This evening, SBS News carried a short report on how Malaysian Airlines has declared a war on babies and their inconsiderate parents by banning infants from flying first-class on their 747s and, when they finally arrive, their A380s.

Which doesn’t break my heart anyway because I don’t fly with MA, and I cannot afford $15k seats. $30k, if you count the husband.

But it makes me uncomfortable nonetheless because all it takes is for one airline to start discriminating refining its market segment and before you know it, the only way to get from Sydney to Singapore is by cruise ship. Or so says my hysterical mommy self.

Besides. Why stop at babies? How about snorers. They’re a loud and aggravating bunch, too. They’ll tell you they can’t help it – especially those with sleep apnea – but after 12 hours with an on-off snorer, you too will be convinced they’re just putting it on so that your life will be a misery.

Our return trip from Sydney to Singapore ended up being over 8 hours long due to a delay in takeoff. But it felt like an 18 hour flight, because

  • we didn’t get the bassinet seats
  • we were stuck in the middle section in the middle of the plane in a full flight
  • the gentleman beside me was very heavy and very jetlagged, so he took up half my seat while lolling about in slumber, which meant that
  • Arddun, Tony and I each had an average of half an Economy Class airplane seat to ourselves. Fun.

See, after flying with Arddun, I’ve become absolutely convinced that ALL parents and their infants should be flown first-class. And have an au pair thrown in for the duration of the flight. While giving both parents a foot and head massage as they sip on free mai tais.

Because contrary to popular belief, parents of young children do not choose to fly with their babies because they delight in exposing their noisy child to a few hundred people in an enclosed space for hours on end with no sane exit in sight.  Parents choose this torturous mode of transportation solely because it’s only slightly preferable to, say, rowing across a couple of oceans.

There is no rest for the parent with the baby on board, particularly one with a baby who loves to flirt with strangers only to find her entire cabin disappointingly comatose from jetlag at 12pm. You can say all you want to say about teaching manners and self-control, but 8 hours is a big ask even for the most saintly and passive of babies.  And at 9.5 months, they really don’t understand, “Ssshhh! Big people are sleeping. You have to be very quiet for another 7 hours, ok?”

Arddun actually turned out to be a pretty good traveller, on balance. Mostly amiable, except during the descent by which time, everyone in the plane was awake and preparing to leave anyway. But I felt like my every hair was at attention the whole flight. Every giggle seemed amplified to my ears, every lunge for Big Hairy Sleeping Dude sending me to silent hysterics to restrain her. The biggest paradox: correcting bad behaviour yet not creating a scene. I used to glare at parents for seemingly letting their babies carry on. Now I wonder if they had chosen the lesser of two evils in those instances.

And yet I know how aggravating it is to listen to someone else’s baby kick up a filthy stink through the flight. How draining it is to grit your teeth and keep from swatting the little snot behind you who keeps kicking your chair just when you’ve fallen asleep. Even after having Arddun, I still have very little patience for screaming children. It’s like the theory of poop – you’ll put up with your child’s stink, but you’ll never want to deal with another kid’s backside.

But if airlines are starting to segregate its passengers… if airlines are going to think seriously about punishing parents who fly, then here’s a few suggestions to airlines on how we could all learn to get along. Because this is an issue that will only grow, people. We’re getting more global with each generation. And family holidays and reunions and emergencies… they happen every second of every day.

So, dear airlines…

Don’t separate us

  • Bizarrely, I lost my bassinet seat on my SQ flight because I could not book the seat next to the bassinet seat for Tony online. Arddun’s ticket was attached to mine because I’m the mother, and both of us were entitled to the bassinet seat – but not Tony. In fact, because we wanted to sit together as a family, we were told we couldn’t do it online. That we had to rock up to the check-in counter on the day of our flight and hope that they could arrange for both Tony and I to sit together. Which of course meant we got nothing, and instead got stuck in the middle aisle in the middle of the plane, next to arguably the fattest man on the flight.
  • FACT: Parents want to fly together, because they need to help each other with the baby. Two parents working together makes baby less likely to scream the plane down. Therefore, it is in your interest to ensure we get the bassinet seat AS A FAMILY.

Do separate us

  • As parents, we don’t actually enjoy sitting with the masses because it completely cramps our style. We can’t discipline our babies like we normally do, we can’t play with our babies how they normally like it, we don’t feel comfortable letting them have their 30-second wail before their nap. Also, our babies are social creatures and they like being around other kids, too.
  • Just like there used to be smoking and non-smoking sections, why not reserve the back section of the plane for parents with babies? It’s furthest from first class, and we take ages getting ready to leave the plane anyway, what with all our baby gear. Besides, you could time it such that you have our strollers waiting at the gate by the time we disembark. Hint hint.
  • Better yet… if it’s an A380? Give us the upper deck. More noise insulation. More leg room for baby paraphernalia. And some crawling space.

In my dreams, yeah? But just think about it. If you would take the trouble to Hello Kitty an entire plane for the 0.000001% of the world’s population to get their kicks…  I’m sure addressing the Baby issue would be child’s play.

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