Brazilian airlines may charge more for children under 2, a trend that could spread to the U.S.
If your blood pressure spikes when you think about the words “kids” and “plane” in the same sentence, then this story may have a calming effect.
True, there’s no faster way to start a brawl on a flight or an online chat room than by putting the two together. Some passengers feel the interior of a plane should be a designated a quiet zone; others treat it as a playground. It’s a conflict as old as commercial aviation.
A 2014 survey by Expedia found that 64 percent of airline passengers believe “screaming, whiny” kids and their permissive parents were the top annoyance. It was the No. 2 irritant behind “seat kickers,” which, if you want to get technical about it, can also involve children.
But now, there are new solutions on the horizon. Airlines appear poised to start charging more for the youngest (and often loudest) passengers, a step that could force some families to consider alternate transportation. And the parents who remain are getting a new set of tools to keep midair conflicts to a minimum.
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In what observers fear could have a ripple effect, Brazilian airlines are reportedly asking their government for permission to start charging higher fares for kids under 2. Currently, “lap kids” on planes in Brazil pay 10 percent of the adult fare. In the United States, lap kids younger than 2 traveling with a parent on domestic flights don’t pay anything, but airlines are looking for more ways to increase revenue. So if the “baby tax” flies in Brazil — and we won’t know whether it will until next year — it could make its way here.
Paying extra to sit together
Families traveling with young kids already face a relatively new hurdle. Most airlines no longer include a confirmed seat reservation in the price of an economy-class ticket. Parents routinely complain about what they feel are extortionate demands for “confirmed” reservations that would allow them to sit next to their children. That’s unlikely to be resolved until parents stop wanting to sit next to their kids, which, in my experience, happens when they turn about 11.
“Parents are finding it more challenging than ever to travel with their children,” says Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association, a trade organization, “particularly on airplanes.”
But help is on the way. The solutions range from pharmaceutical to new parenting and passenger strategies for dealing with the littlest passengers.
Katie Dillon, who runs the blog lajollamom.com always flies with Children’s Tylenol, which her doctor recommended for pain associated with a pressurized aircraft cabin, and Dramamine for Kids, for treating airsickness. “It’s about being proactive and anticipating problems before they disrupt an entire cabin,” she says.
Increasingly, savvy parents are also turning to the right foods to calm their little ones. For Corinne McDermott, a magazine editor from Toronto who also runs the website HaveBabyWillTravel.com, that means cutting back on the sugary treats she packs.
McDermott prefers red-eye flights because her kids sleep on the plane. To help them along, she offers them an oatmeal cookie, “ideally juice-sweetened or made with a minimal amount of sugar,” she says. Why? Oatmeal is a slow-release carbohydrate that’s well liked and digested easily. Milk is also a sleep-inducing food, she says.
Handling misbehaving kids
Perhaps the biggest hurdle, though, are adult passengers. Peter Altschuler, who runs a marketing company in Santa Monica, Calif., tries to sum up the adult passenger’s side with a little humor.
How does he handle misbehaving kids on a plane? “Ask the parents to do something,” he says. “If the parents blow you off,” he jokes, “ask a flight attendant to intervene — preferably with duct tape and plastic ties.”
But some passengers have strategies for getting along with kids on a long flight.
Lee Richardson, a retired fourth-grade teacher from Indianapolis, flies with what she calls a “magic bag-o-tricks” containing treats, markers and a map of the United States that’s designed to defuse any conflict with a juvenile. When she sees a child in the seat behind her, Richardson grabs her bag and introduces herself.
“I say, ‘This is for you, but you have to promise not to kick my seat today,’ ” she said. “Only once have I had to turn around, shoot the kid my most evil-teacher stare, and ask, ‘Did you break your promise’?”
Of course, that doesn’t work for babies. “For those instances I bring a set of industrial earplugs,” she said, “and drink coupons.”