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ANA – An Airline That Understands Families

ANAAs a traveling mom it is great to see some of the international carriers still know how to treat families with young children. I just got off an ANA flight from Tokyo to Bangkok tonight and it was reassuring to watch them board families with young children first, something that seems to have gone away in the states. The flight attendants were also extremely supportive of the families. There was a lovely mother and 19-month old girl on the flight who had also started their trip in the states that morning and been flying for 25 hours. A strain on any adult (I am certainly mildly cranky at this point), never mind a young child. The flight attendants were be always helping them with drinks and had small toys and books for the child. They even gave her a postcard signed by all of the flight attendants! Now that is what I call customer service focused on families! I would bring my son on this airline and think that many of the US carriers could learn a lot. Perhaps if the airlines would treat children as clients (most are in their own seats after all for the same price as every adult) and not as an inconvenience we might have less screaming children on planes. Needless to say, responsibility for a child’s behavior is, first and foremost, the responsibility of the parents. However, more stress you put on the parents by treating them like they have the plague the less chance that the child will be well-behaved, especially young ones are very attuned to a parents’ emotional state.

So, airlines (and childless air travelers) let’s all start working together to make a traveling a little more tolerable for people with kids as, at the end of the day, we are all paying a lot for our flights, we all need to get where we are going and wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do it in a relaxed, civilized and happy manner?

Just a thought as I FINALLY get off of planes 27 hours after starting this trip! Tomorrow, though, I wake up in Bangkok to do all my Christmas shopping in Chatuchak weekend market. I love a world in which I can be ¾ of the way around the globe in a whole new culture for a couple of days!!!

Ps. If anyone from ANA reads this post, please commend your staff on flight 915 from Narita to Bangkok on 11/30, truly well done.

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Flying With Toddlers In The News….AGAIN..And My Top 10 Tips

This is getting tedious, the number of stories of parents who cannot control their children getting upset at airlines is ridiculous.  The latest example of bad parenting behavior can be found here.  Seems an Alaska Airlines pilot sent the plane back to the gate to kick off a 3-year-old because they would not sit down with their seat belt fastened while he was taxiing to the runway.  You know what, I applaud the pilot.  I am sure he knew he would face a storm of criticism but I am sick and tired of watching parents who will not control their children/make them take responsibility for their actions.

I am currently sitting at a United hub waiting for a flight, delayed with mechanical issues, with both my 4-year-old and my husband (so, two children…JUST KIDDING DEAR :-)).  On the flight to this hub, one of the flight attendants, traveling as a passenger, commented to my husband about how well-behaved my son is.  Apparently on the last flight, there was a child who kept screaming and growling at her and the parents just ignored it.  Really?  What is wrong with our society? Rhetorical question, I know the answer would take to long.  If the child had issues that is one thing but, according to her, he appeared to be a perfectly health boy who just had bad parents.  Yes, that is right, I said it BAD parents.  Children are brought into this word as a blank slate, it is up to us to teach them manners and teach them to behave.  I am not saying it is easy. Heck, I wanted to strangle my so last night because he would not listen and I had to pack but I didn’t. We dealt with the behavior, got him to bed and packed. When I got to frustrated my husband took over and vice versa.

Okay, rant over, this would not be a useful post without my providing some tips on traveling with a toddler:

1. If you can afford one, buy an iPad.  Let’s face it. F/T exposure to TV and electronics is not healthy but is it going to kill a kid to play games/watch appropriate TV shows on an iPad or iPhone for 12 hours? NO, it’s not.  I grew up in the latch-key era and my generation seems to be holding up ok even though some of us watched way too much TV and played way too much Atari video games (who else remembers Atari?). I recommend Angry Birds (lessons in geometry), memory games, Thomas and Bob the Builder videos and games and Barefoot Earth Map.  These keep my son quite well occupied.

2. Travel at reasonable hours, but if the child is a little tired, all the better. If they will sleep in a car, they will sleep on a plane.

3. No matter the age, buy your child a seat! if you can afford it.

4. Spare your back and your temperament and invest in a set of CARES straps so that they can be buckled in safely and comfortably and you can leave the car seat at home!

5. Get them excited about where they are going and share stories with them about the fun things they can do.  This way, if they misbehave you can threaten to take some of the fun things away if they do not settle down

6. Bring your own snacks, you never know when you will be stuck in an airport with only crappy fast food.  Make sure that whatever you bring is not liquid (once a child can walk through security on their own the “it’s for my child” excuse will not allow you to get liquids past TSA in excess of 3 oz)

7. Bring a sippy cup. A. so you can put all of the unfinished drink from lunch into it for later but B. many toddlers ears still bother them and, at least mine, stinks at popping them.  If they drink, it will alleviate the pressure.

8. Get them a small backpack for their own books and toys and teach them early that if they cannot carry it, they should not be packing it.  Trust me, all us business travelers will thank you for not raising another generation of people who act like turtles and bring their entire house with them on a plane.  REI sells good backpacks for kids with all the right waist and chest straps so their backs will not get hurt

9. Teach you child to be polite and say please and thank you, you never know how far simple politeness will get you until you are the in line behind someone who is yelling at a gate attendant. I guarantee that if you are nice your chances of an upgrade will be increased.

10. Last but not least….never forget the power of counting to three….it’s an oldie but a goodie BUT you must follow through with whatever you are threatening to do/take away or they will never take you seriously.  My son has gotten to the point where my just saying “do you want me to count” usually results in the good behavior that I am looking for.

There you have it. Now, get on a plane and start exposing your children to the world beyond their home!  I think my flight is FINALLY leaving.  Get me there fast United!

Oh, and PS…I don’t know about you but I would pay money not to have to fly the plane in the photo above…who can name it.  Hint, the manufacturer is really living up to its name with this one 🙂