QF404 to Sydney

On Friday August 25, I flew with my five-month old son Roy to Sydney on Qantas flight 404. By the time I got off the flight I was crying my eyes out. Here’s why.

I flew to Sydney with a girlfriend, who was travelling with a two year old. So in the sense that she also had her hands full and couldn’t help me with Roy, I was travelling solo.

I walked onto the flight and found my seat. Like a magician, a male flight attendant appeared in front of me with a flourish, grabbed my handbag from my arm and started putting it into the overhead locker, all while making googly eyes at Roy and cooing noises.

Now to wedge us into our seat and hope the person sitting next to us didn’t spend the entire flight tsking and sucking air through their teeth.

The gent sitting in the seat next to mine looked up, looked at Roy, looked at me, and immediately said, “Do you need help?” I said that we’d be OK and tucked us into our seat. He looked up from his Kindle again and said, “I have three kids. You just tell me if you need me to do anything, anything at all, OK?”. I thanked him profusely and focussed on getting Roy onto the boob.

The male flight attendant again materialised with pillows and bottles of water. He tucked Roy’s nappy-bag under the seat in front of us and squeezed the pillow under Roy, which wasn’t easy because of the lack of room between Roy and seat in front of us.

Almost immediately, the woman sitting in the seat in front of me leaned forward, arched around and offered to swap seats (she was in the front row and had a lot of leg room). Astonished, I looked at her and declined because it would mean Roy’s nappy bag would have to go above us instead of at arm’s reach, but again, I thanked her profusely.

Just before takeoff, two female flight attendants appeared and both asked whether Roy and I were OK and whether we needed anything. They also asked how old Roy was and whether we wanted another pillow.

I breastfed Roy all the way into the air and then realised that he was a little damp in the unmentionables. I grabbed one nappy and headed to the change tables in the toilet. Rookie mistake.

The flight attendants ensured that I was given priority entrance to the toilet with a change-table and opened the door for me. But once I got in there it was apparent there was a much bigger disaster in Roy’s nappy. But all I had in my hand was one nappy (not even wipes) and the situation was dire — Roy required a full and complete costume change. I started to get a bit teary. I was getting really embarrassed that Roy and I were needing so much assistance and that I was making everyone’s job (and flight) just a little bit harder than it needed to be.

I stuck my head out of the toilet door and the male flight attendant immediately materialised again. “What do you need? What can I do?”. I whimpered “I need help, we’ve had an accident”. He grabbed my arm, “Just tell me what to do”. I told him I needed my bag from under my seat. He dashed off like gazelle down the aisles and appeared within seconds with the bag.

By the time I had changed Roy, in-flight service had started. I was just going to sit and wait until it was finished but instead the female flight attendants insisted on moving all the trolleys so we could get to our seat and went backwards to bring us some food and more water. Again, they stopped to chat and have a play with Roy.

When the flight had landed, we got up to leave. They handed us our bags, made sure we had everything and off we went. I stopped at the top of the plane. And I looked at them all. And I just didn’t know what to say. I started with “thank you so much,” before my eyes welled up with tears of gratitude. I don’t cry very much — it took me by surprise. “It means so much…” and then I just sort of couldn’t speak. They all nodded and smiled and said they understood.

It’s really hard flying with a bubba. You only ever have one arm free so you’re like an uncoordinated clown, trying to juggle everything. You know no one wants to sit next to a baby, let alone a crying baby. You know that if the baby decides to take a giant shit there’s nothing you can do. If he gets tired and can’t sleep he’s going to cry. If he struggles to attach to the boob, his ears will pop and he will cry. You can work hard to ease his cries, but ultimately, sometimes a baby just needs to cry.

Every single person on that flight showed us kindness that day, both crew and passengers. We didn’t need to apologise to anyone or feel embarrassed or ashamed just for trying to go away for the weekend with our friends. While Qantas isn’t perfect (I had a little tantrum at them just last week and the flight home wasn’t as wonderful) my flight to Sydney that day was one of the highlights of my time so far as a parent. To anyone who was on that flight or working on that flight, just… thank you.