I know first hand how angry people get about the subject of kids on planes. A couple years ago, when I wrote (what I thought to be) a light-hearted op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about traveling with my four young children by air, not only did I get ferocious emails, I got death threats. One writer said if he ever saw my kids on a plane he would "take a Husqvarna to them."
Yes, I did call the police.
I wade into this bitter territory again because when I read about Elly Kulesza and her parents I knew I had no choice.
According to the Worcester, MA Telegram & Gazette, on January 11, Elly and her family took an uneventful AirTran Airways flight from Boston to Fort Meyers, FL to visit the grandparents. Elly's mom, Julie Kulesza is quoted saying her daughter "was great" on the plane.
After a few days in the sand and sun, the family returned to the Ft. Meyers airport where they checked their bags and a car seat and boarded a plane for home.
Once on board, Elly proceeded to melt down.
Julie and Gerald, the dad, said they did everything they could to calm their daughter. Other passengers offered lollypops and support.
Adding to the stress of the whole scenario were AirTran employees who kept coming up to the family telling them to "do something."
The couple assured the employees that they were trying.
I know from experience that stressing out parents doesn't do a dang bit of good when it comes to calming down their kid.
After a few minutes, an AirTran employee kicked the family off the plane. The flight took off, with the family's luggage and car seat, as an AirTran supervisor lectured Julie and Gerald on their parenting skills and the child's behavior.
The supervisor took exception with the fact that Elly "struck a woman on board."
Gerald said that "woman" was Elly's mother, Julie, whom she hit on the arm. "This is a three year-old child we're talking about," Gerald said.
"We don't differentiate between three and thirty-three," the supervisor told them.
The family was banned from flying AirTran for 24 hours. Gerald missed a 16-hour shift at his work as an EMT.
After a Telegram & Gazette reporter called AirTran, the Kuleszas were refunded the $595 for their airfare. They were also offered free airline tickets, which the couple refused - they said they won't be flying AirTran ever again.
I won't be either, for that matter.
Parents don't bring their kids on planes to make everyone else miserable, they do it for the same reason everyone flies: to get from point A to point B. When kids freak out on a plane, it is a nightmare for parents, coming from one who has been there.
Kids fly on planes. They cry sometimes. They fidget, they laugh, they get frustrated. Oh, yeah, and some breastfeed.
You know who else flies? The guy who screams into his cell phone, the
couple who fights, the college kids starting Spring Break early, the
lady who shoves her stuff into your space, the young woman with a
shrill voice who doesn't stop talking, the 6 foot 8 man who puts his
seat so far down it hits your lap.
Flying isn't easy, and adults certainly do their part to make it an
uncomfortable experience, too.
Isn't it about time we took a collective deep breath and acknowledge
that if we each tried just a little harder to respect each other's
space it might make the whole experience a bit more bearable?
Why expend so much negative energy on children and their parents?
Kids on planes is a reality that is not going away. The sooner the
airlines deal with it productively, the better for everyone.
Perhaps AirTran, and Freedom, the airline that recently kicked a
breastfeeding mother and child off a plane, need to consider putting
a "family section" in the back of their planes and assign only flight
attendants with compassion.