My family flew from Zurich to San Francisco on United after a few weeks in Europe. United was great. My son Augustine…not so much.
Yesterday I wrote about how nice the flight was in terms of service, seat, food, etc. But I left out something. A key detail, really. My little two-year-old was not a happy passenger. In fact, he whined and cried for much of the flight…
The curse of westbound flights from Europe is that they tend to leave in the late morning or early afternoon. That means the little one is wide awake and even a darkened cabin and lie-flat bed does not lead to sleeping.
Everything started out well enough. We boarded and Augustine was thrilled to be back on airplane again. He took his seat dutifully and nicely thanked a FA for a glass of water prior to departure.
During the extended taxi (we were delayed a bit), he fell asleep. We were hoping this would have occurred after takeoff, because we knew this would be it for his afternoon nap. The roaring engines woke him up as we took off and he was suddenly alert again.
Still, he was on good behavior. He read a book and played with his toy airplane while we waited for lunch. Lunch came and Augustine ate. So far, so good.
But things only went downhill from there. The cabin lights were dimmed and I prepared Augustine’s bed. Nope. He began to squirm and whine. He didn’t want to sit down: he wanted to roam the plane. He refused to lay down and he refused to sit still. Here we were locked into a metal tube and the little sucker knew that our options for addressing his disobedience were quite limited. He took full advantage of that.
Exasperated, we made several laps around the economy class cabin. But each time we returned, Augustine squirmed and whined when he was placed in his bed. I’m sure the other passengers loved us…
I took him back to economy class and we tried to sit in an open row there. Nope. He wiggled his way out of the seatbelt and took off running.
Fast-forward eight hours into the flight. The kid finally had enough (after all, it was now almost 10:00 PM CET) and promptly fell asleep. He slept through the landing…the gentle thud on the SFO tarmac did not wake him up. We had to gently shake him awake when we pulled up to the gate…
Go ahead and queue the debate over whether children belong in premium cabins. What makes disturbing people in business class more pernicious than disturbing people in economy class? I paid for his own business class ticket…he’s too old to be a lap child. If we are going to be inconvenienced while he’s in this “stage” of life that makes flying difficult, we might as well be inconvenienced in a seat we can at least stretch out in and hope that he gets some rest in.
But the key is departure time. United has a 5:25 PM flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco. Next time, we’ll use that one. By the time dinner is served, it will be his bed time and hopefully he’ll fall asleep. The outbound flight on SWISS from Los Angeles to Zurich, which leaves after 7:00 PM, was far less problematic.
Some of you may suggest that Augustine not fly until he is a bit older and able to keep himself entertained with the onboard IFE. That day will come soon enough, but I’m not willing to keep him away from his grandparents in Germany until that happens. He’ll be returning this summer.
Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. When he finally fell asleep, I went back to the galley to get a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup. The passenger seated in front of me was also in the galley. I apologized to him that my son had been loud and he looked at me surprised and said, “Hey man, your son is doing just fine. Don’t worry about.”
That little affirmation helped me greatly, even though I am positive the man was just being nice.
But I must admit I am sad. My little traveler is not a very good traveler. At least not yet…
Stay tuned: on Saturday, Augustine will offer a rebuttal of my assessment as he publishes his own review of this flight.