Airline Throws Toddler Off Plane for Putting His Feet in the Aisle

child airplaneIt's every traveling mother's nightmare. Mom Emily Kaiman was traveling with her four children (all preschool age and under) and her mother from Charlotte to St. Louis when they were asked to leave the airplane due to her 17-month-old's behavior. Apparently the little boy, named Shai, was flying as a lap baby with his mom and began kicking his legs out into the aisle.


The flight attendant told Kaiman this wasn't allowed, so Kaiman maneuvered her son so his legs faced the other direction. As they taxied to the runway Shai was still fussy; he was trying to stand up and was moving around in his mom's lap, so Kaiman started nursing him to calm him. Then she noticed that the plane was heading back to the gate. When they got there, they were kicked off the flight and told that Shai was considered a safety risk to himself and others on the plane.

This is the kind of story that kept me from flying with my twins until they were 3 years old. The time between the ages of one and three are what a friend of mine refers to as “the black hole” of traveling with children -- it's a dark space where your soul goes to die. Kids that age don't want to do anything for more than one to two seconds. The only thing that would make flying with a child under the age of 3 easy would be if the flight was 15 minutes long and the cast of Blue's Clues performed a live show in the aisles.

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Traveling with small children is hard on a good day -- on a bad day, it can be impossible. Consider the fact that Kaiman's flight was delayed for three hours before she and her family were able to board. I recently had a two hour delay in Washington, D.C. with a couple of 7-year-olds and came very close to giving up and making the nation's capital our new home; that way we'd be done waiting, and moving would give the kids something to do. As parents, we know that it is our responsibility to keep our kids under control on airplanes. But, as parents, we also know that when one of our kids goes to that bad place where crankiness is the problem and screaming is the only cure, it is really difficult to control them without hog-tying and gagging them. (Personally, I find the combination of a DVD player and M&Ms will do the trick 98 percent of the time.)

From the airline's perspective, it is their job to keep everyone safe, and if a child is trying to climb out of his mother's lap while a plane is about to go 150 miles an hour down a runway, I can see why that would be a problem for them. But a little compassion on both sides would help in many of these situations: if flight attendants would communicate better about what the problem is, why it is a safety issue, and brainstorm with parents about how to fix the problem, there'd be fewer of these stories in the news. Working with parents to solve the problem can't take more time and energy than turning a flight back to the gate and forcing them off. However, we as parents should also try to empathize with what flight crews are required to do to ensure that we have a safe flight. It's hard for anyone to win when whether a flight takes off or not is dependent on the behavior of a toddler.

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It's a tough situation no matter which side of it you're on. So let's all use a little more compassion, a little more patience, and a lot more M&Ms.

What would you have done in this mom's shoes?


About the Author: Meredith Bland is a freelance writer whose work has appeared at; Brain, Mother; The Rumpus; Scary Mommy; and Blogher, among others. She also writes at her humor blog, Pile of Babies. You can follow her on Twitter at @pileofbabies or on Facebook.


Image via shutterstock

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