Jet Blue has been providing opportunities for families that have children with Autism to go through a simulated flight experience so that they can be better prepared for future air travel. Things like this just make my day, so I wanted to pass it on to you.
To read about “Wings for Autism” please check out this article from Autism Speaks.
I’m sure you have seen this story on some website in the last week. There was a family traveling with a toddler who refused to sit with her seat belt fastened, and the pilot decided to turn the plane around and ask them to get off of the flight.
You might be expecting me to react in favor of the family, and although I am against all of the arguments that loud children should not be allowed to fly (should we ban obnoxious adults from flights as well?), I feel that in this case, the family should have been better prepared. I am always talking about preparation, in fact I’m sure at times I sound like a one-phrase parrot, but it really is important, and this is a case that proves my point.
Airline seat belts are extremely easy to unlatch, and a two year old can most certainly unlatch it themselves. This presented a huge problem for the family aboard this Jet Blue flight. At one point during this interview the mother recalls that her and her husband were holding the children down “with all of their might.” That is obviously not a safe way to travel, and I can’t blame the pilot for making the decision he did. The family was in essence refusing to comply with airline safety regulations.
But what could the family have done to better prepare for their flight and avoid this awful situation? The first thing they could have done would have been to use some kind of restraint on the airplane like a CARES harness or a 5-point car seat. If they felt that it was too inconvenient to bring a bulky car seat, the CARES harness is super easy to pack in your carry on bag, and extremely light. The second thing they could have done was establish better discipline habits, like Sharon Markey describes here in this guest post. However, I realize that this flight was at the end of the family’s trip, and the kids were probably fairly exhausted. When kids are exhausted, they can’t be expected to listen or pay attention the way they would if they had all of their faculties about them. They should have also had distractions ready for their daughter, like coloring books, new special toys, play dough, a roll of tape or anything else that she would have liked to play with or eat (never underestimate the power of snacks!).
I’m sympathetic to the parents in this situation because I’m sure it was unpleasant, but you really can’t fault Jet Blue for what they did. They have to put safety first, bottom line. The one thing I would suggest to Jet Blue (and any other airline for that matter) is to put one or two CARES harnesses on each plane for future incidents, because it would go a long way in smoothing over situations like this and avoiding unneeded bad publicity. However, I don’t feel like they are obligated to do this. They are a business after all, and they have to think about their ability to make money.