Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Children on flights

The controversy that has erupted about New Zealand member of parliament Charles Chauvel telling a child on an airline flight to shut up reminds me of an incident related to me by a mother who is a cousin of mine.

This woman and her child, an 8 year old boy, were flying from London to New York. Now this child is something of a handful. Her mother admits he a little ADHD but the correct diagnosis is probably Aspergers. Anyway, he is difficult to control at the best of times, let alone when he is confined to a small airline seat for six hours.

I'm not sure exactly what the child did, but the passengers complained so fiercely about his behaviour that the cabin staff asked the mother if they could administer a sedative. The mother refused (she is one of those new-age, liberal, "my child needs to fully express himself" natural remedy type of mothers, which is probably half the reason the child was so unreasonable to begin with) and eventually the child's behaviour was reported to the pilot.

The situation got to the point where the pilot threatened to turn the aircraft around and return to Heathrow if the mother did not allow the child to be sedated. Eventually, she acquiesced and the flight continued on its way. At the time I found the mother's account of the incident hilarious (after all, it is not every child that can provoke a response normally reserved for hijackers) but I'm sure the other passengers on the flight did not.

Putting up with badly behaved children and their irresponsible parents is one of the banes of airline travel. Last time I flew from New Zealand to London we had to put up with a child who screamed pretty much continuously for the whole journey. The entire passenger cabin groaned audibly when we saw the child and his parents re-embark after the transit stopover in Los Angeles, with everyone sharing the common hope that their journey had ended there.

As a parent myself, I'm not sure what the answer is but compulsory sedation is not a bad option. I don't know much about Charles Chauvel as he seems to be one of the least visible members of our parliament, but I can only sympathise with his actions in respect of the misbehaving child.