What Happens When Kids in First Class Goes Wrong
As parents who travel with children, we’ve all had this happen: We’re sitting in our airplane seats with the kids and passengers roll their eyes when they see us in their row as they approach. If luck isn't on your side, you can double or triple that reaction if you’re sitting in the premium cabin where everyone has paid more cash or miles for their seats.
Every so often, the issue of whether to allow children under age 14 to sit in business class pops up, and TPG readers are not shy about expressing their views on this charged topic.
I am the mother of a 13-year-old daughter who has been flying with her since she was 10 days old. I’m blessed that my child has always been a great traveler. Really. In fact, she is my favorite travel partner.
That being said, I do understand that passengers have spent thousands of dollars (or lots of miles) to fly in the rarefied air of business or first class. As such, I can sympathize with flyers who want to enjoy their flight without being subjected to misbehaving or unhappy children. Airlines and airline staff handle unruly and unhappy children in business class in different ways. Here are some examples of how airline cabin crew reacted when kids + business class did not a fairy tale make.
Toddler Screams to Stockholm
On an SAS flight I took from Chicago to Stockholm, a toddler terrorized us all during the first two hours of the flight. He refused to sit down, threw temper tantrums and had several loud crying fits as his parents tried in vain to calm him down.
After many complaints from passengers, the SAS purser told the couple they would have to move back to economy class because of the ongoing disturbances. I spoke to one of the flight attendants about the situation, and she told me that the airline would refund the couple’s difference in fare between first and economy and emphasized that SAS tries to take care of its best customers.
Twin Trouble to Frankfurt
On another flight I took on Lufthansa from Delhi to Frankfurt, a family boarded business class with two crying toddlers. For seven hours of that nine-hour flight, one or both of the children were crying loud enough to hear through the Bose noise-cancelling headphones Lufthansa offers in business class.
Despite complaints from passengers, the cabin’s flight attendants did nothing but shrug their shoulders. When I asked one about the situation, she said it was the parents’ responsibility to control their children and that there was no airline policy on moving unruly ones. As we deplaned, we noticed the children were sound asleep.
Japan Airlines to the Rescue
As asked the TPG Family Facebook group for their business-class-gone-bad experiences, and learned of a story on a Japan Airlines flight where the dad's 19-month-old simply wasn't having the best day. His toddler basically "freaked out" in her business class seat and no fewer than three flight attendants helped shuffle the family to the back galley where they all sat and played on the floor, which worked. Sometimes a change of scenery and some appropriate distractions are what it takes.
United Together All Night
Another story from the TPG Family group happened on a United Polaris flight to Europe. The goal in lie-flat seats on those overnight flights is universally to ... sleep. But, this family's 2-year-old was too excited by the whole adventure to nod off (honestly, even adults can feel that way upfront!). United's approach in this situation wasn't to eyeroll the all-night party, but to keep checking on the family and stay positive and attentive. The parents didn't get to nod off as they hoped, but the positive energy and assistance likely went a long way.
Let’s be real — sometimes children act up on flights. They may be tired, upset about being in an unfamiliar space or their ears may hurt from the cabin pressure. Trust me when I say parents are almost always trying as hard as they can to calm their child regardless of where they are seated.
However, being extra prepared so your child is a model business class passenger is important. Do a simulation of walking through security and boarding the plane. Bring along their favorite blanket and stuffed animal for comfort. Pack their favorite snacks and pre-order a kid-friendly meal. Check the airline’s inflight entertainment offerings to see if there are movies that they may enjoy watching (and pack extra options since you can't always count on that working). Sit closer to the lavatory so they can get there quickly if necessary. And let them take walks to stretch their legs and release some energy.
Nothing you do can guarantee 100% good behavior, but by taking these steps, you can help your child be comfortable and enjoy the adventure. And if all goes wrong, learn from the top flight crews tricks to change the scenery on the plane with your kiddo, stay positive and stick with it until the problem is resolved and you're back to smooth flying.