Fumed Over Family’s Inconsideration

February 8, 2011

in Passenger Stories

Wednesday, February 2nd, AA flight 1499 from Dallas, Texas to San Jose, CA.

I am 6′ tall, long legs. I always book my flights way in advance to be sure that I can reserve an aisle seat to avoid being cramped.

As we are boarding there is a mother, father and small child several people in front of me. The mother does not speak English. The child is too young to speak, but can walk and babble.

As many flights the previous day were cancelled, this flight was full. The gate agent continued to make her announcement to only bring on one carry-on that must fit in the overhead bin, and only one other article like a purse or laptop… ONLY.

This family of three had 5 large carry-on suitcases. In addition, the mother had a purse and a diaper bag. The gate agent originally said they could not carry on five pieces of luggage. They acted as if they did not understand. The gate agent then said that two of the bags were too big to fit in the overhead bin… to that the father understood, and there in the door of the jetway, blocking boarding… he began to re-shuffle items from one bag to the others, much to the dismay of the passengers and gate agent. The gate agent made an effort to say that they had too much, but the father then stuffed the individual bags in question into the “size guide” rack. The gate agent, flustered, waved them on.

A few minutes later I board the plane with only my small backpack which I planned to put in the bin above me so that I could have leg room. As I get to my row, there standing are the mother, father and child. The father has taken all of the overhead bin space above my row, and the bin space above the row opposite my seat.

I take a deep breath, and let it go. The father, mother and child are standing in my row. I say to the father, “This is my seat.”

The father in perfect English responds, “We are travelling together, will you take my seat?” I look at his ticket… it is a MIDDLE SEAT several rows back.

I tell him, “No, I booked my flight months in advance to reserve an aisle seat.” The father very politely says “no problem” and then moves to his seat several rows back.

I sit down; the mother and child sits down. And, you got it… the kid starts screaming! The mother does little to stop the child. She stands and says something to the father in another language. I pull out my book and try not to be bothered.

A few minutes later and the child is continuing to scream and cry. The mother continues to look back . I hear the father talking to a flight attendant, and then the surly flight attendant says to me, “You have to move so the father can sit by his child.” Just like that… not “will you move,” or “please move,” but… “you have to move.”

I said, “Does he have an aisle seat?”

The flight attendant replied “No, but wouldn’t you rather move than listen to a screaming child?” She did have a point, but she could have been more polite about it.

I take another deep breath and retrieve my small backpack from underneath the seat in front of me and get up. At that time another flight attendant says, “Here is a window seat,” pointing to another row back. So I move to that seat… not sure whose seat it was because the flight ends up being fully packed, and some other poor soul takes the guy’s middle seat.

So, to this I ask why? I played by the rules. I made my reservation months in advance to ensure my seat. I only carried on a small backpack and checked my other luggage. I did not carry a small, screaming child onto the plane. So, why did I have to move? So, why did I have to cram my backpack into my leg space, under the seat in front of me? Why did I have to endure the scream of someone else’s child? Why was I originally being moved to a middle seat? It seems AA was more accommodating to the people not playing by the rules than to those of us that do play by the rules.

To top it off… when the flight was over… the father stood in the aisle and began to remove all 5 pieces of his luggage, while those of us behind him waited and waited and waited.

As I passed him in the jetway, he said to me… “It really wasn’t a big deal.” I took another deep breath, and said nothing. Nope, it wasn’t a big deal to him. He inconvenienced everyone else for his wife, his child and himself because he was too cheap to check his luggage. And he was inconsiderate by flying with an unruly child.

His choices… that we have to support.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Troy February 8, 2011 at 11:12 pm

I’m wondering just how rhetorical your “Why” is. I am 6’Feet 5″ and understand completely your need for leg room. I’ve flown for 18 hours in economy class from Australia to New York and only tall people can understand the deep restless aching that sets in after only a short while.


James February 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

You don't have to be tall to be cramped… As I once told Chris Elliot, airline seats are designed for the average human, and infants are figured into the average size.


brianeasley February 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I'm a flight attendant and I never would've made him give up his seat. That's just crap. I have no problem separating families these days. I guess I've just stopped caring 😉


Kiri the Can Opener February 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Brian, I think that it's precisely because you *do* care that you have no problem separating families. I would love to be a passenger on one of your flights.


mommydearest March 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Flew back home this Christmas with two young children and my hubby. We bought our tickets 5 months in advance since we wanted to be sure we sat together (always helps to keep kids calm when the parents sit together). Guess what? Even though we checked in with assigned seating, yep, we were still separated on the flight. My baby cried (her ears of course) and my toddler wanted his daddy (to be expected since daddy is the fun one). I didn't feel too bad for the other passengers though, since none stepped up to trade seats. I'm sure they felt we'd inconvenienced them and planned poorly. For their judgemental attitude, I can tell you my kids made their air travel hell, lol.


Aaron February 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Not the most hellish story, but one that is completely believable and likely happens painfully often. It's frustrating to do everything you're asked and then get screwed. Seems like it would have been tough either way though…screaming baby or being squished. Either way it was going to be a flight from hell.


mommydearest March 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

What a complainer though. Whining about how inconvenienced he was, and the baby's crying, and the lady don't speak english, and the guy has too many bags, wahwahwah. This jerk got what he deserved. He admits these folks were probably coming from a flight the day before that was cancelled (so they were forced to wait around an extra day) and that he intentionally didn't allow them to sit together when they asked to trade seats the first time. Why? Cuz he wanted to get back at them for messing up his travel. Good for this family that they got the last laugh though, haha. No one wanted to listen to that baby cry, and you KNOW all the people near that family thought Mr. 6-Foot was an ass.


DFW March 25, 2013 at 3:20 pm

You are exactly the kind of jerk parent everyone hates. Why should anyone give up their seats for you because the airline messed up? You seem to take pride that your kids annoyed everyone. I promise you that no one will feel compelled to do anything nice for a selfish mom and and her bratty kids.


Jason July 25, 2018 at 7:35 pm

Awesome post and totally agree! I hate traveling during the summer because of all the families that don’t plan ahead and expect everyone to just bow down to their request


Jodi February 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I'd of asked for earplugs when she asked about listening to the crying. Or pretended I didn't understand. I hate people people like that.


Dina February 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

While I'm sympathetic to the parents with the screaming child thing (although I fear opening the can of worms that is the "kids on airplanes" issue), the rest of it is just crap behavior and they should be ashamed of themselves.


D-Money February 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I would have moved ONLY if there was a free seat in first class, otherwise, “Mr. I no speako Engrish” could stick it.


James February 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Some airlines now charge more for aisle seats, premium seats, advanced seat bookings, etc…

Good luck getting a refund when you get screwed like this.


Eloise February 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm

These are the type of people who think of nothing of parking in handicapped parking spots, park way to close to your car, and think nothing of unloading 50 items in the 20 items or less line. I totally understand your frustration! Hope your next flight goes better. Lord knows you deserve an upgrade on your next flight.


rerere February 11, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Seems like you handled the situation pretty well. You paid for the seat in advance, you should have every right to sit there. The family should of paid the extra money to get another flight where they sit together, or just pay the consequences.


Rich February 20, 2011 at 10:50 am

you had me until you complained about the child screaming. Were they obnoxious to take up all that space with their luggage? Absolutely, this has been a pet peeve of mine for a while. And certainly the father should have been more polite in asking for a seat switch.
However, the child can not help crying sometimes. It obviously had separation issues with the father or was frightened to be sitting next to a stranger. The FA was only trying to make a better situation for everyone. She even put out another passenger who, like myself may have preferred a window seat, for you. I can sympathize with having your desired seat taken away, but she was right no one on that flight would have had a pleasant trip if she had not moved you. It just sucked to be you that day


Mike Davies March 5, 2011 at 5:19 am

With the worry of DVT on top of severe cramps for us tall folks I probably would have said "No, I'm good thanks" when asked to move, put my earphones in and cranked up the MP3 player. No, I'm not mean or callous but every time I've flown with my family my wife and I have taken great care to ensure that our kids are occupied and comforted – and with five of us we're never able to sit together as a group. Sounds like the screaming kid was a handy ploy for Dad.


Plaineir March 5, 2011 at 10:23 am

I've heard of people who instruct their child to scream or something if the family can't sit together… is that maybe what happened here?


Chris March 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm

This story is pretty typical. There are a lot of passengers these days who only care about themselves and have NO regard for anyone else on the plane. As an AA flight attendant, I'd like to apologize to you. That F/A sounds like a real bi*ch and was probably based at DFW (the worst); unfortunately, we have too many like that. If I were on that flight, I would have never insisted that you changed seats. A similar thing happened to me on JetBlue, after having made my reservations 6 months in advance, I was made to feel like a schmuck for declining to change seats. Like you, I played the game by the rules.


Amelia Kelly March 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I would have asked if you were willing to move, but nicely. If you had moved, I'm sure there would be some free drink or other biz-class goodies we could have found to say thanks.


James May 10, 2011 at 11:13 am

That sounds like the proper way to do things.

I will note, in the family's defense, the original poster said "As many flights the previous day were cancelled." <sic> So it is plausible that this family had planned properly, only to have their own flight from hell by being bumped and stranded overnight, resulting in a catch-as-catch-can seating assignments and disrupted childcare. That doesn't justify their behavior, but may explain it.


CharlieMason July 26, 2011 at 2:04 am

It's good you bring a different perspective to this. Most wouldn't have thought of that. I know I didn't.


StaceyStacey May 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I hate to say this, because I do love kids, but yes, parents need to plan for their family's needs so that whatever comforts are needed to prevent meltdowns are available. You should not have to move, and if it's so important to the comfort of everyone that you do, they could have shuffled around a few aisle seats, found a "comp" to soothe your frazzled sensibilities and exhibited the awareness that your patronage was valued just as much as that of the family whose offspring and parents conspired (albeit more by default than by direct intent) to make the flight a living hell for how ever many other passengers were stuck in the sardine can with them!


Chris June 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Honestly, this doesn't sound like something terrible. Imagine how it must be for the father or the mother. It's hard enough to travel with small kids. They probably should have checked more of their luggage in, granted. But if you are only traveling with a small backpack, does it really matter? I usually travel with just that, and I can easily fit it under my seat, even in tiny puddle jumpers.

I can even see where the flight attendant is coming from by asking you to move. She's trying to quiet the screaming child. While it's an inconvenience to you to change seats, it makes the flight a lot more bearable for the rest of the passengers on board, who ALL have to hear the kid. Sometimes things happen, and you've got to make the best of what you can with what you got.

Did you do anything wrong? No. But you probably helped out by moving.
Did the family do anything wrong? Well, they could have checked their bags. But otherwise, no.
Did the flight attendant do something wrong? She could have been more polite…But no.

To clarify, I'm 6'1". I've flown on a LOT of flights over the past ten or so years (partly because I lived overseas) and I know that it sucks to get stuck in the middle. But it was a 3, 3.5 hr flight in the first place. I would understand not giving up your seat on a transtlantic flight of 9 or so hours, but 3 hours is doable.


Trine February 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Strange, i mean i dont like to by nearby any family with small children traveling…but not all travels can be totally planned moths in advance…. Deaths, family issues and so forth, its not convenient for family with a infant to be seated seperately. I would gladly given up my seat for any reason if someone need to be together. People tend to hold on to their seats like fools, like " this is mine…!" " i selected this 6 moths ago"…..


Deb September 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I don't understand folks giving this guy a hard time. Maybe it's because I'm a rule follower as well and do my best not to inconvenience others…but, I feel really badly for him. The family, even if their travel plans were possibly disrupted prior to boarding, were rude while boarding and reconfiguring their luggage. I mean, who doesn't know what fits in the overhead bins? There are little cubicles to check this in at every freaking check in counter! But, No! They think they should be able to do what works for them, regardless of the inconvenience they cause to everyone else. It's comforting to know they're probably passing on their same boorish behavior to their offspring.


sexygal September 11, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Why is it comforting to know that they're "passing on" the same "boorish" behavior to their kids?!!? I think that'd be frightening, to a certain extent!!


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