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"Bye, Bye, Plane" . . . Then Bye, Bye, Baby

John Deiner

My eyes always light up when I see a news story involving people behaving badly on an airplane. But even this story has me bewildered.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that a mother and her 19-month-old son were flying from Atlanta to Oklahoma in June on a Continental Express flight when the plane made a scheduled stop in Houston. According to the child's mother, who talked to an Atlanta TV station, as the plane was taxiing in Houston en route to Oklahoma, the baby started saying "Bye, bye, plane." The flight attendant objected, she said, and told her, "It's not funny anymore. You need to 'shut your baby up.' "

That, the mom said, was followed by a suggestion to give the child "baby Benadryl." There was an announcement that the plane was turning around and that the two would be ejected from the plane. We'll let AP finish the story: "The two were indeed let off, said Kristy Nicholas, spokeswoman for Express Jet Airlines, which flies as Continental Express on behalf of Continental Airlines. Nicholas said the airline would investigate."

Well, my first reaction is, "What????" Gee, I've sat by some chatty kids and much chattier adults on planes, and yeah, I'd like to see them go away as quickly as possible and by whatever means. But being kicked off a plane? Seems way over the top to me, particularly because reports say none of the other passengers was complaining.

Any thoughts on this? Are we getting a little touchy about bad behaviour on airlines? Or is this a good thing?

By John Deiner |  July 20, 2007; 10:05 AM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , John Deiner
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Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 20, 2007 10:39 AM

I am flying with my 22-month old on Tuesday and I am petrified. This story had me breathing in a paper bag. I'm worried about the delays, and tight spaces and ear popping causing some bad moments. Now do I have to worry about him talking!?! What am I suppose to do? I'm not going to let him run down the aisles and cause a scene, but there is zero tolerance for kids on planes anymore (from passengers to airlines). I am going to bring ear plugs and buy drinks for the people around me. I hope the gesture goes a long way.

Posted by: mfd | July 20, 2007 10:51 AM

I'll have to side with the airline. If you can't control your kid while in public, you shouldn't have them.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 20, 2007 11:21 AM

A few questions:

1. Were the passengers complaining or was it preventing the flight attendant from doing her job (i.e., was it loud enough that others could not hear the flight attendant's legally-required safety speech)?

2. Was the kid in the seat, strapped in, and otherwise behaving all right except for the "Bye bye plane" bit? (This would differentiate it from the Elly Whatshername story where the kid wouldn't sit down so the plane could take off.)

When I have these answers I can formulate an opinion -- as it stands now, as much as I can't stand screaming children in planes or otherwise, this one I think may have been a bit over the top unless the kid's saying "bye bye plane" was somehow actually stopping them from being able to take off.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 20, 2007 11:30 AM

Story I saw had other passengers of the flight stating they were more upset about turning around with no known complaints other than the flight attendant. to me this is a case of the airline staff abuseing their authority. story ended by saying the child in question was asleep by the time the plane had taxi'd back to the terminal

Posted by: guy from OK | July 20, 2007 11:57 AM

It was obviously a terrorist signal - they're recruiting suicide bombers younger and younger.

Posted by: MB | July 20, 2007 12:42 PM

The flight attendant is the only one who threw a tantrum here. Maybe she should be grounded until she learns to play nicely with others.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | July 20, 2007 2:19 PM

Here's a thought - get the WHOLE story FIRST.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 20, 2007 4:02 PM

Several months ago I was on a 13 hour flight and the 3-4 year old behind me spotted a woman breast feeding her baby across the isle. The toddler proceeded to say "Da Baby" (with various inflection) for about 45 minutes (long after the baby in question finished and began napping).

It was absolutely hell. Da baby! Da baaaaaaaybeeeeee! Da babeeeeeee! Daaaaa baby!! I didn't say anything (the flight wasn't offering hard liquor or benadryl - I'd tried to get both hoping they'd put me out when the girl was kicking my seat 5 hours earlier). The woman sitting next to me (who had shared her own horror story about flying with a colicy 6 month old 25 years earlier) was beginning to grumble "shut up already". Girl wasn't loud (at least, not louder than she'd been the rest of the flight - save the tantrum about having to buckle up). I'd already had to change seats twice to accomodate other people, so there was also no hope of moving to another seat.

So I know how the flight attendant from this saga feels - I'd buy her a drink if I could.

Posted by: Arlington VA | July 20, 2007 6:04 PM

What was the result of Continental's investigation? From the report, this seems like yet another example of poor training and bad judgment by a flight attendant. But what role did the other crew members play? What about the pilots? Was there a federal marshall on board? Turning the plane around to eject a mother and her toddler doesn't strike me as something a single flight attendant can or should do without consultation with others. There should be a follow-up story.

BTW, from the article, this seems like a typical example of the airline -- Name: CONTINENTAL -- suggesting through its PR folks that its subcontracted partner was really responsible. It's CONTINENTAL that sells the ticket and its CONTINENTAL that should be taking the lead in working this out. Too many travel journalists help the major carriers by letting them hide behind their contractees.

Posted by: do-a-follow-up | July 21, 2007 3:53 PM

Wow. I'm generally inclined to take the flight attendants' side, because they put up with a lot of nasty crap in their jobs, but this sounds like one flight attendant who needs to look for a different line of work. Perhaps Continental, or whoever the heck employs her, could help her start that path.

Posted by: h3 | July 23, 2007 11:01 AM

It really depends on the situation. I guess you could say that when the mom refused to shut her kid up (according to some articles on this) that she was now refusing orders from the attendants and should be ejected. That said, I was on a Southwest Airlines flight once and a 3 year old started screeching. Mom did nothing to shut the kid up, but the stewardess came over and said to the kid "You are too old to be crying like that, what is your problem?" And she got the kid quiet, no delay, no other problems, just a good stewardess.

Posted by: Chris M | July 23, 2007 2:06 PM

Terrorist was mentioned. Of course, this child was too young to know of these things. BUT! Just the words she was saying could have upset many passengers, feeling that these words were the words of the fate of the plane. Wrong words, wrong place, wrong timing.

Posted by: Channah | July 25, 2007 11:17 AM

Terrorist was mentioned. Of course, this child was too young to know of these things. BUT! Just the words she was saying could have upset many passengers, feeling that these words were the words of the fate of the plane. Wrong words, wrong place, wrong timing.

Posted by: Channah | July 25, 2007 11:17 AM

Terrorist was mentioned. Of course, this child was too young to know of these things. BUT! Just the words she was saying could have upset many passengers, feeling that these words were the words of the fate of the plane. Wrong words, wrong place, wrong timing.

Posted by: Channah | July 25, 2007 11:17 AM

Years before media frenzy about terrorists' attacks I was on a long flight seated directly across from a crying toddler. The mother did nothing to quiet her little girl, and the crying at first could have been the result of pressure in the ears. The woman flight attendant brought a pillow, offered to change the woman's seat, etc., etc., etc. After three hours plus of baby crying, the child was exhaused and FINALLY fell asleep about 15 minutes before touchdown. Pure bliss until the mother woke her daughter up prepatory to landing. (Everyone else groaned!). The last view I had of mom and kid was baby zonked out on mom's shoulder as they exited.

Posted by: Sue | July 25, 2007 3:15 PM

Oh boy, someone (that flight attendant) needs to get a life. Babies do that; they repeat stuff endlessly. Did the FA really think the baby was saying the plane was going to go bye-bye literally, consigning the pax and crew to the Great Beyond? Give me a break. Unless there is a *lot* more to that story, Continental (NOT Continental Express -- Continental sold the ticket and Conti Express operates under Continental's name) booted it big-time.

Posted by: ajsmithva | July 26, 2007 11:31 AM

Without the "whole" story, I can't be totally objective. But, that flight attendant obviously has no sense of humor and obviously has never had a 19 month old child. I have been on flights where infants/small children have cried/fussed for hours. While this is not a pleasant experience, there is not always a whole lot that can be done. Bring along your ear plugs or iPod and that should help. As far as being afraid of the plane crashing because a "baby" is saying "Bye bye plane", maybe those folks, flight attendant included, need to drive!

Posted by: Shelley | July 26, 2007 3:32 PM

I'm with the flight attendant. "Babies do that" is not a good excuse. Flying is expensive and stressful enough without having to be imposed upon by other people's obnoxious children. If you can't keep your child quiet, you need to give it medication to make it sleep. Just because you've decided to have children doesn't mean the rest of the world should suffer the consequences.

Posted by: RC | July 26, 2007 5:46 PM

You DON'T give a baby under the age of 2 medication such as "Baby Benadryl" to "make it go to sleep"! You obviously don't have children. Children are not dogs!Giving that sort of medication to a child under 2 without a doctor's order is very dangerous and can be lethal.
And babies DO do that. Toddlers don't have the concept of "quiet" yet.
I've been following this story closely because I'm waiting to hear about a follow-up. What does the FA have to say for herself? What does the airline plan to do about it? This FA was out of line.

For those of you who didn't actually read/hear the entire story, several passengers spoke up on the mother's behalf, trying to tell the FA that the child was not bothering them. The FA also claimed that the mother had threatened her, she went to tell the pilot and then the plane was turned around. The passengers have spoken on her behalf to say that the mother was NOT threatening the FA in any way and it was an outright lie on the FA's part. To boot, the mother didn't even know about the threat comment until after she was greeted by police officers at the gate.
The mother and her son had been on an 11 hour delay so it's amazing the child was as well behaved as he was in the first place. He was saying "bye bye plane" to the plane he saw out the window because he was excited about finally taking off. He kept saying it because THAT'S WHAT BABIES DO at that age. And they usually get pretty chatty just before they're ready to konk off to sleep, which this boy had done before they even got back. What a waste of time. If I had been a passenger that day I'd have been kicked off too because I would have told the FA off myself.
Some of you people need to be a bit less heartless and a bit less selfish.

Posted by: AE | July 27, 2007 9:38 PM

Man finally someone with some common sense spoke up. I can not understand to this day why Americans have become as whimpy as babys needing a pacifier. Personally I would not want anyone to know that I am American. It's a shameful discription these days. Hats off to the lady or man bringing the entire story to the front. It's not important to note that I myself fly very little, but in doing so I shall say this. Some people actaully look forward to flying. Those who fly all the time may need to buy their own plane if things like a baby saying bye bye plane offends them. FA should stand for Foolish Assistant. Not worthy of a job working with happy people. For all of you who finds fault in the mother I have only one thing to say to you. YOu all are why America is no longer the home of the free and the brave. More like home of the weak and scary, and powerless to change anything about their miserable lives and yet still act as if they know it all... what a joke. Grow up children! And do me a personal favor, dont vote in 2008. obviously there are enough of you stupid citizens to rot the rest of the world...

Posted by: Thomcatt | August 1, 2007 3:15 AM

Yes there are many things that are annoying about airline travel specially in coach. If you can not have any tolerance at all and expect to hear no noise while in coach you should: 1) either buy a first class ticket or 2) rent a private a jet. I you can't afford any of the 2 above just don't be all grumpy all the time. Also, people should think about common courtesy and not kick the seat of the person in front. Parents should make children aware of good behavior, not kicking the seat in front of them, etc. If a little kid is crying then just be patient, the kid is having a worse time than you are. If you cant be patient or have zero tolerance, rent your private jet.

Posted by: patience | August 6, 2007 8:27 PM

I totally agree with Thomcatt's comment. There are so many people in the US that are such drama queens and kings. It is really unbelievable. If they travel on an airplane that want zero noise. If they drive, they want no cars on the road. If they are on a bus or a subway they get upset if it is crowded during rush hour and expect to have their own 3 x 3 feet space. If anything like that happens to them it is a horror in their life. Difficulties? That would be someone who is diagnosed with aids, someone who looses a limb, loosing your job, growing up without enough food for you and your family. Pleas try to be less self centered and by nice to the people around you, whether it is on the road, on an airplane, the subway, at work or wherever.

Posted by: patience | August 6, 2007 8:37 PM

I am grateful for the comments that have recently been posted. Those who are crying about how hard it is when they are on a plane with a child should remember that they were once children themselves and I would doubt they were 'quiet' and 'peaceful' all of the time. We need to have more patience and love in this world and if we feel it is more important to turn our wrath on children and their mothers, then shame on you. How about, instead of mumbling, "Shut Up", you instead lean over and ask a mother having difficulties if you can help in any way. Give a helping hand, not just a self-righteous whiny attitude.

Posted by: Empathy | August 18, 2007 9:42 PM

Truth of the matter is that this flight attendant never experienced the joy of having a baby...or if she did; it was rather a very bad experience...

Posted by: Concerned... | August 21, 2007 2:07 PM

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