Matthewonlive and let's fly

A Flight Attendant's Duty to Calm a Screaming Baby

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.

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Comments

Here's some additional reading on the matter that I found quite practical:

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/do-strangers-really-hate-my-kids/

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/04/how-not-to-calm-a-child-on-a-plane/

#2
Kilativ February 14, 2011 at 02:23 pm

a unfamiliar face is the last thing a screaming infant wants to see

#3
Dan February 14, 2011 at 04:07 pm

As a relatively new parent, albeit one who has not yet flown with his child, I would generally agree with you, with one major change:

A Flight Attendant has a duty to offer assistence to the parent of a screaming baby. If the FA simply politely inquires if there is anything they can bring to the baby or do to help the mother (and is seen doing so by the other passengers), their burden will have been met. There are, of course, situations where nothing can be done, and the baby is just going to cry, but if the FA at leasts makes an offer of assistence, it will help everyone deal with the situation a bit better.

-Dan

#4
Tom H February 14, 2011 at 06:23 pm

I haven't read the first one yet, but love the second one! My sides hurt I'm laughing so hard. Of course, that could be because my 16 month old is a good flyer and really seems to enjoy airplane trips, so we haven't had too many of those episodes - and because I've never jammed my hand in a previously used barf bag...

#5
Eager Traveler February 14, 2011 at 06:44 pm

Seems that you may be missing a cultural piece here. What you may deem acceptable/not acceptable behavior in the USA does not necessarily apply elsewhere.

The FA's you mention were culturally appropriate.

It would still kill me to hear the kid!

Crying babies are just part of the flying experience. There is no FAA regulation (not yet..ha-ha!) that bans babies from flying. The baby is most likely to cry during take off and decent from the altitude change and pressure on the ears, that's understandable. I usually let the parent handle their baby, I don't want to over step my boundaries. At the point where it gets too much for myself and the other passengers on board, I get creative. I offer water for a bottle or to mix the powdered milk. I get creative with the air sickness bag by making it into a puppet. Making silly faces and helping the parent entertain the child is fun, and who doesn't love a smiling baby? I will also place the pop tabs off the soda cans into a empty water bottle. Its a galley made rattle! Usually getting creative works, the parents and other passengers will thank you.

#7
dad February 14, 2011 at 09:06 pm

It's fact of life, babies will scream when they want to. Even with all the training in the world the FA's may not be able to calm a screaming baby and there is a higher likelihood the parent(s) will succeed rather than a stranger.

You could always travel with earplugs or noise cancelling earphones if it bothers you.

#8
Bettina February 14, 2011 at 09:10 pm

Oh hell no is it my DUTY to calm someone else's screaming child. It is your child...you be the parent and calm it. And yes, you're right...many flight attendants do hide in the galley after the service...do you want to know why?? We are paid 1994 wages...I bet you get paid more now than you did then...and we get tired of seeing passengers clipping their toenails at their seats...do you really want me to continue..?? Come do my job for a while and I'll bet you that YOU hide in the galley to!!!!

#9
Bettina February 14, 2011 at 09:19 pm

It is my duty to get you safely from point A to point B...nothing more nothing less.....

#10
Kellie (DearPassenger) February 14, 2011 at 09:36 pm

As an FA, before becoming a parent I was pretty much terrified of babies as I'd had virtually NO experience with them & my company encourages us to assist the parent, but NOT to pick up babies or children unless we are confident with them.

Since having children I have all the empathy in the world for parents with crying/unsettled babies & children! Once the service is complete, I always try to give parents of babies a rest so they can eat & especially the criers! I try to take older children away for a 'plane tour' (since we can't take pax up to the cockpit inflight any more). We basically do all we can to assist parents, especially if the child (and/or parent) is distressed - but we are not an American airline.........you should always help anyone who is distressed - shouldn't you?

#11
Roy February 14, 2011 at 09:45 pm

As a current working flight attendant that just had recurrent I can tell you first hand the answer to this. Just let the baby cry. That is what we are told to do and most parents would agree that they don't want someone interfering.

I agree with Kelly & others who say assistance should be offered. It may be that they did offer it (unseen to passengers, which is quite often by the way) and the parents declined...

These days, it also seems that many parents take a genuine offer of help as an insult and abuse the FAs for doing so. Not saying they were right but if they've been yelled at for doing same before, it's understandable that they might not even bother trying any more.

As mentioned, some airlines don't actually allow staff to hold babies (for liability reasons) and I personally try to avoid it where I can, because I'm not a mother myself and I don't really feel comfortable holding someone else's kid- especially if there might be turbulence ahead. If I do hold a baby, I'll sit in the parent's vacant seat while they go to the restroom.

However I will offer to do things like: heat a bottle, mix a bottle, offer toys/pencils/on one occasion my own ipod with cartoons on it, blanket, etc etc...

However, if the kid keeps screaming... sorry but I have 199 other people to look after on the plane, not just a crying baby. I'm a flight attendant, not a babysitter or nanny (though people often treat me as such)

If you REALLY want someone to look after the kids, fly Gulf Air, they have a Sky Nanny who is an FA assigned to this specific job during the flight.

#13
Rolleyes February 16, 2011 at 09:15 am

:rolleyes:

#14
Fly Guy December 1, 2011 at 02:35 am

Why would It be a Flight Attendants responsibility? We have more than enough to be responsible for on the aircraft other than being someone elses babysitter. Whats more is, we're not allowed to handle children for legal reasons. I'm disgusted that you think this is your flight attendants responsibility. Why didn't you stand up and offer your help, since maybe "let someone else try to calm the baby down" is a better idea. Step right up. Whats ever more aggravating.. Your flight was barely over an hour. GET OVER IT. We have much more to do and be responsible for than codling children... regardless of age Sir. Grow up.

@Fly Guy:

I draw you back to this line of my post:

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.

Based on your harsh words, you clearly hate your job, which makes me sad. Such a shame...

#16
Maria March 5, 2012 at 09:03 pm

Absolutely not. If the parents can't calm down their baby, how would anyone expect a flight attendant to magically quieten a child? The most we can do is offer the parent water or milk, and perhaps offer them to come to the galley to get away from the other passengers, but that is just about it. I have 50 other passengers to take care off too.

#17
Dee March 11, 2012 at 06:01 pm

OK. I will preempt my response here my acknowledging that the writer of this article will have no interest in hearing what I have to say as his opinion is very much set in stone, however for the benefit of other readers please have respect for parents with children on a flight. Some babies are scared, and some parents don't want to be on the flight anymore than their babies do. In some cases its an absolute necessity to travel by air. I know as I am flying across the US from New York to LA with a very fussy 6 month old. I can almost here you say "Fussy... that's the parents problem" but let me inform you dear sir that a growing developing child (as you were once... and presumably still are) might have issues with digestion that make his early days in life pretty uncomfortable, he might be teething, he might be upset by the strange noise of the plane or by the new experience or air pressure. This is not a fault of parenthood. The parents job is to make every experience educational, fun and pleasurable as much as possible for their child. A child cries to express himself. I'm sure if you had a problem on the plane and someone wanted to silence you're right to express yourself you would be filing a complaint. Live and let live my friend and just be thankful a plane that you boarded arrived safely as that's all the matters in the end.

#18
Jonas September 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Mind your own damn business we are there to get primary donnas off the tube safely in the event of an evacuation! Period! While CEOs take the money!

@Jonas: What airline do you fly for? I'll be sure to avoid it.

#20
Dee Rums August 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm

If your response is "you have other passengers to look after" would beg the ? just how good are you looking after them if you think it's not your responsibility to help make the journey peaceful? Forget the lack of space, etc., etc. I just traveled with Delta DL88 from Paris, France to SLC, Utah a 10:55 flight, last Sunday. There were two babies crying and screaming, yes screaming, the ENTIRE flight, one seat behind to the right. Flight attendants sequestered themselves in back of the airbus where they could hear nothing-I know I walked back there to listen over the plane noise and personal conversations, they could care less-except they did moved the couple prior to take off, closer to the front, away from their station. After 9 hours I asked a FA to see if they could offer some assistance or suggest they get up and walk the baby. The 39 something blond-give me a wrinkled forehead, tweeked nosed look of indifference, which I brought to her attention, while she repeated "what can I help you with" multiple times-which I responded, "I just told you." She refused to even acknowledge what I said. This is service? Just what is in the job description of a FA? After this encounter a very much older male FA came over before landing and had the cahunas to ask me if I...had children, (which has nothing to do with good parenting or being a good FA). He came to pick a bone, and prove that he and his counterpart had been gossiping about my unacceptable request. I told him, he came to pick a fight, to go away in so many words. Shame on Delta, get rid of FA's that are concerned only about delivering a dried up sandwich, and maintaining a peaceful space for themselves while the rest of us in that section suffered for 11 STRAIGHT FLIGHT HOURS. This treatment should be considered inhumane. I will do everything in my power to avoid flying with Delta again, to think we upgraded our seats at the tune of $120 X 2 on top of the $3600.00 to be more comfortable. I think there are many things which can be done. How about(aicarriers) limiting the flight hours for children between certain ages? Responsible, caring parents don't book a L-O-N-G flight until you know if your child can manage it. And Delta-ask the tough questions-they land and remove unruly grownups all the time. The needs of the majority shouldn't be undermined by one or two.

#21
Really? September 17, 2013 at 04:11 pm

I feel it is my duty as a fa to let theworld know that the primary duty as a flight attendant is to evacuate the aircraft and assist in emergency situations. Flight attendants only exist because it is an FAA viloation for airlines to fly without 1 flight attendant per 50 passengers. Flight attendants go through about a month or longer traing and during thay training they only learn about emergency equipment and evacuating the aircraft in the quickest way possible. Actually everything you see a flight attendant doing on the aircraft is not what they were trained for they are thrust in that position after they get on the line and learn as they go. So, is it the job of a flight attendant to calm a baby down ...no! But if the baby were choking then yes the flight attendants would take over and help save the baby as we are trained in that. An airplane is not a restaurant it is a mode of transportaion. BOTTOM LINE: FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ARE NOT HERE TO KISS YOUR A$$ THEY ARE HERE TO SAVE IT!

Folks, this is why people avoid U.S. carriers when possible and why many complain about the attitudes on the likes of United, US Airways, American, and Delta.

When you see your job as only that of providing safety, you see--in my opinion--only one side of the coin.

Counterparts outside this country, and many wonderful U.S. flights attendants, see the matter differently--that providing great service is a (and arguably the) fundamental part of the job. Safety is most important, but not exclusively fundamental.

#23
Penny May 19, 2014 at 01:35 pm

That baby was acting its age. What's your excuse?

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