Would You Sit Next to This Passenger? Why One Man Would Not

Perhaps it was the “tattoos” on the left arm of the daughter of FlyerTalk member WBrinegar which caused the male passenger in question to create a scene? Photograph by FlyerTalk member WBrinegar.

The wife of FlyerTalk member WBrinegar was reportedly seated with their daughter — who is 22 months of age — in the first class cabin of flight 1149 from Washington, D.C. to Houston operated by United Airlines yesterday when a male passenger arrived at his seat located next to them.
The man supposedly created a scene aboard the airplane and complained about wanting a discount because he was forced to sit next to a child in the first class cabin. Combined with his “audible sighs and grumbles”, the wife of WBrinegar was uncomfortable enough that she went through the trouble of packing all of their belongings and voluntarily switching seats so as not to sit next to this unhappy gentleman.
The daughter of FlyerTalk member WBrinegar happily sits in her seat in the premium class cabin of an airplane. Would sitting next to her offend you? Photograph by FlyerTalk member WBrinegar.

Is this an obvious case of discrimination — against a person for merely being a child, in this situation — or was the man justified in his behavior?
I do not believe there is a person on this planet who abhors sitting next to a problem child — or problem adult, for that matter — more than I, as I want my experience seated aboard a commercial airplane as a passenger to be as pleasant as possible.
However, this man was simply wrong, in my opinion.
It is dangerous to presuppose how a person will behave during a flight. I would rather sit next to a well-behaved child than a jerk of an adult.
I do not want to sit next to a sick person, but what if that person did everything he or she can do to prevent spreading his or her germs to fellow passengers? Would you rather have that person sit next to you than an inconsiderate person who may be healthy but coughs and sneezes all over you without hesitation?
There are overweight people whose girth is larger than mine but will attempt in any way they can to not imposed on their seatmates aboard an airplane. Would you rather sit next to a person who is not overweight but will inconsiderately infringe upon the space to which you are rightfully entitled?
One lesson I have learned in life is to be careful for what you ask, as it just might come true. In the case of the male passenger in question, I would not be the least bit surprised if the chance that he sat next to a person who would cause him to wish that he had never changed his seat in the first place became a reality.
Now, it would be a different story if the child caused problems: screamed throughout the flight, puked all over him, kicked him incessantly, or otherwise would not leave him alone — but then again, there are adults who can be guilty of similar inconsiderate behaviors. It is once problems arise that a person may have a valid complaint and may even be entitled to some compensation — but that clearly was not the case here.
What are your thoughts about this incident? Does it really matter whether or not the passenger seated next to you is a baby, an infant or a toddler? If the child is indeed a problem, is it the fault of the parents? Should children be banned from the premium class cabin altogether?

  1. After my experience on a B.A. Flight in the right hand side of the aircraft a couple weeks ago, I (even more than I have in the past) believe there SHOULD be child free sections or flights. It’s not that this particular child, or parent, did anything wrong, but there’s so many parents out there from all walks of life that sit down on an airplane and assume its the flight attendants job to entertain / discipline / be generally responsible for their child. Those adults are generally just as ignorant with or without kids, but you throw in a mini-me on top of the inconsiderate adult and it just makes it exponentially worse.

  2. The guy acted like an ass in my opinion. First of all, the wife of WBrinegar had just as much right to be 1. on that plane and 2. in that F seat as the bigger baby who threw a tantrum. I find it appalling that this jerk made such a scene that the woman with a child, who could use the extra room and service, was forced to move because of the attitude and actions of another passenger.
    My Wife travels extensivly with my son, the same age all the time and faces the same challenged with the “entitled” elite flyers. She 9/10 times is flying paid F so she has no issues telling these jerks to stuff it and move to the back of the bus if they don’t like it. My son does pretty well on short and long haul flights, most times. Those times that he has a bit more energy, she will get up and take him to the galley area, if the seatbelt sign is off. It’s a little easier on long haul flights to do, but is possible on domestic routes.
    I get it, the road worriers want to have peace and tranquility in “their” sanctuary, but news flash, it isn’t yours, you want private, buy a gulfstream.
    Finally, yes, there are lots of parents that do not adequately look after their child on an airplane, and yes there are lots of elite flyers who are gracious and accommodating to parents with children, point being, it can go either way. SO, be respectful of your neighbor on the plane and maybe we can all get along

  3. I don’t really mind. I imagine once I have kids it would be the same thing, so I’ve already learned to accommodate others. Worse case I put on my headphones and I feel absolutely fine.
    I’m actually more annoyed when I am seated next to screamers and I wear headphones (not plugged into anything) during take off, and I’m asked to take them off.

  4. I think the guy went awol way too early. Don’t know, maybe he had a real rough day and was looking forward to serious downtime on the plane, and he just snapped.
    While I don’t mind kids on the plane, if I was sitting next to a toddler lap’in it, I wouldn’t be able to relax. Been there plenty of times in coach, and you just can’t relax.
    Finally, I think it’s a real bummer she had to switch seats. If anything, it’s really humiliating. No one deserves that.

  5. I go with the ‘what if ‘ statement, we all humans have kids, sometimes you do everything to make them quit but babies are babies,I have a 1 year old daughter and I know how hard it can be sometimes, in your case I would assumed the baby is my daughter, bottom line I will just have a seat. I may as well kill sometime playing the baby, one day it could happen to me with my daughter !

  6. I won’t mind, and have in past traveled sitting next to a child, before having my own. While they all have their energy spikes, I like such kids to be better than a grumpy adult or god forbid the passenger mentioned in this article who just like to throw tantrums?

  7. I’m actually on the guy’s side. Children belong in coach, as far back as possible, until they develop sound-proof child bubbles.

  8. I have a hard time giving kids too hard of a time. I have seen plenty of ass-hat adults on aircraft. I spent 5 hours of a 13 hour flight IST-IAH this weekend with a ~1 year old literally screaming as loud as she could behind me and kicking my seat. I felt badly for the parents who were attempting to soother her (except for the way they freely let her bounce her feet on the tray table, giving me a free “shiatsu massage” – that drove me to drink). However, at the end of the day, it was extremely disruptive to every passenger in the cabin. So, at the end of the day, can we assume kids will be a bad passenger? no – no more than we can assume an adult will be a good passenger. But, at some point, when your kid is making everyone on the plane start popping aspirin, you need to reconsider if they are ready for the skies.

  9. Look, I read the Flyertalk thread about this story. Let’s be HONEST and FAIR: The photo you use of the child sitting in the seat is INACCURATE. We are talking about a 22-month-old LAP CHILD on her mother’s lap. Yes, I think the man was boorish. Yes, I think the FA should not have given in to his request. Yes, I think that the policy allowing “lap children” of ANY age, in ANY cabin, should be ended. But please don’t show a photo of the little girl sitting by herself. For one thing, many reasonable people would not want to sit next to a toddler by herself (but that is not what happened). And for another thing, sitting next to a mom with a 22-month-old on her lap for a flight of HOW LONG (because that matters too)? Those things are germane. Please, be accurate and fair with the photo.

    1. The photographs I used are of the actual child in question — they are not “stock” photographs. I did not have access to a photograph of the child sitting on her mother’s lap in the premium class cabin. Should I have instead used a “stock” photograph of a generic 22-month-old girl sitting on the lap of some model aboard an airplane?

  10. I wouldn’t want to sit next to that passenger – absolutely not, and it matters depending on the duration of the flight; however, I would act like an adult in any scenario.
    First Class should be free of small children – in this case, both the child and the male passenger. Small children are the spawn of Satan on airplanes and I cringe whenever one is seated near me, but the only thing worse is a grown adult acting like the bratty kid.
    A couple months ago, my co-worker was telling me he purchased seats for his wife and their 13 month old daughter in the F cabin. I suggested they bring their thick skin; there WILL be some unapproving eyes surrounding them.
    The male passenger was irrational and I don’t approve of the way he reacted, but all parents should be aware of the heat they’ll feel if the child’s behavior is disrupting FC passengers.

  11. i would totally sit next to her and in my teeny tiny voice order an extra meal… 😉 and a few extra cocktails to save the FA a second trip.
    given the many jerks views on kids, i have given up caring what they think but my child is far better than drunk businessmen on certain of our CX flights in J.

  12. I’d rather sit next to the toddler than next to that man. Kids don’t bother me much as I travel with earplugs. Smelly hipsters are the ones I try to avoid.

  13. I would much reather sit next to a chile than the arrogant elite flyers who tink their upgrade is a rite of passage. Wheather paid or an upgrade, parents with Children have juyst as much of a right to be in F as the Jerks who think they don’t belong.
    Articles like this motivate me even more to keep the kid in F, which by the my my son is Premier Platinum on United, on his way to 1K this year! I hope he bumps some of the Kid haters on the upgrade list, laughing al the way to our seats…

  14. 1. i think lap children in first should be disallowed. we have travelled with our kids at various ages and always bought them their own seat.
    2. typically have had little issue with children when they have their own seat, although did suffer a red-eye from hawaii in first where the child went on 2 screaming rampages at around 1:00am and 3:30am. poor kid was being stuffed with sugar by the dad before we settled into sleep mode (juice, fruit roll-ups, etc). nonetheless, I think its pretty rational to be angered when another passenger severely interrupts your flight
    3. think you have to cut the guy slack…when i travel frequently i don’t want ANY interaction with anyone…someone commented snidely “if he wants a private jet, let him pay for it”…that is a little harsh. I’m not engaging YOU in silly small talk, why judge me a jerk b/c i don’t care to respond to your invitation to chat? similar issue with kid.

  15. Obviously, the gentleman over-reacted but, as a parent and 1K, I agree with those who say lap children should be banned from FC (well, I have less of a problem if a mom and dad occupy 2 seats and have the kid in their laps). 22-month olds are pretty active. It’s definitely going to impact the pax sitting next to the kid, and not in a good way.

  16. I don’t like the idea of children in first class, but accept that it is allowed.
    But a lap child in the seat next to me in F? Sorry, that is just too much, particularly at 22-months.

  17. When boarding any flight my first thought is typically, “please have me seated next to a Swedish Bikini Team member”. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be too happy spotting a 22 mos child as I made my way to my seat -but assuredly, w/o question, Id be a gentleman and civil towards the mother & child. Id punch the guy from this story in the face if I saw him being a jerk-off to a mother and her young daughter.
    Lets face it, the glamorous days of privileged, bourgeois air travelers is long gone (even up front)… seems to me all a person needs is a couple hundo and a pair of sweatpants to hop on an airplane these days (or a new 50k Citi Aadvantage card). Funny, and kind of similarly, just a few weeks back I was seated up front, ORD – SFO, and I had a stinky labrador retriever right next to me (no joke, I think the dog ate a skunk for lunch at the Admiral’s Club), but judging by the looks of the owner the pooch didn’t appear to be an assistance or special needs dog. I didnt make a fuss, but yeah, it sucked inhaling dog for 4 hours. Entitled-minded people irk me… the guy should have been content simply traveling from point A to point B, by aircraft, not a horse drawn wagon. Life seems full of more surprises & pleasantries if one has reasonable expectations & loses any ‘entitled’ mindset.
    Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing carriers offer No-Kiddos flights…additionally, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t mind if smoking flights made a comeback. However with respect to this mother & daughter, if it was me, Id be sweet as pie… I imagine the Mom has it hard enough traveling with a kid so I wouldnt hassle her, and who knows, the kid may just sleep the whole flight? Oh yeah, don’t forget, karma is a btich.

  18. I think we should ban FF/points redemptions in F so that when my child flies PAID F he doesn’t have to sit next to lowly FF scum

  19. Most children aren’t a problem – it is the obnoxious few that ruin it for everyone.
    No lap children on flights… We make parents put their children in car seats/seat belts in cars – why can’t that be required on a plane.
    I never want to hear from parents that rebut that their little one doesn’t like to wear a seat belt. I don’t like to pay taxes, turn off my electronics under 10k, stop for red lights, refrain from shooting people that cut me off on the freeway but I do because that’s what is required in the society I’ve chosen to live.
    Virtually all children in EU, Japan and a few other countries are polite, speak several languages by age 5, don’t act up in public (unlike the US) so it is either the parents or we could blame it on GM foods.

  20. Most of the bad behavior I have witnessed on planes is caused by parental failure. As parents who travel with our child frequently, we do take steps to mitigate this problem of potential meltdown in the following ways:
    1) Travel at times where she is most likely to take a nap or sleep (early morning or mid afternoon)
    2) Contradictory to the above – do not travel at times where she should be sleeping (late hours)
    3) Prepare with entertainment such as books, stickers, snacks, iPad with games, toys, something new they have not seen before.
    4) Attempt to upgrade to avoid irritating other passengers around us.
    5) If an upgrade is not available, try for a bulkhead seat for just that extra space and to avoid problems with seat in front (kicking or being reclined)
    6) Check as much as possible so there’s little to carry on except the necessary equipment
    7) During pre-boarding – locate the lav with the changing table, if in F, check first to see if acceptable to use that lav.
    8) In infant months, have a bottle prepared and at the ready to be administered during take off (helps them fill up, get warm and pass out) and during initial descent (sucking helps clear eustachian tubes which causes pain and crying).
    9) As unpleasant as it sounds, have an emergency diaper in the pocket in case of decompression decent explosion (which happens) so you can do a quick dash to the lav and be in and out.
    It’s all about resource management when traveling with children. Understanding the limits of what they can tolerate without becoming completely unglued is essential and planning accordingly. Other people’s experience may vary, but I have seen parents who expect their child to sit quietly in a lap for 5 hours with no entertainment or anything – and all they do is scream to get down!
    We have learned what works for us – others experiences may vary,

  21. My first thought when I saw the photo was: “when did UA domestic F have 3 across seating, and why was the male passenger seated between the mother and her child ?? “… Now back to the original point, was the gentleman wrong for throwing a fit (assuming the child was not acting up or bothering him in any way), then Yes. Was he being overly dramatic about the pending situation ??- Possibly. This is a relatively short flight and not knowing any of the circumstances, it is hard to judge. But then again with different circumstances, say open seating in a half filled cabiin– how many of us would voluntarily sit down next to (or even near) a toddler or a parent with an infant in their arms ??

  22. Such a difficult topic. There will always be those who don’t want kids on a plane or in F ….and they usually refer to them as “screaming kids” even if they are not (which actually bugs me”) and there will be those who are tolerrant and understand that kids are human beings too!
    Personally, I don’t mind kids on planes. If they are fractious or crying, I just tune them out, but empathize with the parents and the other passengers as I know not everyone can do that.
    Remember, though…… We were all infants at one time……!!
    BTW, mauld, I live in your town.

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