It’s a creak-creak-creak-creak — the sound of a wheeled apparatus approaching. As the carriage wheels in alongside, there’s a great and sudden clattering of toys, food containers and juice cartons. Look at that adorable child napping peacefully like that. Please, I say to myself, don’t let them be sitting near me. They are in the row ahead of me, in the seats next to me, and in the row behind me too. They’re climbing over the seat-backs, their heads popping up, whack-a-mole style.
A man comes out of the restroom with his two tiny sons, maybe three or four years old. Until I look up from my complimentary newspaper and there — there! ” When I can’t take it any more I walk over and ask the mother to please control her children.
The kids burst into a run, and as they pass me one of them lets out a scream so shrill that I think my coffee cup is going to crack. I made sure to choose one of the window seats with the console facing outward, toward the aisle — this creates a cubicle effect, as if you’re sitting there in your own little private jet. I’m going to put on my Asiana slippers, drink some wine, watch some movies, and dine on gourmet food before stretching out to rest in my full-flat sleeper. — one row ahead of me, and directly diagonal to my seat, is, you guessed it, a baby. I feel like the biggest asshole in the world, but this cost me a lot of money, and the whole point was to be comfortable and away from the usual racket.
We paid for the tickets, the argument goes, so we have a right to be here, and hey, it’s just kids being kids, right?
Actually, no, I’m sorry, this is not a legitimate justification.
Once again, at least for a moment, I’m relaxed and happy. Actually, it’s a baby carriage flanked by a mom and two toddlers, one on either side of a strapped-in infant. It’s a wailing, electric, claxon-like sound, like a nuclear attack alert, loud enough to rattle my tableware. Reading is impossible; sleeping is out of the question. It is so loud you cannot hear the public address announcements from the crew.
Until, hardly three minutes later, as I’m scanning through some emails, again I hear a tell-tale noise. And this foursome of noisemakers is aimed directly at the table next to mine. And I would love to tell you that this time I got lucky, and this was one of those quiet and well-behaved babies who whines for a minute and then, miracle of miracles, utters nary a peep for the rest of the flight. Those are the flights that restore our faith in both air travel and humanity at large. The only escape is watching movies with the volume cranked up (unfortunately Asiana’s entertainment system is terrible and offers only a few boring choices). When we touch down at JFK in September sunshine just before 11 a.m., I don’t feel the least bit sated, refreshed or relaxed. Experience two: There’s a lot to like in Emirates business class on the Airbus A380. The carrier’s “ICE” entertainment system is second to none. Amenities are all around you, from the duvet and mattress to the luxurious lounge and bar in the back of the upper deck. I’m at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, walking up the jet bridge that leads to the upper deck, when a huge family of at least a dozen, six of them kids, rudely cuts the line.
These tickets cost thousands of dollars, yet it seems there’s no shortage of travelers well-heeled enough to be jetting around in the forward rows with two, three, even a half-dozen small children. Poking around on Kayak.com, I found an excellent last-minute fare on Asiana, one-way to JFK via Seoul-Incheon, for a little over 00.
How the demographics of air travel have changed, indeed. They cry, they run around, they yell, they misbehave. (Bangkok has become a mega-hub served by over 90 airlines and fares from the city are very competitive, making it an ideal place for scoring deals like this.) I was excited.
The centerpiece of this chaos is an obnoxious guy in a Russian soccer shirt and his belligerent offspring.
He’s something of a Vladimir Putin lookalike, sprawled sockless on a sofa with his naked feet hanging over the rail, playing a game on his phone. When I complain to the woman at the desk, she simply smiles and says “Oh so sorry sir.” Absolutely no effort is made to actually quiet the kids down.
I CONTINUE to be astounded by the sheer number of people traveling around the world with babies, toddlers, and other preschool-age children.