The flight from Kayseri, Turkey to Istanbul was only an hour, but it felt much longer to anyone seated within earshot of one particular family.
The family in question had an older child — what must have been a 23 month old, because he was clearly a “lap baby” with no seat.
On Turkish Air flights they check passports for everyone, so the “baby” couldn’t have been one of those lap children often called “babies” in the U.S., who are reading books on their own.
In this case, the problem was not just that the boy was cranky, but he had nowhere to sit, and he was clearly too big for his mother to hold onto easily. He kept trying to get down on the floor, up on the seat, wherever, wailing the entire time.
It was one of the few times I have been glad to have a connecting flight and not a direct flight. But as luck would have it the same family showed up on my connecting flight to London — across the aisle.
And yes, the child cried and complained almost the whole four-hour second flight, until he finally fell asleep across both his parents’ laps. (The older child, who was probably about 8 years old, never said a word, or offered to help. Presumably he was trying to pretend he didn’t know these people.
This isn’t the usual complaining-about-children post. We all know they can ruin flights. But, it’s hard to imagine a worse situation for a large toddler.
Seat pitch on Turkish Air is about 30-31 inches. When the child was on his mother or father’s lap, the kid’s feet hit the seat back. There really wasn’t room for him on the floor either.
In fact, while he could barely stand in the space between the seats, one outburst in fact was triggered by the mother letting him stand on the floor, and then being unable to pull him but because the person in front had slightly reclined their seat.
Simply speaking, he was WAY too big to be a lap baby, no matter how old he was.
Airline pitch and seat size have both come down a few inches at least across the board over the years. While the average person’s size has gone up, especially in the U.S. — including for babies.
As anyone who has recently purchased clothing for a baby gift knows, the sizes are often ridiculously inaccurate. Six-month-old babies often wear clothes for a one-year-old, or even a larger size. But the rule for buying an airline ticket hasn’t changed. Kids under two can fly free, or for taxes alone on international flights.
The FAA looked into mandating tickets for babies for safety reasons some years back, and decided that the additional cost would mean more deaths as parents chose to drive instead.
What I’m proposing is a new babies-on-planes rule. Instead of scrapping the free infant rule, shouldn’t it be change to “free under 1 year,” or “free under 20 pounds.” (Yes, I know the latter, while more practical in many ways would likely have many screaming discrimination against heavy people.)
The rule could require airlines to offer a discount for children between 12 and 24 months, or perhaps have them sell tickets like Southwest does for large people, buy the extra seat up front, and get money back if there are empty seats.
In any case, the current situation isn’t only often unpleasant for other passengers. Plus it’s simply not safe. Passengers can’t put a laptop in the seatback because it could be dangerous. Heck, laptops, unlike people, are actually getting SMALLER. How much more dangerous would a 30-pound child flying around the aircraft cabin be?