By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
One family's Memorial Day vacation ended before it even started when Mark Yanchuk and his 3-year-old son were kicked off an Alaskan Airlines flight. Now before I tell you what the tot did to deserve public humiliation and ejection from the plane, I want you to think about all the things that warrant getting kicked off a plane. I know underwear bombs definitely do, but beyond that it gets a bit dicey in my mind. Too heavy to fit in one seat? Crying too loudly or long? Loud arguing? Public intoxication? Probable sex act? Repeated vomiting? Because I've seen adults do every one of these things on a flight and not get thrown off the plane because of their "unruliness."
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This little boy's crime? Lying sideways in his seat so that the seatbelt wasn't properly situated. That's right. He wasn't screaming or throwing food or kicking the seat in front of him. Granted, I'm sure he was being obnoxious but given all the explanation provided in the Time magazine article (and perhaps there is more to the story?) the airline's actions seem horribly, well, childish.
Before anyone jumps on the "but it's a safety issue!" train (the stewardess said the child was had the belt across his neck, and she worried he might choke himself), I'd like to point out that I've seen plenty of adults not use their lap belt at all, either pretending to buckle it and leaving it unlatched or buckling it when the flight attendant walks by and then immediately removing it. More to the point, I've seen airline seatbelts. That kid would need Houdini level of talent to manage to choke himself with one. Not to mention that his father was right there and by all accounts doing his best to help his son sit still.
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Bad behavior knows no age limit, yet it seems like young children (and their parents) are most frequently targeted for public condemnation when flying the friendly skies. Of course children should be taught to be respectful of public places; I don't enjoy it, either, when a baby bawls for an entire 4-hour flight (especially when said baby is in my arms). Nevertheless, I think a lot of people forget that airplanes are public transportation. Expensive public transportation, yes, but still open to all. Part of being in public is recognizing that not everyone is going to act the way they should all the time. I'm not trying to justify parents who turn a blind eye to their children's bad behavior while everyone else around them suffers, but rather ask for a little understanding for those who are doing the best they can with a very unpredictable little human.
Plus, a little kindness goes a long way. I didn't freak out when the gentleman next to me on my last flight asked to use my tray table and armrest so he could spread out his office gear. In return, when my son got a little cranky, he offered him a sparkly pen to play with. It wasn't the most comfortable flight for either of us, but we made it work.
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What do you think: Should airlines be able to eject a child from the flight for "unruliness"? What's the worst behavior you've seen on a plane, and how old was the person behaving that way?
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