The young couple on our red-eye flight to Charlotte were clearly at the end of their rope. Before the door had even closed, so were most of the people within earshot.

While they seemed to be very nice people, and were clearly trying their best, they were traveling with two very young children — “Lap babies.” The smaller one looked to be about a year old, the larger one, older. And, he had very well developed lungs.

Originally the parents and the two children were seated in one row. But since the flight was 100 percent full, there wasn’t a free seat for either of the children. Airplanes are apparently built with four oxygen masks per row of three seats, allowing for ONE baby. So the flight attendants had to move the mother with one baby to a nearby row. (You learn something new every day.)

That kid wasn’t happy. He didn’t have a seat. He wasn’t next to daddy. He eventually went from whimpering to screaming, loudly. The mother tried to feed him a snack. The flight attendant tried to offer him juice. The parents eventually swapped the children. Nothing worked. By the time another passenger had moved to a middle seat to put the parents closer together, he was so hysterical nothing would calm him down.

At this point most of the passengers in the area would have far preferred to travel with snakes than these babies, or at least one of the crumb snatchers.

The parents, especially the mother, were embarrassed and apologetic. She explained that the little boy was two, and since he had turned two, seemed to have a nonstop case of the “terrible twos.” (Apparently she forgot or didn’t care that she wasn’t supposed to admit he was two, since she had brought him on the plane as a one year old.)

The child screamed for most of the first hour of the flight, and then finally fell asleep. At that point everyone within earshot was exhausted.

Now, this sort of thing could have happened with year-old twins or a newborn and another child under two. It’s not just that the little boy was older that caused the problem, but his age certainly didn’t help. He was not only dealing with the “terrible twos” but the fact that he was just too big to be comfortable.

On Southwest, this wouldn’t have happened, as the airline officially requires birth certificates from children, which makes sure “lap babies” are indeed babies. Most other airlines do not.

And here’s the question? Should all airlines require proof of age for children? In this case, I had some sympathy, at least at the beginning, for the parents. They were heading to “visit Grandma,” and said they were on the red-eye for the cheap fares. So they might not have been able to afford a third ticket.

To add to it, the father was a military man. So as noted, I had some sympathy. On the other hand, their son’s screaming probably kept at least a third of the plane from falling asleep. Plus, it probably wasn’t the safest situation.

A policy requiring birth certificates would probably keep planes and their passengers saner. But it would also probably keep some young families from traveling. In a perfect world there would be discounts for young children, but airline margins are so thin these days, that’s probably unlikely to happen.

So what do you think Consumer Traveler readers? Should there be an overall airline policy on birth certificates for babies? And should parents who can’t or won’t produce them be required to buy another seat or be denied boarding? Would love to hear your ideas in comments.