Stella first boarded an airplane when she was 10 weeks old. Since then, she’s visited three continents. She’s been on 12 transcontinental trips, and flown at least 36 individual flight segments. With the exception of her first flight which featured a colic attack at 33000 ft. and a shitastrophe over the Rockies, none of these flights have been terrible. Long, wakeful, and boring, yes. But not terrible.
We board early while a flight attendant helpfully lifts my carry on bag into the overhead bin. Stella elicits oohs and awwwwss and kawaiis and cheek pinches as the other passengers file on. We wile away the hours trundling up and down the aisles, waving at the passengers while stretching our legs. We get extra pillows and a pile of blankets. Our meals are often served first and a flight attendant might offer to hold Stella while I eat. Then they give us an extra ice cream as a special treat. As we pace back and forth in the galley, I’m anxious to stay out from underfoot. The flight attendants play peek-a-boo, hiding behind the curtain, and then hand Stella a little wooden airplane. One flight attendant asks what Stella’s favorite animal is. She makes Stella a cat puppet out of a little paper cup and says meow, meow.
The New York Times paints an entirely different picture of flying with family in an article in the Sunday Times. Miserly flight attendants denying milk to toddlers, children seated rows and rows away from their parents, surly passengers, side-eying children as they stretch their legs in the aisles have taken the place of pre-boarding, colouring books, and guided tours of the cockpit, says the Times.
So why is it, then, after all these miles we’ve logged, that my experience with flying does not echo the miserable ordeal portrayed in the times? Simple. I don’t fly with American carriers.
The real story here isn’t that flying with kids is awful. The story, actually, is that American carriers are awful, regardless of wether or not there are kids involved. I don’t need to catalogue the sundry ways in which American airlines make flying about as painful and expensive as a root canal. You all know about being charged for drinks, being denied pillows, being snapped at by flight attendants. It is no surprise, then, that when there are kids involved, these examples of piss-poor service are simply extended towards the tiny passengers. It’s just the way they do business.