Infantile Airline Policy

Photo courtesy of Matt Stanford

ATTENTION! All airline patrons! All flight passengers! Anyone who ever has ridden a plane, intends to ride a plane or is currently in transit to a plane! This column is for you!

Airlines have hit a new low. How is that possible, you ask? I’m here to tell you that it is. First, airlines began charging for check-in luggage. Then they limited the allowed number of carry-ons, forcing passengers to spend more money on checked luggage. And now, the most disgusting development of all: Airlines have started counting lap babies as one of the two allowed carry-ons.

Oh, you haven’t heard about the new baby carry-on policy? Well, neither had I, but despite our having missed the presumably extensive news coverage on this latest development, let me assure you it is in full effect.

Allow me to tell you the tale.

I noticed the implementation of this new airline policy last month when I was taking a redeye from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Before we boarded the plane, I saw a young mother with her baby, who was crawling around in little Superman pajamas. Tired and eager to play, baby Superman grabbed at his mother’s empty cup and used it as a drum. The mother took away his new toy, and the little Man of Steel screamed.

I looked around for a baby bag — for some type of purse holding food and diapers and, most importantly, toys to distract the tired tyke with. But all the young mother had was a carry-on suitcase. I was utterly shocked! Who takes a baby on a five-hour plane ride and doesn’t bring any essentials?

This was before I realized babies are considered carry-on luggage.

I was sitting in my aisle seat, trying to fall asleep before takeoff, when the young mother and baby took the aisle seat across from mine. Curses! I don’t care how much you love children; no one likes to be seated next to a baby on a redeye. Luckily, Dramamine is a lifesaver, and the cranky Superbaby was no match for my drugs.

I awoke a couple of hours into the flight. That’s when I noticed that the young mother across from me was fast asleep and no longer holding her baby! Where could he be?

Then I saw him, fast asleep, stored under the seat in front of his mother’s.

Yes, you read right. The baby in Superman pajamas was stored under a seat. He wasn’t placed on a blanket or a mat. He was not strapped in or wearing a seat belt. Baby Superman was simply carry-on luggage.

The plane began to jostle, but the sleeping mother didn’t wake. I looked down at Superman, who had nothing protecting him from the turbulence. He woke, repositioned his little body and fell back asleep. Now only his head remained tucked under the seat; his cape and blue stockings rested in the middle of the aisle.

I wanted to make a scene, but Dramamine-induced fatigue knocked the fight right out of me. I tried to wake up Superman’s mother with no luck. Not knowing what to do, I stuck out my legs into the aisle, protecting the baby. A handful of people tripped over my legs, and only after their stumbles did the sleepwalkers notice that they almost had stepped on a child.

I went to push the call button for a flight attendant, eager to complain about the neglected baby, just as an attendant walked by. Without slowing her pace, she looked down at the baby sleeping on the aisle floor and said, “Aww.”

Aww?!

That’s when I realized that this all must be my error. My misunderstanding. Clearly, some law must’ve been passed, a policy put into effect, a brand-spankin’-new protocol that I had missed out on. What other explanation could there be for the otherwise total negligence of a baby’s being treated like a carry-on by not only his mother but also an airline worker?

The mother soon woke and picked up her son. I half expected her to return him to his station under the seat when we prepared for landing.

So, next time you are packing for the airport, please remember that any lap children will apparently count as carry-on luggage.

Just one question: If babies are to be stored under the seat in front of you, are toddlers to be stored in the overhead compartment?

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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