Screaming Children Behaving Badly Aboard Airplanes: What is the Solution?

Imagine a child behaving so badly aboard an airplane that one passengers labels his screams as “demonic” — and this started to happen before the airplane departed from the gate in Munich on its way to Newark.

Screaming Children Behaving Badly Aboard Airplanes: What is the Solution?

The video of the incident is not posted here in this article; but Matthew Klint posted it in this article at Live and Let’s Fly — and the reaction in the Comments section of that article has been sharply divided. Generally, one faction questioned whether or not the child was disabled in some way and to give the poor child a break; while those who are on the opposite side of the debate called for the child to be sedated with drugs and the family to have been ejected from the aircraft while it was still at the gate — and many variations of the positions of both sides have been strongly articulated.

One person even cruelly suggested euthanasia. That is ridiculously absurd and cruel — not to mention the fact that the youth was in Europe on his way to North America and not in Asia.

The child in question supposedly did not relent from his antics for most of the eight hours of the duration of that transatlantic flight. Is that fair to the other passengers aboard that airplane? Do they not have a right to reasonable enjoyment of being aboard the aircraft for eight hours?

My Personal Experience

That situation reminded me of when I was aboard the aircraft on a transatlantic flight from Europe to the United States back in 2015 during which a little boy behaved incredibly badly: he was screaming demands at the top of his lungs to his clueless parents; running up and down the aisles in a corybantic manner; hitting, kicking and stepping on other people; and tearing off his clothes and diaper while proudly announcing to fellow passengers that he was naked.

He was not adorable by any means.

I can only think of one of two reasons to explain the horrendous behavior which was exhibited by the child: either he has a physical or mental issue which adversely affected his behavior; or the mother and father were simply that bad — perhaps to the point where they might be deemed unfit to be parents.

In either case, the family should not have been aboard the airplane. Even more inexcusable than the behavior of that boy was the behavior of his parents on this particular flight. It is wholly unfair to subject fellow passengers to consecutive hours of constant misery — and there are people who consider the simple act of being a passenger aboard an airplane for hours miserable enough.

The inside of an airplane is an unnatural environment to many children, as it can be confining with not much to do. It is not surroundings with which they are familiar. It is difficult to sit still for so many hours. As a bonus, the change in air pressure can wreak havoc on the ears of a child…

…so with all of these factors and more, it is natural and understandable for a child to express his or her unhappiness in the form of crying, screaming, complaining or fidgeting uncontrollably — to the displeasure of fellow passengers, who would have been unable to employ one of the 11 most effective tactics for getting upgraded while flying, as the airplane on which we were passengers was full. On Monday, October 27, 2014, I reported on how the tantrum of a child aboard an airplane reportedly led to the police being called.

It is difficult enough to deal with tireless children while attempting to sleep in a terminal at the airport as you await your next flight — but unlike aboard an airplane, at least you can escape.

However, a good parent knows what to do and how to minimize the discomfort of a child. Sometimes it is in the form of giving him or her something to do — play a game or with a toy, for example. Perhaps the way to the heart of a child is through his or her stomach; so a favorite snack might be in order

Many people are usually understanding when a child cries aboard an airplane — especially when the parent is proactive in doing what he or she can to alleviate the situation…

…but what happened aboard that flight with that boy was simply unacceptable and should not be permitted — ever.


What I find interesting — but not surprising — is that people rarely comment on when a child behaves well aboard an airplane. I have sat next to children aboard airplanes over the years during my travels. Most of them were quite well behaved. The ones who were not — well — the parents usually acted upon the situation and properly resolved it.

I will never forget the time one child kept incessantly kicking the back of my seat. I finally turned all the way around and silently gave him the glare of death.

He never kicked my seat again.

People have brought up the argument that if an adult had behaved similarly to the boys highlighted in this article, they would have been ejected from the aircraft and possibly faced disciplinary action. The counter point to that is that — unlike children — adults should know better.

I have heard many people express their disdain for children. I can understand that to a point, as I am typically not fond of children myself — please do not wave those photographs of your children and brag about them to me, as I most likely do not care despite knowing how proud you are of them — but I certainly do not hate or loathe them. We were all children once.

“Not every situation needs a backstory,” William — who is a reader of The Gatecommented recently; and he continued with “if I see someone being assaulted I don’t need the back story, I dead the issue out because the action I’m seeing is wrong and needs to be stopped. Being a strong human isn’t about something happening to you it’s about stepping up for others who may not have the ability to speak up for themselves.”

Is he right?

The question posed in this title does not imply that I have an answer to the conundrum of traveling with children who behave badly — I personally believe the answer is somewhere between both camps who are staunchly adamant about their positions…

…rather, I am genuinely asking you: what do you believe is the solution to this problem?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

9 thoughts on “Screaming Children Behaving Badly Aboard Airplanes: What is the Solution?”

  1. Doolie says:

    Stuff and rag down the little fu*kers throat and throw him in the overhead bin.

  2. DavidB says:

    DXB-SYD in QF F and an 8-year old’s tantrum in the pod in front of me for the whole flight…parents did nothing and crew had no option but follow their lead. It’s as much the parents as the child, if not more so.

  3. Stany V says:

    Kid sitting in his seat, screaming his lungs out is a comfort issue, not a safety issue. Painful, but there are earplugs.

    Kid running around the plane unsupervised, climbing on top of the seats, etc, is a safety issue. In event of turbulence, kid will get injured and has a possibility of injuring other passengers.

    Airline stuff should deal with the safety issue. If parents can not control their child themselves (ie kid is not sitting in their seat, and climbing on the seats unsupervised), and parents did not bring a baby sitter with them, well, perhaps the child and the parents should continue the trip under different circumstances.

    If kid is screaming out of their lungs, but otherwise is sitting in their seat, regretfully, reasonable options are ear plugs and asking to move to a different seat. If screaming kid is in a premium seat, operational downgrade, kid and the parents should be asked to move to the back of economy, and refunded the difference in price.

    As an aside, I’ve flew with my share of screaming kids too, but they would never scream for more then a couple of hours. This leads me to believe that on Matthew’s video there is some mentally disturbed child. The fact that mother wants to have wifi for iPad, presumably, so that the kid can amuse themselves with youtube, is not a sign of strong parent.

  4. ron says:

    If it already starts before take-off: offload immediately

    After take-off: charge the parents a mean amount as compensation for the other passengers.

  5. Don says:

    A sock and a zip tie should work.

  6. Jen says:

    I understand there may be extenuating circumstances such as the child having a disability–and I have been on many a flight with screaming unhappy kids (12 hrs+). But when that kind of behavior interferes with safety the crew should have taken action. IT doesn’t matter if the child was disabled or not. The fact the child was incapable of staying in his seat and crawling on the top of the seats is hardly safe. I was on an international flight (Virgin to LHR) with an autistic child (about 7 yrs old?) who went ballistic when his mother turned off his iPad/personal video when we were instructed to turn off devices. He screamed so hard and started to flail and hit the person next to him (not his mom) and caused as slight bloody nose. The stewardess finally said turn on the video and gave the injured passenger ice and a cloth as we were taxiing to the runway. During the flight he refused to sit in his seat even during turbulence, ran up and down the aisles when the seat belt sign was on. At one point service was disbanded due to turbulence and all of us returned to our seats, except the kid who was screaming and moving into the aisle and when dragged back started hitting the bulkhead wall from the floor. His mother kept the iPad’s volume up on full. When someone asked could you please turn it down or use headphones she said he refused to wear headphones. The whole situation was a disaster but the crew did NOTHING. We even landed with the kid sitting on the floor of the bulkhead. After the man got hit we should have turned around. Considering people get thrown off flights for going to the bathroom when the jet is on an active taxiway I don’t know why the crew of this plane didn’t thrown the family off in Newark. I am sorry but why hundred of people had to suffer and unsafe conditions were tolerated escapes me.

  7. Ed says:

    It is the parent’s fault, not the child’s. Whether it is a result of handicap or poor discipline, the parents have a pretty good idea what is likely to happen on that flight before they buy the ticket–they just choose to let the public suffer instead of restricting their own travel experiences. It is my opinion that the airlines need to take a tougher stand in this kind of a situation–possibly “disinvite” these passengers from future flights on their airline for X number of years.

  8. Kevin says:

    Since even parents are no longer allowed to slap the shit out of misbehaving kids these days, a shot of Benadryl or Nyquil should work nicely. If not, there is always a Taser…

  9. JR Schanzenbacher says:

    Courtesy is the answer. I hate to be one of those “Old Farts” but decades ago we just did not travel by plane with young children unable to understand the surroundings, appropriate behavior, and with poor discipline. You drove, or stayed home, until they were old enough. We, unfortunately, no longer live in a society that holds consideration for others over immediate wants and needs. Outside of making enclosed passenger seats (think church with a children’s room behind soundproof glass) to isolate them, I don’t see this being a thing that is going to diminish in occurrence.

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