have no issue striking up a conversation with those seated around me on a flight, but the logistics and separation in biz class made that pretty impractical. Additionally, the flight attendants were visiting their seat quite frequently, so I’m not sure if I would have anything to add that they didn’t.

    Being next to a crying baby isn’t fun for anyone. That said, it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t change my opinion on where kids should sit, but it does reinforce that not every kid or every parent is ready for every trip at any given time. It is important to know your limits on what you can handle and go from there.

    @Scottrick, if 8 hours of crying is no biggie for you then you should be all set for a family if your own in the near future. 😉

  34. Even though my kids are now in college, to this day I still carry around cartoon Band-Aids and stickers in my wallet, to distribute on just such occasions. I have also been known to create basic barf bag hand puppets for screamers, which sometimes tempers the decible level a tad.
    If these attempts to squelch the wailing fail, at least I’m in a less-irritated mindset knowing I did what I could.

  35. @Rich A – I certainly didn’t intent for the post to sound selfish. The main point was to bring up the fact that sometimes infants, kids, and even adults can have reasons you might not know about that can / will impact others. My son has flown on many flights and didn’t make a sound.

    If, in fact, you think that my son should never fly because he has a disability and that disability might impact others… then I am in fact being selfish in thinking otherwise.

  36. What makes you all think you somehow “deserve” silence in the front more than those in the back? The passengers in the back may ALSO have saved for years for a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. Are you more special than they are? (No, you aren’t.)

    One can’t just say, “kids in the back.” It’s either kids get to fly or kids don’t get to fly, period. I, for one, think kids are humans too and have the right to fly–yes, even sitting next to you!

  37. @ Stephen Thomas – ?????? In Post 11 you state:
    “Not because we worry about if Westin will cry it is a matter of how much he will cry.”
    Then in Post 42 You state:
    “My son has flown on many flights and didn’t make a sound.”
    Your statements are contradictory. Apparently Mommypoints knows of Westin’s condition but I know nothing of it. I drew my conclusions only based on what you wrote. I might suggest choosing your words more carefully in the future to prevent possible misunderstandings. Happy travels —–

  38. wow the amount of selfishness and entitlement from the comments is unbelievable.

    if you have kids that are of the “crying” age, stick to road trips in the car please. there is no “right” to fly, for anyone. there is also no “right” to see a late showing of a movie in a theater with your young kids. nor is there any sort of “right” to unleash your unruly offspring on others.

    i recently had this conversation with a friend who has a 2 month old baby. his wife is planning to visit her parents in another state, which means flying… with the baby! everyone claims their baby is the best and won’t cry but we all know that is not true. of course he didn’t like my suggestion to not fly. that would ruin HIS plans, damned be all the people who didn’t sign up for the crying, the smell of an unchanged diaper and countless other baby-related unpleasant things.

    i avoid movie theaters like the plague, because of extreme rudeness of others. i can’t avoid flying, i have to do it for work. it’s like a movie theater in the sky. granted, it’s not just children that are annoying on a flight, but they are a HUGE factor.

  39. @Stephen Thomas, my reaction to your first comment was the same as Rich A’s, if you know there is going to be a problem traveling with your son (like you said in post 11) then just don’t travel with him for non-emergency purposes. It’s unfair for you to say Rich A is saying that all disabled children should not be allowed to fly. Its a matter of the parent should make the decision that is right for their family (disabled child or not), and those travelers their family will encounter while traveling. If a child is too young to travel without crying (for prolonged periods of time) , a parent should say “we don’t need to make that trip via air transportation.” The child is obviously not going to remember the trip, so that parents should sacrifice their opportunity for a few years while they wait for the child to catch up.

  40. I’m pulling out my “referee card” here. No personal attacks (I have edited some out). I know this is an issue many of us feel strongly about, but keep the comments on point and civil (do I really need to say that?).

    The purpose of discussing these topics on this site is that hopefully both sides of the discussion will learn from the other’s point of view. The purpose is not to be ugly to others. There is no right or wrong answer here, or at least I am sure we won’t come up with it today. Play nice or I’m sending you to time-out and taking away your talking Lightening McQueen toy.

  41. I repeat….Oh my! Why did you start this debate again?? No one is learning from anyone else’s point of view. I’d love for you to post about “Miles and Points” again. Please?!?

    • @DL, some aren’t learning from each other. But thousands more read than comment, so a few that are very entrenched in their viewpoints doesn’t change the hope that others who aren’t might learn. That said, working on a points post for the morning. 😉

  42. We recently came from an Asia trip and first leg was SQ1 SFO-SIN (via HKG) and sure enough the baby 3 rows from us was crying…THE WHOLE TIME. Also, it was the type of crying that is really throaty and doesn’t seem like the “im hungry” cry. I bet that kid’s throat was pretty raw by the time we got to HKG…but I guess it wasn’t raw enough since he/she started crying again on the way to SIN. I feel for the baby and the parents but yeah it is pretty unlucky to have these kinds of incidents on a flight. As for me, I think I got a good 4 hours on/off sleep…in coach. =)

  43. @boris
    I have a 6 month old and travel for work (frequently with him) from CA to HI. So what do suggest we do since road-tripping isn’t really an option? Travel by boat?

    I hate crying children too. Luckily, at six months and over 12,000 miles my son is yet to make even a peep on an aircraft and so far his only trips in coach have been on a regional jet and a coach saver award. No one has been the least bit bothered by his presence. Most of the time he just sleeps, but sometimes he likes to drink some milk; sometimes he’s content sucking on a binky, and on occasion he’s been known to coo at and flirt with a flight attendant or neighboring passenger. Maybe I’m lucky to have such a great kid, but god forbid, if the luck ever changes, along with the toys and snacks, there are ear numbing drops and baby-benadryl in the diaper bag. So do you really want to ban us from the airplane?

    Trust me, as a near million miler, I’ve seen my share of a-hole children (and parents) on the airplane, but give the rest of us a chance.

  44. @mommypoints 52- not sure anyone is learning, but certainly getting lots of opinions. Knowing that this topic would generate a plethora of dialog, if you did not want to hear people’s opinions, then why open the can of worms? Well, here’s my opinion ;):
    I do not think kids should be banned from any cabin, but if you know the circumstances of your family and know their predisposition to get upset, then perhaps considering another option that does not subject the child or others to the audible discomfort is a better option? For example, we always take a family vacation, and this year wanted to bring along my grandmother. However, she is older and does not get around well, and the fast pace of an airport would be hard on her, not to mention annoying for frequent travelers in a hurry. So, we changed our vacation spot from Colorado to Arkansas and we all drove together. Just a little flexibility and regard for others well-being, hers and other passengers!
    @Stephen Thomas -You state -“We know he will cry and we know he will disturb others… but should we be forced to stay home? I don’t think so.” Clearly, no one is forcing you – it is your choice, and you choose to fly with a child who you know will get upset. Perhaps you could explore other travel options, or perhaps leave your child with a family member instead of taking him along in non-emergency situations?

    • I have no problem with opinions. I know I learn from hearing other perspectives and putting myself in others’ shoes, but perhaps I am the odd-ball with that. Either way, nothing wrong with differing opinions as long as they remain civil.

  45. I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. As for the parents, they certainly lack in creativity and preparedness (ie., toys, Benadryl, etc).

    As a parent, I would have been constantly walking around the plane to minimize the inconvenience to others around me. Another suggestion would have been to sit in an empty seat in a different section of the plane (assuming one is available) for a change of scenery for the baby, parent and keep a break to business class passengers.

  46. It’s all been said already, but count me as someone who would be happy to see a baby ban in first class and business class. I understand that families want to have the comfort of sitting in first or business class — I get it. They are imposing a cost on the rest of us and decreasing our enjoyment of a product we purchased. To those that say the only guaranteed purchase was a nicer seat, I would disagree. Clearly, the airline is selling an experience in first class and, to a large degree in business class. If all we were buying was a nicer seat, they would throw us a bag of peanuts and a meal on a tray rather than the more elaborate first class service.

    I agree that first/business class passengers are not guaranteed a nice baby-free flight, however. I do wonder if these folks that bring a baby into a first class cabin would also bring a baby to the finest restaurant in the city, a movie, or some other place where other customers’ experience will be negatively impacted by their presence. They would be asked to leave.

    I think everyone expects to be miserable in coach, so babies really don’t bring down the enjoyment too much. None of this is about right and wrong, its about allowing families to be more comfortable while other passengers are made less comfortable.

  47. Walking around the plane. Easiest solution. Don’t force the kid to do something, it only makes it worse. We just did a trip to Europe with our 3yo and only had 5min trouble when he was trapped by the dinner tray, his first ever meal on a plane. The return was fine, lots of walking, lots of stories/movies/toys from my backpack full of fun (plus a free kids tote/activity kit from TN). New (or long forgotten) toys are clutch. There wasn’t a point where a kid wasn’t crying on our flight CDG-LAX (packed full, mostly families). But it didn’t bother me. The scary part though? Looked like a majority were continuing LAX-PPT after a 2hr layover.

    On the lighter side, this is the quintessential guide on how to entertain a child on a flight.

  48. It is completely ridiculous to assume a business class seat equals a guarantee of a quiet flight. SImply put, it doesn’t. Better food, nicer flight attendants, bigger seats and more entertainment choices, but not quiet.

    It does not surprise me, however, that anyone selfish enough to believe that kids should not be in a public space out of fear it may interfere with their life would also believe that people with kids don’t EVER need to travel before the child is older. Families abroad, emergencies, and even families who want to teach their kids about the world and keep them from growing up into a snotty adult are all reasons to travel. The more you expose your children to travel the more used to it they get.

  49. I have 2 kids and we have taken them all over the place, but let me get this straight. It’s selfish for someone to expect quiet when they or their company paid thousands of dollars to be able to sleep and arrive rested, but it is not selfish for someone to sit in premium class and have their kids scream and cry, because they want to give them life experience. If I am paying a few hundred dollars to sit in coach, which I mainlyu do, I have no expecation of quiet, but when I am paying thousand it is entirely reasonable to epect a premium experience. No different from attending a fine restaurant or an opera.

    • I don’t think it’s “selfish” of you to hope for a better experience in the premium cabin. But I also don’t think it’s “selfish” of me to fly with my wife, 7 year old, and 2 year old in FC (which we generally do, and although my kids are normally quite well behaved – especially the 7 year old – kids do have their moments on occasion). I think you’re being unrealistic if you fail to realize that unlike in a fine restaurant or a Broadway theater, you might have to listen to a crying baby or two on an airplane no matter where you sit. The difference is in the rules. If you don’t like it, your beef isn’t with me, it’s with the airlines.

      The rules in a fine restaurant or opera generally prohibit or at least discourage toddlers. Part of the “experience” there requires other diners / operagoers to behave properly, and if they don’t, most fine dining restaurants / theatres will eject them. Those are the rules, and everyone knows them up front, which is why I wouldn’t take my 2 year old son to The French Laundry.

      The rules of air travel are different. Anyone is permitted to book a seat in any class. There are no prohibitions against babies and toddlers flying up front. If you don’t like this, then you should get together with a group of like-minded passengers and encourage at least one airline to adopt a rule banning anyone under, say, 5, from sitting in a premium cabin. Then you could always fly on that airline and be spared the noise of youngsters.

      The fact that not even one airline has done so in the history of air travel suggests that the airlines believe they would lose far, far more business with this rule than they would ever gain.

      Of course, if you want to ensure a luxurious flight with no noise, you can always use NetJets (the FAs on NetJets are generally hot, too).

  50. More to the point on young kids traveling in biz and first class: a. there are many people with a lot of frequent flyer miles, b. people with a lot of cash, c. people traveling on the company dime. The days where money bought some sense of luxury air travel even in first class is long gone. When I travel to Europe on biz. class it’s off season which somewhat mitigates encountering crying children, seeing changing of diapers in seats and smell the odor of fecal matter. Still, I’m amazed to see families with small children/infants in biz. class; think mid Jan to mid March. The world is 24/7 and traditional schedules no longer exist. Seeing bleary-eyed small children with backpacks, holding a blanket or stuffed toy and pulling their little roll ons in terminals at 2 a.m. Many families actually enjoy this and see it as an adventure, a modern-day rite of passage. I call it insanity.

  51. A child or baby in first class =/= automatic screaming or crying. But as long as there are people in this World who treat babies, children and families as second class citizens this point will never fully be understood. It is fine, I will continue to travel with my kids in any class I choose and any time of year I choose and will do everything in my power to make the flight comfortable for everyone and will not feel guilty about it, despite the nasty looks we receive as we board the plane.

  52. To those that say flying in first class does not guarantee a quiet seat:

    Does dining at an elegant restaurant guarantee you a quiet meal? Does staying at a 5-star hotel guarantee you a quiet room? In both cases, the purchase explicitly made by the customer (a restaurant meal or a room for a night) makes no guarantees about the environment in which that service is provided, yet by purchasing the higher-end option, many people have a certain expectation that the product will not be accompanied by screaming. Whether or not first/business class is a similar circumstance is a matter of opinion, I suppose.

    Perhaps the general point is that in modern times, no one ever has any guarantee of enjoying anything without a contract saying so. People with gas, people that are loud, curse in public, watch porn on the plane, act in a lewd way, travel while they have the flu or a bad cold — I suppose these are all things that we should be comfortable with and embrace as part of the travel experience because the people that do these things have rights too and are entitled to travel the world in first class cabins. (I’m not being sarcastic, I’m just trying to follow the logic of those that say externalities imposed on us by other fliers don’t matter.)

    Thank god for good earphones, free wine, and sleep aids, I guess.

    • Andrew:

      You’re generally right, but your comparison is partly inapt.

      A fine dining restaurant does come with an expectation that other diners will not create a huge din. If a two-year old starts balling uncontrollably at Per Se, his family will need to do something about it or leave. Those are pretty much the “rules.” Same goes with a Broadway theater. No, I don’t take my two-year old son to Broadway shows or elegant restaurants (though my 7 year old daughter can handle both very nicely).

      Hotels are a little different. A hotel won’t eject a family with a crying baby (what can be done, really?). But they will offer to move those in adjacent rooms to other available rooms (and offer a larger, nicer room if possible).

      Airlines are completely different. Many babies/toddlers cry uncontrollably while the plane is on the ground, but go right to sleep when it gets up in the air. The airline really can’t eject their whole family just because the baby is noisy for a few minutes. Other babies do fine for awhile and then get fussy shortly into the flight. You can’t eject a family mid-flight, now can you? And an airline really can’t reseat anyone in FC, because FC is always fully occupied (upgrades). The rules on an airline say that anyone can purchase any seat, so everyone knows in advance that it might be their bad luck to be seated near a baby, even if in FC.

      We’re on the West Coast; our families live on the East Coast. Many of our family members can’t fly. So we have to fly to them with the kids. And sometimes, we like to take family vacations to Hawaii (not easy to drive there, is it?) Over the past 7 years, my kids have gotten fussy on planes from time to time. We deal with it as best we can, but on rare occasions, nothing seems to work. When this happens, there will be some discomfort to the passengers around us no matter where we sit. We generally sit in FC (and pay for it), because it’s a lot easier when traveling with a car seat, a stroller, a car seat carrier, and 6 or 7 carry-ons, many of which contain toys, DVDs, iPads,, snacks, diapers, wipes, changes of clothing, and other items designed for the kids.

      Most of the passengers we’ve run into have been pretty sympathetic if our toddler has been noisy, but there have been a few that have been downright obnoxious. I can’t understand why. If someone’s child is making a fuss and they are doing what they can to try to calm him or her down, why would someone think making a rude comment like “Next time, you really need to drive or fly coach; you have no right to sit in FC” would help matters? It’s really beyond my comprehension.

  53. no not everyone expects to be miserable in economy. let’s not make back of the bus second class citizens. it’s like anything else: body odour, loud music, loud conversation, poor overhead bin placement, smelly food. are you the kind of person that takes their own comfort over the inconvenience of a whole wide-body? unfortunately the rude people far outweigh polite people. if your kids should technically keep you grounded, i see no difference to smelly feet or loud conversation. stay home. really, do. i have 48 hours before i have to be exposed to “Westin” and that type of rudeness… and i know i will. even one hour on a MD80 behind a “singing” toddler is pure torture. /rant, don’t be that person.

  54. No Boris, it is about being a civilized human being in a society where, whether you like it or not, there are children and babies. I refuse to stop doing things with my family because someone like you doesn’t like the mere sight of children, out of fear they may somehow offend you or be loud. I don’t know one single parent who thinks the world should revolve around them because they have kids but many, many adults who seem to think that kids shouldn’t be seen OR heard. It is a sad reflection on our society.

  55. @Boris: +1
    @Andrea: Children seen, great! Screaming for 6+ hours, much more than an just an annoyance, total torture! If we are to be a civilized society, we need to be considerate of others, including their peace and total well being.

  56. I wish I had the magical children that the naysayers in this post think we all have, where we know exactly when a child will cry and exactly how to stop it the second it occurs. Since that doesn’t exist I won’t keep my family at home out of fear that may happen (even if it is possibly sacrificing your ‘peace and total well being’), but be prepared in case it does. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation – and in fact, whenever I read these inane arguments the parents are the ones who say they come over prepared in case a meltdown happens and the non parents (I assume, since I can’t imagine a parent being as rude about children as some of you are) are the ones who say kids/babies shouldn’t fly, full stop. How about parents take responsibility and keep their kids happy to the best of their ability, and non parents take a minute and put yourselves in their shoes if their is a meltdown, and realize we are all human and doing the best we can?

    It is a never ending argument, and one I admit I will never concede my opinions on. And apparently neither will the people who feel the opposite.

  57. I’ve been collecting miles for a while so I can fly with my husband and my baby in business class. Not flying for us is not an option. Both of our families live thousands of miles away and I want my child to interact with our families. It ‘s very easy to state families should fly coach or not fly premium at all. I work as hard as everyone else and I think if I have money/miles to fly premium I should. Families just have to be prepared. Day flight is always a better option and brings lots of toys, snacks, Ipads, games e patient parents.
    It is sad people are very passionate about this subject to the point of suggesting banning children form the front of the plane.

  58. The tide is at last turning away from a child- centric society thanks to parents who impose their screaming,whining,seat kicking progeny on others. We’re over it and fighting back. If all you entitled parents believe any smelly, loud adult on a plane could be worse than a screaming, whiny child you are deluding yourselves and you know it. Malaysian Airlines is the first of many and at the prices they charge it’s obvious peopke will pay a high premium to avoid your children.

  59. Quick clarification about noise cancelling headphones. There are two kinds of noise reduction Active (Noise Cancelling)and Passive (Noise Isolating). The bose are active and do not block random sounds like speech and babies crying. The passive ones block everything out just like ear plugs. The Bose are a bad choice for crying babies. They eliminate the drone of the aircraft (a constant noise) and actually make crying and speech clearer. If you want to block out babies crying go with noise isolating headphones. I didn’t want to go into technical reasons but here are two references:

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