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Kids are not tiny adults. They are smaller, younger, humans, with sometimes bigger emotions and feelings than their larger, more hardened adult counterparts. Children, even toddlers, can absolutely be taught to be very good travelers, but they will never be a tiny adult with a tiny little suitcase. While they are young, they will remain a child who gets tired, scared, overwhelmed, and sometimes just needs a minute to be consoled as a little kid before they again try to act like a tiny adult for as long as they can. This is especially true while on a plane, train, on a tour, at dinner, or wherever else the expectation is for tiny adults and not normal children.
In a perfect world, these tiny travelers would march onto the plane, immediately settle and strap into their seat, and quietly begin playing toys, watching their iPads (with headphones), or maybe read the morning edition of the Toddler Street Journal. That does happen sometimes, especially if your little one is used to the traveling routine, but it doesn’t always go that way at first.
Little kids can be tired, get scared, and protest immediately strapping into their airplane seat. Hopefully, this temporary settling process can be managed during boarding so that by the time the plane is ready to go, so is the toddler. If a little one can’t be safely strapped into their seat by the time it is time to go, the situation can deteriorate and families with toddlers have been asked off the plane on more than one occasion. However, there should be a lot of grey area between not immediately settling into a seat and kicking a toddler off the flight. There are certainly situations when a child should perhaps fly at a later date because their behavior is unsafe, but you would think that would be the absolutely last resort, especially when you are just talking about a scared or tired little toddler.
Video of Toddler Getting Kicked Off of a Southwest Flight
I wasn’t there, but after watching the video of the family who was reportedly removed from a Southwest flight yesterday, I’m left just feeling really sad that the best outcome the crew could come up with was removing a young (now calm and seated) toddler and her family from the flight.
The video linked above doesn’t start until the crew is telling the family they are getting removed, but the adults are still calm, the child is seated and quiet, and the surrounding passengers seem to be very much supporting the family and little girl. I’m left a little baffled as to how removing the family and making them go through that process of getting settled all over again at a later time when everyone is more exhausted is the best solution.
The woman who filmed and posted the incident, Alexis Armstrong, was quoted by INC as saying that the toddler “had a fit for about 3 mins…while still boarding and people seating. Then the flight attendant in red came over and said she needs to calm and sit or will be escorted off. The man calms the child gets her popcorn sets her up.” What happened next was that the captain announced they would be returning to the terminal and you can see the events transpire pretty much from there. If what happened is anywhere close to that version of events, and I have no reason to think otherwise, I’m left shaking my head.
Sometimes rules are rules (and airplanes have plenty of them), but you would think if you absolutely had to remove a now settled toddler from a flight because of some extreme situation, that it would be done in the most empathetic and apologetic way since, you know, kids are not tiny adults and Southwest is regarded as a family-friendly airline.
If you are a parent who is now worried that your toddler will be the next one kicked off a flight, know that while this does happen, it isn’t a common occurrence. Your child who is two years old or over does need to be in their seat with the seatbelt fastened when the seat belt sign is illuminated. Consider bringing their car seat onboard if you think that will help your kids feel secure and remain seated. If you can’t logistically get a car seat on the flight, a CARES Harness can also be helpful in keeping them strapped in.
Watching the video of the toddler getting kicked off of the Southwest flight made me angry, frustrated, indignant, exasperated, but ultimately, mostly sad. Kids are just kids, and families trying to fly from Point A to Point B aren’t dealing with tiny programmable robots, they are dealing with real little humans with big emotions. It is not easy, especially at first, going through all of the steps of flying with a toddler and getting all the way to the point of having them calm in their seat only to then be removed and have to start all over again. If everyone is working together, there just has to be a better way.
Huge virtual waves of support for the family who stayed calm in the face of all that transpired on that flight where they never got to fly. I hope it somehow becomes a funny family story someday and the friendly skies can only get better from here.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.