A Crying Baby in Business Class on a Night Flight is Awful (Even for Us, with our 10 Reasons to Fly First Class with Kids). Awful for the baby, obviously, as well as the parents and all the passengers. That was my husband's situation the other night, on a Finnair flight from LAX to Helsinki (or, “the Flight to HEL” as my husband quipped). Here's how he described it:
“Oy vey, what a flight. There was the insane demonic baby from hell that cried continually during the entire flight. There were about 40 super pissed off people in business class ,where the baby would shriek and wail about every 10-15 minutes. Very bizarre. I don’t actually understand how it’s physically possible for a baby to stay awake that long.”
Obviously I wish my husband and the other passengers could have not been subjected to that, but I also worry about the baby, since one that cries that often throughout the entire 11 hour flight is probably quite ill, since it's more than you'd expect an overtired infant to cry before eventually falling asleep.
Should Flight Attendants Do Anything When a Baby is Crying?
Should flight attendants help hold or try to calm a crying baby? While many passengers might wish for that, many U.S. airlines actually don't even allow flight attendants to hold a baby, for health code and liability reasons. It's different with many international carriers, which don't necessarily have the liability restrictions that most U.S. airlines do, and I have seen Singapore flight attendants hold a baby to let mom go to the lavatory, and briefly help to entertain a child, even in Economy Class.
Still, it's not the flight crew's job, so if a flight attendant does offer to help, s/he is going above and beyond. Ultimately, it's the job of the parents or guardian of the baby to take care of the baby and be as responsive as possible and try to soothe him/her, to alleviate the ear pressure or other discomfort and stop the crying.
Can Passengers Do Anything When a Baby is Crying?
What about fellow passengers? Can they do anything? I vividly remember being in business class with my son when he was only a few weeks old. I was careful to feed him during take-off and landing, to help avoid ear discomfort during the change in pressure, and he slept for much of the 10 hour flight. Nevertheless, there was once when he was in the bassinet and I was cat napping when my seat mate alerted me that he was awake, and while not crying yet, making those restless noises that indicate hunger. I was grateful that she alerted me to this so I could feed him before any crying started.
So as a parent, I think most parents would agree that if for some reason (probably exhaustion) they're asleep but their baby is not, and requires some attention, they'd be very grateful for a fellow passenger to respectfully point out to them that their baby needs him/her.
Now, if the baby is already crying and the parent is already trying to calm the baby, it's not going to help matters for you to complain to the parent or berate them–they're already doing all they can, and presumably they know their child better than you or the flight crew do, and how best to soothe the baby.
But what about if the parents are awake and aware of their crying baby and aren't doing anything? I think this is where, if you have a clear view of the situation and the parents really aren't doing anything, after a few minutes, it's appropriate to either politely ask them if you can do anything to help, or if they'd like help from the flight crew, or to ask the flight crew if there's anything they can do to help the parents and baby, such as bringing bottled water for a nursing mother to drink, or to prepare formula if the mother is using formula.
Unfortunately, it may be that the parents, if they're not trying to soothe the child, just aren't very good parents, and there's probably nothing you or the flight crew can do to change that. Any decent parents will be trying, to the best of their ability, to care for the baby, and a soothed, contented baby who isn't ill and has all his/her needs met usually won't be crying.
At the end of the day, your best bet may be to always come prepared with your best set of noise cancelling headphones, sleep aids, and painkillers in case of a headache from all the noise (which after all could come from another adult passenger, even if there's no crying baby on your flight).
What's the worst crying baby episode that you've experienced in business class or first class?
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I have a couple questions on this. We just had our first child in April, we always take a big trip in the summer, except this year. 2016 and 2017 were Maldives, 2018 Bali. Next year we’d like to return to Gili Lankunfushi when it re-opens. As someone who seems to travel everywhere with their child, what age did you take him on his first 8 hour plus flight? I get the argument about kids in first and business on both ends, but in the end, if a baby is crying, isn’t the whole plane miserable? I can’t sleep so… Read more »
John, since I live in NYC but am originally from Hawaii, I took our son on his first flight to Hawaii (a nearly 11 hour flight) when he was just a few weeks old, in order to see family. To be honest, it was much easier flying with him when he was that small and stationary, than when he was an active toddler. For us at least, the hardest ages to travel with him were about 1.5-3 years old. He was both very active and wanted to explore so much of the plane, and we also had to read to… Read more »
I gave my baby just a tiny, tiny dose of Benadryl before flights. Worked like a charm every time.
I know there are gray areas when it comes to flying with babies, but I would never have DREAMED of taking mine on a long-haul business class flight like that. This whole attitude of “it’s everyone else’s job to adjust to me” is such a symbol of our era.
Glad it worked well for your baby! Every baby (and family) is a bit different, so I do think there’s no one size fits all approach. As I mentioned above to John, we’ve traveled several times a year, primarily on long haul domestic or international flights, since our son was a baby, always in business or first class, and it’s never been an issue for him. He sleeps really well, and we stick to a pretty regular sleep schedule. But if he’d been a different kind of kid and a fussy traveler, we would have done things differently. It is… Read more »