Enough of toddler terrorists in the air, put them on special flights and let us travel in peace

Yonden Lhatoo says, after enduring too many journeys with squealing toddlers on board, airlines should offer special flights for parents and ill-disciplined kids

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 December, 2015, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:41am

Children should be seen, not heard. I would usually agree that this archaic saying belongs in some dusty, 15th-century book of homilies, but its modern-day relevance hit me like a sledgehammer recently when I was on a six-hour overnight flight to a holiday destination.

Trapped in an economy class seat with the usual lack of leg room or back support for basic human existence, I was surrounded by at least a dozen young children who had been placed strategically around me to turn the torture dial all the way up to 11.

Every time one of these tiny terrors let out a wail of entitlement or frustration, or whatever fleeting, self-indulgent emotion was the driving force for the moment, it would be picked up like a chorus by the others, producing a cacophonic orchestral effect that gave me a splitting headache.

They kept up their relentless aural assault throughout the night.

Before I’m labelled a child hater by the global Mothers Mafia, let me clarify that I love children. I just don’t share parents’ conviction that their progeny are cherubs descended from heaven when they behave like the spawn of hell.

I do understand that infants can be traumatised by ear-popping at 40,000 feet in a pressurised aircraft cabin. But I’m talking about the toddlers and nursery-school types who are obviously old enough to understand words more complicated than “sshhh”.

A couple of these spoiled brats were like thugs on the rampage, enjoying the kind of impunity that only comes with the supreme confidence of knowing there will be no consequences.

I’m against corporal punishment for children as a rule, but these mid-air menaces totally validated another proverb that is not as outdated as it sounds: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

To parents who would argue they should not be blamed for their children’s obnoxious behaviour in public because “kids will be kids” – allow me to call bovine faeces. Let’s face it: you’ve allowed your braying bambino to make your own life miserable, and that’s fine, but the collateral damage we have to suffer is just unacceptable.

Many of us who have shunned our traditional breeding obligations as Homo sapiens may be missing out on the joys of parenthood, but the trade-off for the apparent lack of fulfilment in our comparatively lonely lives is peace and quiet. We’ve earned that.

Offended parents might ask, “Are you saying we shouldn’t bring our children onto a plane at all?” The answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Especially if they’re miniature godzillas that you’ve never bothered to discipline.

Why not confront the parents of these ankle-biting anarchists, you might ask. Well, I used to but I stopped doing that after I came close to blows some years ago on another flight with a protective parent who was annoyed that I was annoyed by his neo-Nazi nipper. I nearly ended up being booted off the aircraft for – and this is rich – “disturbing the peace”.

To be fair, some parents admit culpability, like US comedian Jim Gaffigan, who says: “Travelling with three- and four-year-old boys is like transferring serial killers from a prison. You have to be constantly aware.”

Airlines should seriously start offering special flights once a week exclusively for parents with uncontrollable children. They can terrorise each other instead of innocent passengers.

After that, any kids who throw tantrums on non-designated fights should be subdued and handcuffed just like adults would if they engaged in abusive or disruptive behaviour. Their parents, too, for aiding and abetting.

Let me end by quoting a Canadian writer who summed it up perfectly: “We talk so much about leaving a better planet to our kids that we forget to leave better kids to our planet.”