In the past, the reason I didn’t enjoy flying is that I’m tall. Since I am 6’ 4” (1.9 meters) and I just don’t fit well in the seats and there is never enough legroom in economy seats. Now, that is still the case but the biggest reason I don’t like flying internationally is the other passengers, mostly the parents with small children. I hate to say this because I am a parent. They are older now, and now I have three young grandchildren.
In April of 2019, I took my longest trip ever! It was over 30K miles and at least 5 days of travel time. I traveled from the United States to the country of Mauritius, then to India and then back home.
The Trip Back Home = The Trip from Hell
So, let’s start off with the worse leg of the trip… the trip back home from Delhi, India to San Diego, California. Then afterward I will summarize the trip to Mauritius then to India. Since my trip to Mauritius and India was to date, the worse trip experience. I was excited that I was able to get a cheap upgrade to Business Class on Emirates from the leg from Delhi, India to Dubai. I was excited mostly since I don’t see many children in Business class (something I’ve never seen on other airlines). The flight was about 6 ½ hours so I figured I could get some sleep.
Delhi to Dubai
Once I got in my seat, I found out why this business class seat on Emeritus was cheaper… it’s was only about 2/3 the size of other business class seats I have taken before. I was still happy when I sat down and started getting ready for the flight… until a young couple got on with a baby and sat in the two seats next to me. I knew then the flight was not going to be good, based on past experiences on Emirates.
After they served dinner, I put my chair flat, put on my blanket and tried to go to sleep since it was early in the morning. I did go to sleep, but sure enough, whenever I was sleeping, the baby decided to wake up and cry. I wanted to get around 4 ½ hours of sleep (since I couldn’t sleep the night before due to having to be at the Delhi airport at 1am), but I was lucky to get 1 hour. This couple seemed to be on vacation… why do you take a baby on long an international flight for vacation?
Dubai to Seattle
The second flight, the worse from my entire trip, was from Dubai to Seattle, Washington in the US. I didn’t have business class for this flight (they wanted $3K just to upgrade when I asked them on the flight!) but I did pay more to have extended legroom. As soon as I sat down, the crying babies started to arrive. In my section of the cabin, there were a lot of them, so my mood started to get worse since I knew what was coming, especially since I heard them coughing or sniffling.
She Knew What She Was Doing!
I was on the right side of the plane on the aisle seat. In the first seat in the middle section, directly to my left, a young woman sat down with her daughter, who was a toddler who looked passed out, maybe sleeping. After a few minutes, she said something to the flight attendant about her daughter not feeling well. Maybe to get more help from him during the flight. He immediately got on the phone to the captain of the plane.
When he got off the phone, she immediately started to backtrack and asked if the airline was going to fine her (something I’ve never heard before), and her daughter was just tired. The flight attendant told her that now, someone must come onboard to check her daughter to make sure she is not sick, and he can’t stop it since he already told the captain. The woman kept telling the flight attendant that her daughter is just tired, and the flight attendant kept telling her that the flight is almost 16 hours and that is too much for a sick baby. I would say any flight is too much for anyone who is sick!
So, we waited and waited until it was well past the time we were supposed to take off. Finally, someone came onboard to take the temperature of her daughter. That person left, and we waited some more. Finally, the captain called and told the flight attendant that she would have to leave the plane. I am guessing that her daughter was running a fever.
She reluctantly left the plane. Then all the flight attendants went up and down the entire plane twice, asking about every bag in the overhead bins and who they belong to since your bags can’t fly without you. She did leave her phone, which they took back to her. Then, they had to find her bags from the cargo hold too!
Due to this, we were over an hour late taking off which I wasn’t happy about since I didn’t have a long layover in Seattle, and I had to get through customs before finding my next flight to San Diego. The pilot did makeup about 45 minutes of that lost hour, but things were still tight and stressful for me in Seattle. I didn’t even have time to eat before my next flight.
Who knows how many other kids or adults were running a fever on this flight, but she knew about this and she tried to get around the rules? This was very clear to me. I didn’t know if she was from Dubai, but if she wasn’t, she was going to be stuck there until her daughter stopped running a fever since I am guessing this is the rule for all airlines. Well, I hope it is. Maybe everyone should have their temperature checked before getting onto the plane? Especially since I did catch something on one of the flights that took me over two weeks to recover from.
Seattle To San Diego
Finally, back in the United States, I thought my short 3 ½ hour flight from Seattle to San Diego would be better. I just wanted one flight without issues or crying, screaming kids. Boy was I wrong! On Alaska Airlines, I was seated on the aisle seat on the left side of the plane. Then a woman got on with her two young sons that were around 5 and 6 years old. They sat one row up from me on the right side of the plane.
When they got seated, the older boy was pestering the younger boy, so of course, he started to complain and cry. At the same time, before we even took off, the mother put on her headphones to watch Crazy Rich Asians and therefore wasn’t paying attention to the younger boy.
So of course, the younger boy tried to get her attention by crying and screaming. Since she was engrossed in the movie, she did not pay attention to him which just made things worse. The older boy went to sleep for most of the flight, but the younger one NEVER stopped screaming and/or crying the entire flight!
Many other passengers were looking at her and him. Some of us, even more so, when her anger towards her younger boy bordered on child abuse. I kept looking around for the flight attendants to help him since his mother clearly couldn’t, but they were nowhere to be found. When we were landing and an older couple behind her was talking to her, I overheard she was a military wife. I told the woman next to me, who is a grandma traveling with her granddaughter, around the same age at those two boys, that she was so well behaved! She watched a Disney movie the entire time.
When I was waiting for my bags in San Diego, I was exhausted, upset and just wanted to get home to put this entire trip behind me. After this trip, and still now, I’m not sure if I ever want to fly internationally again! So much so, I might try to move the miles I earned on Emirates to Alaska Airlines (if they let me)! I’ll discuss that more after the next section.
The Reverse Trip
Like I said earlier, the trip coming back from Delhi, India was, hands down, the worse trip of my life. So, let’s talk quickly about my trip to those two countries. I don’t remember anything bad from my trip from San Diego to Seattle. So, let’s talk about the others.
Seattle To Dubai
Here we go again, another 16 hours on a plane. Two rows up from me was a that got on with their daughter who was a toddler. Almost immediately their daughter started to scream before we even took off. Since the flight left in the evening, after dinner, I planned to try to get some sleep in a normal economy seat. 16 hours is a long time to spend in a flying metal tube!
After dinner is when most people start settling down to sleep or watch movies, but not their daughter. Once things started quieting down, she was still screaming. After a while, she finally went to sleep. But, every thirty minutes or so she would wake up and start screaming again. So, it was impossible to get any sleep. I finally gave up and I went back to the galley at the very back of the plane. I spent about 1 ½ hours taking to the flight attendants (I might put this in a future blog post).
I finally went back to my seat, but the daughter was still doing her thing. I think, in the end, I might have gotten a total of one hour of sleep. When we landed, I was wiped out, cranky and sick (from the food Emeritus served)!
Dubai to Mauritius
This flight left over 45 minutes late due to a few people (I assume they were together) got all the way to their seats and then decided they didn’t want to take the flight. What? I’ve never heard of this before. Why go through all the time and security checks to get onto the flight and then not take it? So, just like in the case with the mother who brought her sick daughter on a flight, everything had to stop so the flight attendants could check all the overhead bins and remove their luggage from the cargo hold. I hope these people got fined too for holding up 300 other passengers!
Mauritius to Delhi
The two flights that it took to go from Mauritius to Delhi were full of similar issues with crying babies and rude passengers. On top of that, after I got seated on the flight from Dubai to Delhi, the flight attendant came and asked me if I would change my seat with a woman in the cabin section in front of the one I was in. He stated that she was in the same row as I was (extra legroom) and I could get an aisle seat. I was next to the window and being as tall as I am, that was not comfortable. I asked why she wanted to change to a worse seat and he just shrugged his shoulders. So, I said okay. Once I got to the new seat, I knew why she wanted to change… I got seated next to a couple with a baby. I guess she didn’t want to sit next to them, so I got stuck there.
Besides the parents that can’t get their kids to behave, the second biggest issue is a large number of rude passengers! I used to complain about the rudeness of American passengers, until this trip. Not anymore. International passengers are much worse!
On the same flight where the mother and daughter were removed from the flight, I paid more for a seat that had about 8 feet (2.45 meters) of legroom; but unfortunately, it was next to the galley. For some reason, many passengers choose to stand in front of me as a sort of gathering place (which really irritates me). After dinner, I laid back to get some sleep. I was rudely awakened by a couple, standing in front of me, talking very loudly, and I was wearing noise canceling headphones!
In a calm voice, I asked them to take their conversation to the back of the plane where the main galley was, with lots of room for them to stand around and chat and they wouldn’t bother anyone. The husband went off on me to the point I thought he might get violent. He would not stop yelling at me. How dare I ask them to quiet down so I and the other passengers around me could get some sleep? His wife joined in on the yelling until she finally got him to go back to their seat. Later when I woke up again, he was back (without his wife)! I guess we wanted to get into it again, but I would not engage.
Stop Torturing Your Kids & Other Passengers!
On my trip back and thinking about everything that happened, I thought to myself “Dave, don’t be a hypocrite”. I thought back to when I first took my kids on an airplane. The first trip was to Hawaii and both of my kids were over 5 years old. To me, this should be the age when they are old enough to understand what is going on and won’t be tortured by being trapped in an airplane for up to 16 hours with very little to do!
Heck, I didn’t really look forward to traveling in the car with my kids when they were little. Even that is a lot for babies and toddlers. As a parent with young children, it’s our responsibility to give up things for the sake of our children, like going to see a movie until they are older. It’s our responsibility to give up traveling, for pleasure, until they are older. These are just a few examples. When we become parents, our lives must change for the sake of our kids.
Expecting kids 5 years old and younger to behave on a trip the length of traveling internationally, to me, is a form of torture for them and the other passengers, for many reasons. They can’t properly pop their ears which will cause pain. Their eating and sleeping schedule will be thrown out of whack, even after the trip. They can’t play at all on the plane. If they are old enough, they can watch the entertainment system, but that won’t keep their attention for a long international trip.
Flying internationally will also expose them to all types of sickness, many they might not have built up an immunity to. Even though I try to be careful, I even got sick when I came back from this trip with a type of flu that I never experienced before that lasted over a week and was bad enough that I couldn’t work for most of that time! I even got sick multiple times on this trip due to the gluten-free food on Emeritus which isn’t 100% gluten-free!
I have thought up with a few ways that traveling internationally with little kids could be better. First, for a long time, when a crying kid comes on board, I have always thought that the flight attendants should give parents Baby Benadryl. This would never happen in America and part of me doesn’t like the idea, but the frustrated passenger in me wants it to happen.
No One Rides for Free
Most airlines allow kids 2 years and younger to ride for free. This should be stopped!! If you are a passenger, no matter what age, you should have to buy a seat. Especially since most parents I see are very demanding towards the flight attendants (they even told me so and shared some bad stories), so they cost the airline more to deal with and take away time from other passengers.
On this trip, I got the feeling that some of the parents were taking kids on vacation to a different country before they turn 2 years old, so they don’t have to pay. Why would you want to take a child of that age on a trip for pleasure? They won’t remember it, they will just be a burden and limit the things that the parents could do. Why not leave them at home with a family member or babysitter? Not only will the child like it better, but the parents will have more fun! It makes sense to me.
I’ve told a few people this idea and comment I’ve gotten is “The airlines can’t do that”. Oh yes, they can, it’s their airline. If they want to make every passenger pay, they can. Would they lose business? Maybe, but I would guess they would still have full flights due to more people might take a flight because they won’t have to put up with so many distractions. Just try sleeping when there are one or more babies crying at the same time!
Separate Cabins for Different Ages
Since I doubt that any airline will start charging kids under 2 years old to fly and I am an engineer, on the flight back I modified the cabins in the plane in my head. The plane below is like the planes I took this year to India and Mauritius.
I propose that the back two cabins of the main deck be separated by soundproof walls and doors. Furthermore, since the airline knows the ages of the passengers during the booking process, the parents with kids 6 and under will be divided up into two groups. One for infant to 2 year old toddlers and the second, 2 to 6 year old. This will keep all the crying babies and younger kids that don’t know how to use their “inside” voice or can’t behave on a very long trip. The cabins should also be loaded from back to front. I’m not sure why more airlines don’t do this.
I like this design and I’m sure all the passenger’s first 2 cabins will greatly appreciate it! Now, this won’t take care of rude passengers, but maybe there will be less of them if they can get some rest on their journey. Worth every penny if you ask me.
Last year I also flew to India and Mauritius (on separate trips) and I do not remember things were this bad. So, in the last year, I have noticed that they have dramatically changed and I’m not sure why. I’m seriously thinking of not ever traveling internationally again, especially on Emeritus.
Since this trip this year, I have talked to a few of my friends about what the reason could be. Some have suggested that it’s the way that the younger parents approach raising kids these days. They have also stated that many families with young kids fly Emeritus since they are cheaper. Not this year, but I have taken other airlines in previous years and I don’t remember it being this bad. But then again, I don’t remember it being this bad last year on Emeritus either. I don’t want to ever take Emeritus again, but now they won’t move my miles earned to Alaska (who I do like)!
I do hope that in the future, I can recover from this PTSD (anxiety) I feel now flying. Do you have an international travel horror story? Please let others know by making a comment below.