Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The flight from hell

Flying with a baby was altogether a new experience and, I must admit, not anything like as bad as I thought it would be.

Being British, and acutely aware of what other people think of me, the thing I was most worried about were the hard stares from my fellow passengers as Eve went into the inevitable meltdown. I am used to her screaming from time to time, others are not. Therefore, how people were going to react was my main concern.

The people I encountered on the flights can be grouped roughly into 3 groups.

The first, although I am willing to admit this may be airline specific, were the cabin crew. Never having travelled with a baby before, I had no idea how accommodating the crew are. We boarded first, the crew on both legs made sure we were settled before tending to anyone else. They chatted to Eve, helped me with bags, and every time Eve cried at least two members of crew checked whether there was anything they could do. During one of the, mercifully rare, meltdowns (Eve only cried on take off and landing and was a delight for the rest of the flight) a crew member came up to be and asked if I was OK. I mumbled apologetically that Eve was tired and just needed to sleep, to which they replied "Yes, but are YOU OK?". They made the whole thing much less stressful.

The second group are grandparents and those traveling with children themselves. They will cluck and coo, played with Eve and look on sympathetically whenever Eve cried or was being difficult.

The final group are the middle aged men, almost exclusively businessmen in ill fitting clothing and using their blackberries until the last possible moment, who look upon you with horror and disgust as they realise there is a baby on their plane, in their business class. As I entered the lounge I could see people look up from their copies of the FT and start to pray I was on a different flight. One man in the lounge at HK actually had the audacity to say, after cooing over how cute Eve was being, that he hoped she was at a different end of the plane to him.

Thankfully Eve was a delight for most of the flight, and there were few of the last group of people around. I didn't have to drug Eve to get her to sleep (although I had Calpol and Piriton in my bag just in case), and she slept, played and ate well.

So, my top tips for travelling with a 6 month old would be the following:
Travel business class. I know this is impossibly expensive but having the flat bed for Eve to sleep on with me, the foot stall to use to feed her, and the huge chair to turn into a playpen for her to potter around on made the flight much more bearable than if she had been sitting on me for 14 hours.
Use Air New Zealand if you are going from HK to the UK. Brilliant in every possible way, I couldn't fault them.
Take a day flight if going to the UK. It was an awful lot easier just keeping Eve up a few hours and then slotting into her normal routine and she was much more bearable on the plane because she was awake and could eat and play.

And finally...
If anyone, anyone, glares at you then get out a boob and start breastfeeding - they will most certainly look the other way.

1 comment:

Sabina said...

All I can add to this is that when you get to the parenting stage of your life and you travel with the little ones, it is simpler to regard 'events' (meltdowns, tantrums or otherwise) as payback time for all those years we have had to endure other people's children during our child-free travel days.... Ahhh, yes, it does add a certain sense of calm and resignation to the whole saga.