I got back from Japan a week ago yesterday. I made sure to fly in with enough time to spare that I could spend Halloween with my daughter because it’s her most favorite holiday, above all others, even Christmas. Anyway, I knew that I needed to be home in time to celebrate her and by the time I boarded my plane in Tokyo, a half an hour late, I was missing my little Princess Bubble Gum something fierce.
I guess it should be said that maybe the nearly two weeks away from my child tempered my distaste for a slightly loud, but still well-behaved child, on the airplane but still I felt like I needed to take a second to vent about my experience.
You see, we left Tokyo on Singapore Airlines flight SQ12 to Los Angeles about an hour late on a completely full flight. And that hour doesn’t include the 45 minutes we spent on the tarmac going around in circles at 2 miles per hour while we waited for our turn on the runway. By the time were airborne, we were leaving well over an hour past our scheduled time which honestly, doesn’t bother me too much but if my daughter had been with me, I would probably have felt differently. There were 471 passengers between economy, business, and first class. To say it was a little cramped would be an understatement.
And yet, the children on the flight, and there were many of them, were extremely well behaved, despite being stuck on a long overnight flight in close quarters with a bunch of strangers. Of course there was meal service to keep them busy and pretzels to eat and the television to keep them entertained. Which is where the problem started. There was a little boy who was laughing and talking to his mother about the television show more loudly than some passengers would have preferred as they were trying to sleep. I get it, it was for some an overnight flight, depending on the time zone your jetlag was stuck in, but there is also decency and sympathy and realistic expectations.
The man sitting behind me was, unfortunately for everyone on the flight, seated across the aisle from one particularly chatty little boy who looked to be about three or four years old. The man was unhappy. At first it was just a series of standard passive aggressive remarks made loud enough for everyone in our section of the airplane could hear. “Some people don’t know how to control their children.” “Don’t people know this is the redeye.” (It wasn’t, our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:50 PM Tokyo time but it’s all just semantics anyway right?) “I don’t think I brought enough Xanax for a flight this long.” “Some people shouldn’t breed.” Yeah this guy was a real peach and his wife sat next to him nodding her head, in agreement or appeasement, popping Xanax like some people eat Tic Tacs. As the cabin lights were dimmed, the situation escalated. What had been off handed comments became direct and loud attacks including “Someone tell that kid to shut the f**k up.” and yelling things like “Shut up” and “Quiet”. This man was literally yelling to the fullest extent of his lung capacity and yet no one on the flight crew responded. No one stuck their head in from the galley or spoke to the angry man about his unacceptable behavior. Several passengers, myself included, spoke out against and directly to said man and yet it continued. He ended up calling a flight attendant who then talked to the mother of said child twice instead of scolding the man for yelling at a child on an airplane. I’ve since contacted Singapore Airlines about the experience but have yet to hear back from them, and thus I have three letters to share.
Dear Angry Man,
First of all, I’ve got to say, I hope you don’t have children of your own and if you do, well I hope they make enough money to afford therapy because they are going to need it. Children are a reality on pretty much any flight. Obviously, being on a long cramped flight isn’t easy for anyone but I posed a question to you on the airplane and I’ll pose it to you again. That little boy is a very young child, you are a grown up, his behavior was age appropriate, what exactly was your excuse? The truth is, it’s never appropriate for you to treat others with that kind of disrespect, especially those who have done very little if anything to earn your outburst. You made everyone on that airplane feel uncomfortable, some of us scared, and lost any sympathy the moment you opened your mouth the very first time. You were the reason many of us didn’t sleep on that flight, the little boy you berated had nothing to do with it. Next time, do all us economy class peasants and our kids a favor and charter a private jet. If I never see you again, it will be too soon.
With as much respect as I can muster, Rachel
Dear Singapore Airlines,
I can imagine that your goal is to resolve issues between passengers as smoothly as possible, especially on a flight where the only place to land a plane is in the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean… but the fact that none of the flight staff batted an eye at his offensive and threatening behavior isn’t acceptable. I travel a lot, and many of those trips include my daughter who is very near to age with the boy who was laughing a little too loudly on the airplane. If I had been on the receptive end of those attacks I would have been frightened, even more so when the staff took the side of a belligerent man who was verbally attacking me and/or my child. I’ll think twice before booking another flight with Singapore Airlines.
Regards from a disappointed customer, Rachel
Dear Mom of the Little Laughing Boy,
Your son is adorable and his behavior on that flight was better than can be expected on a long haul trip. Airplanes can be scary and confusing to young children yet your son seemed excited by the experience. They are difficult for anyone, me included. At hour 8 I start to get serious cabin fever and I’m 27 years old. You are a good mom with a beautiful child. In fact when we landed, another passenger called you a warrior and they were right. I could tell you were confused and hurt, embarrassed and spitting mad when the flight attendant came to talk to you but you handled it with grace. If it was me, that guy probably would have left with less teeth than he boarded with. Not all Americans are like that. I hope those of us who spoke out on your behalf and on the behalf of your son did a little something to prove that point. Keep traveling and showing your child new things. You are teaching him lessons that will be imperative to his growth as a person. You have my utmost respect.
All my very best, Rachel