Do Crying Babies Get You Kicked Out of First Class?

Jan 4, 2017

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A few Mommy Points readers recently alerted me to an unfortunate story of a mom and her baby who were traveling across the country from New York to Los Angeles in first class on a Delta flight. This was the mom’s first time flying with her baby, Ruby, and the mom and her husband had booked first class seats so they could lay down with the little one for the several hour journey. A quick look back at her previous social media posts shows that she was pretty anxious about flying in general, and specifically nervous about taking her first flight with her baby.

Crying Baby Asked to Leave First Class

Unfortunately for everyone involved, on this particular travel day the little one got tired and overwhelmed and started “screaming crying” on the plane. This sounds like a classic description of “over tired” when very little will go well until the baby ultimately passes out. However, in that interim period of “screaming crying”, before sleep finally arrives, the related “eye rolls and head shakes” from fellow first class passengers reportedly escalated to a Delta flight attendant asking the mom to move from first class to economy with the crying baby. No surprise this made the mom even more upset and anxious, and let’s just say it sounds like their first flight didn’t go as well as they had hoped.

Crying babies on airplanes are hard on everyone, but let me assure you that they are hardest on the parents who not only want to soothe their baby, but also feel the pressure to stop the impact on others. I can only imagine how stressful that must have been for a first time traveling mom and dad…and of course also for everyone else within earshot.

Having touched on this topic a number of times, I also know there is a contingent of travelers out there that think babies (and even young children) don’t belong on planes until they are old enough to play chess, and that they sure as heck don’t belong in first class. It sounds like some of those folks might have unfortunately been aboard this flight turning a stressful situation into a super stressful situation. However, public transportation is public transportation whether it is seat 1A in lie-flat first class, seat 27E in economy, or the last row of a Greyhound bus. Everyone on board has an equal right to be there, and an equal responsibility to be as respectful of others around them as possible.

Control what you can control, and be gracious with the rest. A crying baby cannot be totally controlled, but they and their parents can be aided as much as possible to shorten the duration and intensity of unhappiness, and that is what should have happened.

What Should Happen When a Baby Cries in First Class

A crying baby on a Delta flight in first class should not trigger a seat reassignment to economy. That’s not just a Mommy Points opinion statement, but it is backed up by Delta’s official statement on this story. Delta states that, “We fully support all passengers traveling in the class of service for which they’ve paid.” In other words, if you paid for first with your lap baby, you are supposed to be able to travel in first, even if the baby isn’t always sleeping or smiling.

You don't lose your seat even if your baby isn't always happy
You don’t lose your seat even if your baby isn’t always happy

Here’s what should have happened with a “screaming crying” baby on the flight…

If you are the parent or caregiver of a super unhappy baby on a flight, stay calm and do roughly what you would do at home to get to the cause and solution. This will mean working through issues like are they cold, hot, uncomfortable, dirty, hungry, bored, tired, etc. Most of those problems can be solved, even on an airplane. They go-to for me is always to simply nurse the baby. They cannot cry when nursing, and that solves a number of problems at once. If you aren’t nursing, then a bottle and/or pacifier can also have similar results.

Over-tired is a tough one, and one to try and avoid as much as possible on a travel day. An over-tired baby or toddler (or adult) simply malfunctions until you can get them to pass out. Staying calm, rocking, feeding, swaying, etc. can all help bring sleep as quickly as possible, but it isn’t instant. You can always reach out to a flight attendant for additional ideas that may help as they have probably seen it all before.

Tips for Flying With a Six Month Old Baby

The crew and other passengers around a family in that situation can best aide everyone by simply supporting the parents or keeping to themselves if there is nothing they can do to help. If it is safe to walk the aisle with a hysterical baby or sway in the galley area, that could be a good offered option in a supportive way. If the parents need a blanket or sip of water, or whatever, that should be offered. Dirty looks, whispers, seat reassignments, or worse won’t help the parents stay calm and keep their focus and energy on their upset baby.

I know that crying babies are no fun on planes. I’ve been impacted by it repeatedly myself, even on a premium cabin overseas flight, but as a passenger it is your responsibility to have ear plugs, noise canceling headphones, etc. That won’t totally keep you immune from the sound of a really unhappy baby, but hopefully it helps until the situation passes. Moreover, just remember to be grateful that it isn’t your little one who is in discomfort or distress, and that all you have to do is sit there and try to focus on something else.

Thankfully this story has a somewhat happy ending in the family’s flight back to New York City was perfectly fine and Delta has reportedly apologized, refunded their flights, and compensated them on top of that. They reportedly are donating that additional compensation to UNICEF, and I hope their roughest flight is behind them.

If a really upset crying baby happens to you on a future flight remember to stay calm, stay focused on your baby, ask for assistance as needed from the crew, and remember that you shouldn’t lose your assigned seat just because of an upset baby. If that happens for some reason, still keep calm and follow up with the airline later on for assistance and compensation.

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