Does a flight attendant have a duty to at least attempt to quiet a screaming baby? I say yes.
Last night I was on a intra-Europe Lufthansa flight where a baby two rows behind me screamed for nearly every moment of the 1.5 hours I was inside the aircraft. Not once did one of the FAs onboard make an attempt to calm and quiet the baby.
Some may say, "What's a flight attendant supposed to do?" or "Let the parents take care of our their own brat!" but I think that's a cop out. I view an FAs presence onboard not merely for safety reasons, but to win customers by providing caring, attentive, and compassionate service that at least gives the impression that they love their jobs.
Last night, the Lufty FAs rushed through a beverage and meal service before retreating to the front galley to gab for the rest of the flight. The baby was loud, everyone was disturbed, and whatever the mother was doing wasn't working. In these situations, I'd really like to see a FA attempt to calm the baby. I know that some mothers might not want to hand over the baby to a FA, but if I was unable to quiet my child and knew that I was disturbing 100 people around me, I'd be willing to let someone else try to calm the baby down.
This issue is not about babies on planes. As far as I am concerned, that issue is moot and the allegation that all babies are loud simply is not true. I was quite scared when I spied a baby sitting across the aisle from me before a 14.5 hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney in 2009. But the child did not make a peep the entire flight. You cannot judge a book by its cover.
I also know that the baby often is not crying for the heck of it: pressure and other side effects of traveling by air cause extreme physical discomfort, naturally leading to wailing and sobbing.
But this issue is about the duty of FAs to at least show other passengers that they care. Sometimes any effort to silence a child will be futile, but at least the passengers would know that the airline made an effort to remedy the problem. From a business standpoint, I would include a "how to quiet a baby" session in FA training, and mandate that FAs cheerfully work to calm down children who are too loud. And I bet some of those FA's are very good with children (think about it--United's Seattle based FA's are all grandmothers and great grandmothers now...).
Perhaps Bobby and Sara in The Crew Lounge will have to set me straight, but I see high returns with minimal effort. It is time FAs started trying harder to quiet down loud children.