The GEM Debate: Children On Airplanes: How Young Is Too Young To Fly?
It’s April 1, which means that the summer travel season is quickly approaching. If you’re planning a trip by airplane, this is a good time to remind you that babies and children fly, too. If you’re a seasoned traveler, you probably have strong opinions about that.
It’s no secret that young children can make a flight miserable. From a baby crying from ear pain during takeoff to the kindergartener kicking the back of your seat, a dream vacation can become a nightmare pretty quickly. Some families have been removed from flights before the plane even leaves the ground. And sometimes the rest of us just have to endure.
How young is too young to fly? As this cnn.com article points out, there is no one right answer. It really depends on the child and the parent. Some children do well in the air while others do poorly. Sometimes you don’t know which the child will be until you’re in the air. It can be good for children to visit other parts of the country and the world. Even if I might be inconvenienced for the duration of the flight, I can certainly see the bigger picture for the future citizen of the world.
It seems awfully unfair that a family that moved to the other side of the country because of a parent’s job should never go home for vacations and holidays because a hungry baby crying for five minutes bothers a few nearby passengers.
Most parents who are flying with children are likely not having the time of their lives. They’ve probably had to deal with extra baggage fees, bringing their own food and lots of entertainment, no early boarding, and they probably can’t sit together. The same problems you and I face, but multiplied many times for every child they bring. They could use some compassion if their children get out of sorts and not the sneers and glares of strangers.
I’ve flown only once with a child. When my oldest daughter was about 10 months old, the two of us traveled from Chicago to Jacksonville, Florida. Despite my fears, she was a dream there and back. We had to spend a night in Atlanta because we missed the last connecting flight to Jacksonville. I was the one crying tears of anger and frustration while she took in the sights and sipped her juice.
I’ve flown somewhere between 40 and 50 times in my entire life, and to tell you the truth, while I have seen children throw tantrums a few times, I have seen far more adults behaving badly in airports and on airplanes.
You’ve seen it, too: the business traveler who curses at the gate agent because a weather-related delay means he’ll miss his connecting flight. The late-boarding college students who attempt to put huge bags in the overhead bin and all the passengers have to wait while the bags are gate-checked. The woman in Row 5 who waits until the very moment the flight attendants go past her with the beverage cart to decide that she needs to use the restroom. For me, these people are a bigger, more insidious problem than babies and children because they have a fully developed prefrontal cortex and should know better.
As long as there are airplanes, it’s inevitable that there will be young children on them. We would all do well to anticipate that in the same way that we have to be prepared to experience other traveling inconveniences like flight delays, sitting in the middle seat, or people wearing too much perfume. Having the right attitude and remaining philosophical about traveling is the best way to get through any trip.
Have you ever flown with kids or would you fly with them? Is there such a thing as too young to fly? Share your thoughts and experiences below.