Travelling with teeny ones

little-devilOr: “How Air New Zealand beats Air Canada hands down”

Those of you that follow me on twitter will know that while I have been excitedly looking forward to my North American Adventure (yes, Adventure, with a capital A) for a while, I have also been dreading the travelling part of the Adventure. Specifically a 14+ hour flight with Mr4.5 and Mr1.5.

Mr 4.5 is a seasoned traveller. After all, he is on his second passport… so we were armed with all the usual weaponry to keep him well behaved. The 4 hour flight (AKL✈SYD) went reasonably well. Air New Zealand staff welcomed us onto the flight with a friendly, kiwi “hiya” and Mr4.5 sat on his car booster seat (half booster, lifts him just enough to see the onboard screen without both craning his neck or seeing the screen half black due to a weird parallax angle) put on the noise cancelling headphones that fits his little head properly and was off in baby geek land. His dad and I only had to deal with Mr1.5 who was not so easily placated.

This all went swimmingly, even after the power supply on the Air New Zealand plane broke down and the time on the plane was an hour more than planned. (The android nexus being a handy backup when the onboard entertainment failed)

So, landing in SYD with only half an hour to make it to our next flight (14 hours+ AKL✈YVR) … mad dash across the airport to find friendly Air Canada staff. They actually boarded our family first with the other young families… but that was where it all started going downhill.

So, just as we did 5 hours ago, Mr 4.5 sat on his booster seat, and discovered (with great dismay, I might add) that the Air Canada plane did not have onboard games, just shows. Also, the shows were in the general population of all other shows on the system (no friendly “kids corner” like on Air New Zealand) oh well… no problems so far, Mr4.5 is scarily savvy when it comes to technology, even though he barely knows 55 out of his first 85 sight words, he found the show that he wanted and settled down to watch, while we dealt with el diablo (a.k.a. Mr1.5)

Uh oh, problem number one. Apparently the car booster seat isn’t “safe” for airplanes. Because, if a plane crashes, the fact that he is 4 inches higher and actually strapped in properly (he’s too little for the seatbelt to actually be in any sensible position normally) will cause his death. *sigh* We asked for a second opinion and it was confirmed by the team leader, “we’ve consulted the flight manual, the booster seat is definitely against the rules”. I’d just like to say, in all various travelling, and several different airlines, we’ve never had any problems with the seat…after all, if you think about it, it really is like a cushion, with an additional bit of plastic, a reinforced cushion if you will…

Ok, we politely removed the booster seat for stowing safely in the overhead storage unit. Then came problem number two. “I’m sorry sir, he will have to remove his headphones. They are considered an electronic device and must not be worn during take off and landing” “not even if we switch them off?” “I’ll bring him some bud earphones” *sigh* really?! In fact, I am absolutely certain that the companies who sell noise cancelling headphones use plane take off and landing as a selling point.

I won’t complain about the staff… they didn’t make these insane arbitrary rules, but I would like to add a final addendum. All these rules must mean that they are extremely concerned for our safety, that would be the only reason right? Indeed, not one, or two, but THREE different staff members gave us a special safety briefing because we were travelling with Mr1.5:

“Hold him on your lap, facing the front”

“Ok, sure, where is the infant seatbelt?” (Air New Zealand, and in fact all other airlines we’ve ever travelled on, if your child is too small to have a seat, they get a short version of the seat belt to loop through yours – the same theory as those ads on TV that warn about holding your child in a car, there’s no way you can hold against the force unleashed in an accident)

“Oh, we don’t do that here, just hold him”

“oookay then…”

“And if an accident does occur, please put your own oxygen mask on before aiding others”

“But if he doesn’t have a seat, and is in fact sitting on me, does that mean there will not be an oxygen mask for him?” (Again, other airlines mention at this stage that they will provide additional oxygen masks if necessary)

*stony silence*

At this stage, we decide to just nod and smile at the next two staff members when they repeated the safety briefing (even though we had assured them that we had already had the briefing) it was less difficult that pointing out all the logical flaws.

Don’t get me wrong, I am infinitely grateful to the nice lady at the end, when Mr1.5 had been screaming for about an hour, who shared her banana (presumably from her home packed lunch, as there were no bananas in any of the meals) with him. I am also infinitely grateful for all the staff who heated the bottles and were generally helpful when asked… I am merely pointing out that there are more than a few logical flaws in their systems, and perhaps a bit of constructive feedback from a seasoned parent traveller might be appreciated… but then again, maybe not.