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ON THE SPOT by Catharine Hamm

Brat packs

September 30, 2007|Catharine Hamm

Question: I was recently aisle-seated next to a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. Their parents sat in the row behind. I offered to change seats. They refused. I called the flight attendant, who asked the parents to change seats, and again they refused. On takeoff the 3-year-old was unbuckled and her tray was down. For three hours she kicked seats, slammed the tray repeatedly, whined, threw food and was clearly in need of parental guidance. All I got from the parents were angry glares and snide remarks. What, if any, is the Federal Aviation Administration regulation on small children seated away from their parents on a flight?

Mary Jane Coleman

Mar Vista


Answer: There is no FAA regulation about small children being seated away from their parents. Indeed, the FAA requires only that a child older than 2 have his/her own seat and be buckled in, says Ian Gregor of FAA public affairs.

End of regulatory story.

Beginning of we-hate-kids-on-airplanes story.

Before you suggest a game of hide-on-the-wing-and-I'll-seek-you, consider that every expert I spoke with faulted the grown-ups, who made "bad parenting decisions" and were "clueless" and "entitled" and "selfish."

To which I would add "negligent."

Kids on planes raise a host of issues that have to do with safety, not behavior. What happens if the child chokes on the snack that he's served or that he swipes from a sibling? If the oxygen mask drops? If there's an emergency landing?

"In the event of an emergency, it would be difficult for the parents to get to their children to evacuate them safely," said Kathy Sweeney of Phoenix, who spent 15 years as a flight attendant before becoming a full-time résumé and interview coach. "Once again, [this is] not the responsibility of a total stranger when the parents are traveling with the children."

Not only are you putting your kids at risk but you're also squandering a chance to spend time with a child, said Mary Muscari, an associate professor at the Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University in New York and the author of several books on parenting. "What a perfect opportunity for one-on-one time," she said. "You've got them captive."

Any parent with an IQ above a doorknob will have taken along plenty of things to keep a kid occupied.

And occasionally, that parent may even have to utter the word "no," which, Muscari says, many are loath to do.

So, no, there is no law that requires parents to sit with their kids. Come to think of it, parents who don't want to sit with their kids probably shouldn't travel with them in the first place. In fact, they probably shouldn't even have had kids.

And that, friends, is probably the worst bad-parenting decision anyone can make.


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