Fasten your seat belts: There are precious brats (and parents) on board

Bumpy Ride: But outside the aircraft, all is calm.

By William J. Furney

It was more like a flying crèche than a regular flight. I’ve never seen so many bawling, brawling babies and self-entitled brat-kids on a plane at once. It was only just after mid-March, not yet school mid-term, and here were young families jetting back from southern Spain to southern Ireland, which is to say the republic bit of the tiny island and not some deep-south geographical location like the charming city of Cork and its famously melodic-voiced folk.

This “low-cost” flight — “high-cost” to me, having dared to change an earlier flight, and been slapped with all sorts of impudent charges and fees, including, newly, to use a debit card, when they had only ever charged extra for using a credit card (and prior to that, I had cancelled another flight on another airline, one that can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s budget or the full-whack) — was standing room only. Which is how I found myself, along with two others — a sour-faced middle aged couple complaining to an indifferent stewardess that a pack of stand-by passengers had gotten on the plane before them, and they had actual tickets! Honestly, she has more to do with all her safety and lottery ticket announcements than to bother with stuff like that.

So I’m standing in the rear galley with this pair as the aircraft wobbles on its pushback and then starts its way down the apron, and I’m wondering if I’ll lighten the mood and crack a joke about how the boss of this Irish airline once threatened to introduce standing seats in a bid to pack more people in and make tickets even cheaper. I myself wouldn’t mind, as they say standing is much healthier than sitting. Sadly, however, the wisecrack moment evaporates before it even had a chance to arrive.

We’re almost at the runway when a frazzled stewardess — I can’t imagine how they do this, three, four or more times a day, and for such basic wages — leads us up the aisle in search of seats and deposits the moaners somewhere and then instructs me to sit in between two people. Er, no, I tell her; I paid for my seat, an aisle seat, but someone was in it. She asks a heavily wrinkled woman with parched-dry blonde hair in an aisle seat beside us if she wouldn’t mind moving into the vacant middle seat of the row; she doesn’t; she slides across; I sit; and away we go.

It’s clear to many of us in the vast heaving mass of the travelling public that not only will little children be seen but they also most definitely will be heard. It turns out that today’s batch of so-called modern parents just don’t care who their tykes upset while in the vicinity of other people, strangers they most definitely are not related to and almost certainly don’t want their ears ringing hours after unfortunate contact with me-me kids.

There are several of these self-centred creatures (children, as well as their supposed parents) in the seats behind and in front of me. It sounds like rolling bloody battles have broken out; how else to explain the guttural, murderous screams? Across the aisle from my aisle position, there’s a pair of young parents and two tiny people they have managed to create: one a toddler, the other an infant. Of course they are loud and annoying, and the toddler throws its socks at me and then tries to get off his seat to retrieve them, but only succeeds in blocking the aisle as people try to get to the loo. The mother is entirely disinterested, and isn’t even aware her offspring has chucked his socks. I pick them up and with outstretched arm hold the clothing to her in an overly showy display I hope will embarrass the woman for being so uncaring. A thumbs-up, silent, not even a thank you. Both the mother and father spend their time watching movies on tablet computers or phones, and when a child peeps up, a screen displaying cartoons is shoved in their face. This is not parenting.

I’m wondering about the invaluable lost interaction between these four lost in mindless entertainment, and also how it is at home, if this is how they are on a fleeting public flight. What about having the children look at the window at the wondrous sights from so far up above, the fluffy-puffy clouds just below to the toy-like towns, cities and vehicles way down on Earth? And I’m thinking of all the times I flew with my children around Asia, and Europe, and treated them as people, not an annoyance, and certainly never allowed their behaviour to annoy others.

These days it’s almost as if the new crop of parents actually want a reward for reproducing — or at least, absolute recognition from the public they happen to be traveling with that, yes, their little darlings are so very special and worthy.

They’re all in for a very hard landing.

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