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Five Things Flight Attendants Wish You Knew When Flying with Toddlers


Considering how frequently they’re up in the air, flight attendants (FAs) know traveling families pretty well. Sadly, most of these folks hate us. A whole stinking lot.

Recently, I checked in with a bunch of FA friends for the inside scoop on what they wish we knew before we took our toddlers on planes. Here, in no particular order of importance (or, I guess, of ignominy), are the juiciest of the bunch.

It’s all about the safety
Most parents (including many of you readers) went off upon hearing about last month’s debacle in which a two-year-old’s tantrum prompted JetBlue flight attendants to boot an entire family. How unfair! But FAs say stories like this one underline a critical issue: Safety comes first. If your kid is running around the cabin or throwing matchbox cars or slapping random passengers, there will be consequences—for you and for toddler. And there should be.

No milk!
No matter how many times you ask for it, no matter how much you might insist on complaining, most economy-class airplane galleys simply don’t stock milk anymore. Many FA insiders say this is a cost-cutting measure on the part of the airlines (I called an airline to confirm; they declined to comment). Whatever the reason, know before you go, and bring an ice pack from home to chill milk from airport gift shops for the duration of your flight.

A stand on seats
Most airlines say that kids who weigh less than 40 pounds (and are not flying as lap-children) should sit in car seats on board the plane. The problem, according to my FA friends, is that many parents plan to abide by this rule and try to improvise when their particular junior doesn’t want to sit still. In reality, because car seats don’t fit in overhead bins, there’s no place to put yours once your kid rejects it. Pro-seat or no seat, take a stand with your kid before you board.

Potty plan B
In a blog post last week, a (blatantly childless) writer with CNN Travel suggested that parents bring a “garbage bag” in which to “contain” kids who have made accidents aboard a flight when the lavatories are off-limits. FAs offer a kinder, gentler suggestion: The emergency pull-up. Sure, switching to a diaper substitute might set your potty-training back a day or two. But nothing—not even poop in the pants—is an excuse to flout the seatbelt sign. (For more on this, see No. 1.)

Invoke Aretha
Flight attendants are not babysitters. They’re not janitors. They’re not there to entertain your child while you and your wife catch a snooze. FA friends say an overwhelming majority of parents traveling with toddlers treat them (the flight attendants) with little to no respect. To avoid being part of this crowd, think. Bring stuff to keep your kids busy. Clean up after them. Pay attention to them (i.e., put down that damn Kindle). The nicer you are to FAs, the nicer they’ll be to you.

Have anything to add to this list? If so, sound off in the comment field below. I’ll publish comments in a future post.