throw mama (and junior) from the plane!

So have you  heard about the two year old and his Mother that was put off an airplane because the kid was unruly?  Turns out the child suffers from autism and now the media is having a field day exposing the “big, bad airline” as being insensitive towards the mentally handicapped.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the intention of the pilot was to discriminate against anyone and to suggest such an idea to me is bunk.

The media is a monster.  Somewhere, somehow a long time ago the people behind our news and entertainment realized the public has this insatiable appetite for news, and not necessarily good news.  In fact, most good news is boring.

So they put this spin on things in order to: 1) grab your attention  2) bombard you with their slant on the “story” and 3) assure you that for the most “update and concise” news always look to them first.  It is a jungle out there, folks.  ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, CBC, QRS… TUV  all of these stations plus radio, newspapers, magazines, books and online sources… ALL of them vying for your attention!  So everything has to be sensationalized day after day, 365 days a year. 

I have flown dozens of times over many years, each time it is a little nerve racking.  Though I have gotten to the point of not following along with my safety instructions when the flight attendants go through their review, I am still very much aware of where the exits are and my proximity to them.  Each take off I am silently encouraging the plane that it has “one more trip left in it” even though it is nearly 50 years old and every time we land I want to breath a sigh of relief and shake the pilots hand.

It is stressful to say the least, being couped up in a cylinder that is hurling through the atmosphere at 660 miles per hour with a diversified group of individuals that I will probably never see again though I share the same trepidation that they do.  Always wondering in the back of our minds… “Will we make it?” and imagining the headlines if we don’t.  Did I tell that certain someone that I loved him/her?  Are my dental records up to date if they have to identify me?  Will I scream all the way down?  (I’d hate to face my impending death that way, it’d be so girly)

Anyway, I have experienced crying babies on airplanes numerous times.  Sometimes my ears popping because of the shift in altitude makes me feel like crying, too.  I have sat next to the little closets they call restrooms and had people come out smelling like anything but a rose causing the flavor of my little bag of salted peanuts to change dramatically.  It seems every time I fly there is a problem with the air conditioning or worse, some navigational instrument needs replaced and I thank the powers that be they caught it on the ground rather than in mid-flight. 

I’ve always imagined I was going to get to sit next to some knock out, buxom redhead that had never flown before and needed my strong arm as a life support.  We would pass through the clouds into the sunset and tell each other our life’s story just in case we didn’t get out of this ordeal alive.  We might even steal a kiss or two and promise to keep in touch no matter what the outcome of our (potentially) doomed flight.  I even met a stewardess once that I asked out.  Sadly, I was turned down because she was leaving immediately on a returning flight.  Anyway, what I’ve usually enjoyed is being crammed into the inside seat with an overweight person that smells of too much cologne and bleeds over into my space.  Usually that person reads the latest choice from the Oprah book club, complains about the “snack” offered by the attendant, falls asleep on my shoulder and snores. 

I’ve sat on the tarmac for hours before take off and had people get irritated to the point of having to be calmed down by the pilot.  I have sat and been de-iced then sat so long prior to take off that we had to be de-iced again.   I landed once in Salt Lake City during a snow storm after we circled the airport for nearly an hour and had the pilot come on the intercom and announce, “We’re gonna try it!” and landed to a round of applause from the passengers. 

I’ve flown in those little puddle jumpers and had to sing to my claustrophobic travel partner to keep her from having a panic attack.  I did this so she could laugh at my silliness rather than claw her way out of the hatchway.  Songs like, “Big ol’ jet airliner… don’t take me too far away…” and “Give me a ticket for an airplane… ain’t got time to take a fast train…” loudly enough to be heard over the swirling propellers and groaning engines.  (true story)  I have flown through thunderstorms that could rival a Steven Spielberg movie.

So… adding to the stress level there is a child that is unruly, running up and down the isle screaming at the top of his lungs that is causing the Captain to announce his intention to remove the mother and child so the remainder of us, say 125-150 passengers can ride white knuckled and nauseously care free.  Is this what I signed up for?  No.  Do I want to spend the next 2-3 hours with this kind of behaviour 7 miles above the ground?  No.  Was the airline at fault because the child was autistic and the mother couldn’t control him?  No.  Does this make them insensitive?  Far from it.  They were sensitive to the remaining passengers just as they would have been with an unruly drunk, an overly aggressive leach or a scantily clad female (that one outraged me, I doubt anyone’s safety and/or comfort were in jeopardy because of exposed cleavage and/or a short skirt… see paragraph eight above)  on board.

Not to say I don’t have empathy for the Mother.  No doubt it embarrassed her to be singled out the way she was.  Could the child have been medicated?  Had he ever flown before?  Was there an alternative method of travel?  All these questions come to mind but the real rub is this…

When it comes to being in public; whether in restaurants, or parks, or theatres, or the beach, or on airplanes… sensitivity should be measured with common sense.  The public in general should not have to be subjected to the “right” of an individual if it creates discord amongst the masses.  The comfort and security of the flight depended on the care, custody and control of the flight personnel. 

They did the right thing.


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5 Responses to “throw mama (and junior) from the plane!”

  1. Chantal Says:

    I disagree on two counts.

    First, the right thing for the big bad airline to do would’ve been to assist the mother and the child, just like they help anyone who is panicking about flying or anyone who is not feeling well, just like they are tolerant and helpful to parents travelling with infants who screech due to the pressure changes in the cabin. I’ve seen it a few times where the attendant will sympathetically try to help THOSE parents with their crying child, and even though there’s not much that can be done, at least the parents are reassured that the attendant is understanding of their plight. Calm parents make for calmer children.

    What was different about this toddler’s behaviour that compelled the PILOT to address the mother and child? This is just me, but from what I’ve read on this, I think the removal was reactionary, and the big bad airline is backtracking now, saying that the mother did not stow her carry-on properly, that this was the main reason for the removal. Oh, really? I’ve been on several flights where the attendants GLADLY stow your carry-on for you prior to take-off, where they HELP the elderly, or those with small children. That is what it being an attendant means: attending to the needs of passengers.

    I agree that the on-board attendants and pilots are responsible for the general safety and well-being of the passengers, and that when ONE person is disruptive, that ONE person should be addressed for the safety and well-being of the other passengers. The big bad airline says that the situation was “uncomfortable” (I’m guessing they mean the screaming child) and “potentially unsafe” (meaning the mother’s apparent violation of FAA regulations by not stowing her carry-on according to FAA standards). The airline did not come out and say that the child’s behaviour was dangerous or that he was kicking and screaming and threatening to harm other passengers, because if he had, you can be certain that the airline would’ve said so in their statement.

    The big bad airline made a big to-do over something that could’ve been handled much better by attendants who ARE trained to deal with ALL kinds of people. Perhaps those who were working that particular flight were not at the height of their profession that day…..

    Second, it’s too bad you had to equate autism, which is a disorder of the brain that affects children, to the behaviours of drunks, letches, and hussies.

  2. Karen Says:

    I don’t fly that often, because I have a thing about heights. BUT, if a child is as “special needs” as the news articles make it sound, should he have been on a plane to begin with? Sounds like a train would have been a better choice for the method of travel.

    Now to jump to the other side of the fence: The attendants should be more prepared to deal with issues like that. It doesn’t appear they were at their finest, at that particular moment.

    Whether they were or not, the woman shouldn’t expect a plane full of people to endure the noise of an uncontrolable child. That would be worse than going to the store when people have their sleepy, tired, hungry children there throwing fits & the parents doing nothing. At least that situation can be gotten away from.

  3. Karen Says:

    Ok, I read the local ABC affiliate story & all the comments about this. The 2 1/2 year old little boy is autistic, & the mother knew he was subject to a meltdown. Then she sat in the front row, from what they were saying, there is nowhere to stuff a bag for the boy under a seat, & the little boy was rolling around in the aisle when the pilot came out.

    The person I most was concerned about was the child. The mother had no business sitting where she did if he needed things to occupy him, & she should have put the seatbelts on him instead of waiting for the FA to do it. She couldn’t keep him in his seat, & from the sound of it, if a person is up, they can’t take off anyway. FAA regulations or something like that. I really wonder, seriously, if he should have been on the plane to begin with. Maybe when he’s older, & she gets him aquainted with everything that will happen. Not when he doesn’t have a clue what’s happening & is terrorized.

  4. msdane Says:

    I do see everyone’s point here. I must say that when we flew back from Orlando in 2002 that there was a screaming toddler on board and it was extremely nerve-wracking. What didn’t help is the father saying, “Please sit down honey, please sit down.” And the child just screamed. I wanted to scream too.

  5. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hmmm…. fair Chantal

    you have to know that I was not equating the behavior of drunks, leachs and scantily clad females with autistic children, only the disturbance being created. As far as properly training flight attendants, that will remain to be seen by the airlines but ultimately the responsibility of controlling children lies with the parents.

    Hi Karen

    you can jump on either side of the fence on this one… I was not there but I imagine the stress level was pretty high for everyone. Whether the attendants were at their best remains to be seen but I for one think it could have been handled better by the mother first.

    hey msdane,

    I have been on simular flights, an unruly child is not a pleasant experience at ANY public gathering, but in a plane it is pure torture.

    As all three of you are women with children it is interesting the range of comments we have here. Many adults take medication to calm themselves and/or prevent air sickness, perhaps this might have been an option, too.


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