Friday 20 September 2019

Flying with kids

AS SCHOOLS are set to close for Summer holidays, droves of Irish family will pack their suitcases in the coming weeks in a bid to escape the miserable Irish weather for a week or two.

The most common concern for parents is of course packing the bottle of after-sun and calpol, just in case...

Having just returned from a short trip abroad I was asked to write about my experience of flying on board Ireland's best known 'no frills' airline with a teething one year old, under the theme that travelling with children can have negative consequences for parents.

Perhaps this view might be a little extreme but going by my final words as I set foot back on terra firma at Dublin Airport's runway, 'I think I am going to have a break down', it is possible to argue that there is justification for that cliche: you need a holiday to get over a holiday.

As ever the eternal optimist I had chosen to ignore 'gentle' warnings from family and friends that travelling with an infant might not be the plain sailing I had naively envisaged.

Before the flights were even booked of course I was beginning to realise that perhaps this wasn't going to be as easy as I had expected.

The first hurdle was of course obtaining a passport for our little darling. It took two long and arduous trips to the local chemist before we managed to make our cheeky chap hold the perfect pose that was deemed satisfactory in accordance with the strictest of guidelines put in place by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

I wonder if those in power who set this criteria realise how difficult it is to have a baby provide an image that complies with their criteria of a 'full front view of the subject's head, as he or she would normally appear'.

Armed with the necessary travel documentation I was certain the rest would simply be a bed of roses.

Bags packed we head for Dublin Airport and if truth be told my primary concern was whether I would be caught for sneaky hidden charges seeing as my overflowing suitcase was sailing very closely to the 15Kg limit.

I needn't have worried. A perfectly timed tantrum at the check-in desk left the lady behind the counter so rattled she was happy to send us on our way without contesting the weight of my arm-band, parasol, nappy laden luggage.

After narrowly avoiding any extra surcharges we headed straight for security where it would seem my luck was on the rise as I unknowingly smuggled a litre bottle of Heinz Baby Juice through the security for my little darling to guzzle on our four hour flight.

Much to my delight the flight to Tenerife went extremely smoothly and we landed refreshed and eager to hit the beach.

Sadly, the return journey was a different kettle of fish.

I am reluctant to join the long list of dissatisfied customers who vent their grievances with a particular notorious airline through the media, but it would be difficult not to allude to their seemingly barbaric travel policy which makes travelling with small children unnecessarily difficult.

No, before you ask they didn't charge to use the toilet. But, when the air hostess promptly instructed me to use the child changing facilities at the rear of the plane as soon as we boarded the plane, I must admit the thought did cross my mind as to whether she was about to request my credit card details should I need to avail of this privilege.

Perhaps the one health benefit to travelling with a small child is that the risk of deep vein thrombosis is dramatically reduced as you spend the vast majority of the flight time racing up and down the aisle trying to catch up with a rambling toddler who is insistent on playing dodgeball with his soother.

But that's all par for the course when you choose to fly with an infant.

What I wasn't prepared for was the surprising lack of compassion from one member of the cabin crew who when my son's high pitched shrieks disturbed another junior passenger who was deep in slumber, refused to allow us move to one of the other spare seats available on the plane.

Fearing that the mother of the other child, who was quite unimpressed at being woken up and was as a result nearing convulsion like sobs, was about to ask me to move I decided to act of my own accord and attempt to avoid that awful moment of confrontation.

I made the brave move to one of the circa 20 empty seats further up the plane which in the absence of a 'Reserved' sign, still seemed to be off limits for us mere mortals, only to be met with that same stern faced air hostess.

On this occasion she informed me that we were to return to our seats 'immediately' as our weight would disproportionately affect the balance of the plane.

As if I wasn't already on the brink of nervous break down, this final dig, which seemed to suggest that our weight was more in line with that of a baby elephants, was like the straw that broke the camels back.

I felt myself biting hard trying not to let those words I have heard so many times before and inst ead thought of a condescending: 'Do you have children?'

That seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the journey. Two infants crying in unison. Two mothers defiant in their battle to keep their sanity. And one narky air hostess, who I assume did not have children.

Ironically all of the entertainment did eventually wear my son out. He nestled back into my shoulder for a little snooze just as the plane set down on the runway at Dublin when it was of course time to disembark.

Suffice to say next year we will more than likely jump on board the stay-cation band wagon and are unlikely to stray beyond Tramore.

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