Babies vs business travellers: Who is more annoying?
(Science Photo Library)
The problem with babies and business travellers is that neither really wants to be on the plane in the first place. And both are prone to tantrums.
Babies are aboard because their parents want them there. Business travellers are there because their bosses or clients want them to be.
The tension between the two groups reaches a fever pitch in the summer, when business travellers have to start sharing their space with throngs of vacationers. That’s when you’ll hear business travellers whining (like babies) about needing special “family” sections on planes, banishing children from business class or reserving certain flights for “adults only”. They express their frustration in-flight by banging noisily on their laptop keyboards, talking loudly with colleagues, or by drinking too much and then laughing out loud (or crying) at movies on their new iPads.
Since most babies can’t talk yet, they don’t really have a say in the matter. But they communicate their dislike of the grouchy old business traveller in other ways — by kicking their seatbacks, shrieking nonstop for hours or smelling up their space with a leaky diaper or vomit.
“I find that most babies are well behaved on flights,” said Amy Graff, Best Western’s family travel expert and parenting blogger for BabyCenter.com. “Unfortunately, it’s the ones who misbehave that give others a bad reputation.” With two kids of her own, Graff recommends that when business travellers see well-behaved babies, they should point it out to the parents with a compliment.
In any case, as peak summer travel season approaches, it’s inevitable that the two groups will meet again. And it is the business traveller that needs to take the high road and be the mature one in the relationship. So here is your advice for dealing with:
The crying baby
With a shrill squeal only a mother could love, the crying baby is by far the most frequently noticed type of travelling baby. Business travellers can put up with occasional wails during takeoff or landing, but their blood pressure rises and eyebrows arch when the baby shrieks throughout the flight, especially if it is overnight. To avoid going over the edge and throwing a tantrum, business travellers should pack earplugs or invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headsets, and don’t glare at the parents of a crying baby. “The glares from other travellers make the parents feel more stressed. And then the babies pick up on the stress of their parents and cry even more,” Graff said.
The kicking baby
These future footballers have figured out how to use those developing leg muscles to kick the seatbacks of the unlucky passengers seated in front of them. Graff notes that the car seats infants sometimes sit in during flight often force their little feet into the seatback. Grin and bear a few nudges during boarding and takeoff, but if the kicking continues, wipe the glare off your face, turn around and kindly ask the parent if he or she could put an end to it. Be sure to start with a smile and a kind word to avoid a confrontation (or you could end up with a kicking, crying baby). Try saying something like, “I know it’s tough travelling with kids, but is there anything we could do to stop the kicking?”
The sick baby
Babies don’t know customs like covering their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Most business travellers try to stay as far away as possible from these aerosolized germ factories, but sometimes find themselves seated next to them. Sick, feverish babies are usually crying babies, too, especially during landing when they are unable to equalize the pressure in their ears due to congestion. Frequent traveller John DiScala, who writes the popular travel blog JohnnyJet.com always travels with a hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes to keep the seat, armrest and tray table clean. “To avoid catching a summer cold, you should wipe down everything nearby that you might touch,” he said. To avoid airborne germs, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief or just breath through your nose as much as possible. Wash your hands before, during and after flying.
The “peek-a-boo” baby
The baby that eagerly peeks and coos over the seatback is cute at first, but when the game extends over the duration of the flight, it can get irritating, especially if he or she is dropping half eaten animal crackers onto your laptop keyboard. Even more irritating is when the person next to the business traveller or in the row behind him eggs the baby on. If you aren’t willing to play, avoid eye contact with the little one, and don’t encourage the behaviour. Graff notes that travellers who overly engage with kids can be as annoying to parents as… crying babies.
What else can business travellers do to cut the tension? Graff recommends swapping your aisle seat for a window with a parent who might often be forced to get up and out of their seat with a squirmy baby. She also says that just establishing friendly eye contact with a parent during the boarding process can help. “When the business traveller treats me like a ghost is when I get stressed about how he or she must feel having so share a row with a baby.”
So who’s the biggest baby here? What type of baby… or business traveller… do you find the most annoying? Leave your comments on our Facebook page.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel.