LIFE & STYLE
"It's the Simple Things in Life"
On Friday April 21st, 2017 a frustrated American Airlines flight attendant and a mother of infant twins had an altercation over a stroller, which lead to the mother being hit in the face with the stroller as the flight attendant tried to remove her from the plane. Two weeks earlier a video showed a man being dragged off an AA flight unconscious and bloody.
These two seemingly random altercations have more in common than we think, and if the root cause of these two incidents is not examined closely and dealt with, these sort of incidents are bound to increase in frequency in years to come.
This became highlighted in my own life after I also had a bad experience with American Airlines traveling from Los Angeles to Orlando back in October 2017. A new policy was introduced and a stroller that I really needed and relied on was taken from me (checked at the ticket counter) and I was sent into the terminal to chase my 22 month old son for almost two hours before out flight. Needless to say it was a stressful and incredibly unpleasant experience. I asked myself the question after that ordeal: “Why on earth would strollers over 20 pounds suddenly be banned at American Airlines? How do other people travelling alone with two or more small children manage? Where is the empathy? Why is American Airlines and some people that work for them not capable of humanely dealing with a situation? Why does it have to result in a fighting, drama, and strict stroller policies?”
The simple answer came to me while reading Arianna Huffington’s book “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder” in which Arianna makes a very good case for the importance of sleep, a subject she studied with great detail after she collapsed one day at work from over exhaustion and suffered a concussion.
In her book she writes, “… sleep deprivation lowers not just our attention span, focus, and memory, it also affects our emotional intelligence, self esteem, and empathy towards others. And when we are sleep deprived, we’re more likely to cross ethical lines, because lack of sleep depletes our self-control. Our behavior and our character are not set in stone – they are affected by how recharged and centered we are.”
Most new parent will tell you lack of sleep is a real thing when you have young kids. When my husband and I were about to become parents we would hear jokes from friends with older kids “Be ready to go without sleep for a while” and “Enjoy your sleep now, while you still can.” And it was true! Once the kids come you learn to manage with very little rest. You start to notice all the effects that lack of sleep has on you and carving out time for rest and meditation becomes a priority, when before it was such a simple thing to do.
While that’s the life of a parent, most flight attendants will tell you it’s not an easy job being on a long shift constantly surrounded by people, tending to everyone else’s needs without a quiet moment to recharge. And those handling our luggage will no doubt list harsh weather conditions and constant strain on the body carrying heavy objects as primary stressors that a sleep deprived body is less capable of dealing with, often leading to injuries.
When on a busy flight, if a stressed-out, sleep deprived passenger comes across a stressed-out flight attendant the simplest of things can set both of them off. When an exhausted baggage attendant suffers an injury while handling a simple stroller that sets him or her on a path to suing his employer, this in turn restricts access to strollers over 20 pounds. Even though everyone is normally professional and well intentioned, when we are exhausted we are cranky and everyone we encounter pays the price.
So could it be that some staff at American Airlines is over exhausted causing them to sometimes behave without empathy in a situation that is clearly causing a traveler stress, just like the mother with twins? What we end up with is a vicious circle where the incident makes Airline executives instill more regulations, which cause more frustration on behalf of stressed out airline passengers, which causes more altercations and around it goes. The cycle has to stop somewhere.
In writing an in-depth article on what exactly happens when one travels with small kids without a good stroller to rely on, I hope to shine a bright light on the situation. New and future parents will know exactly how to prepare for traveling with small children on American Airlines. Perhaps, and even more importantly, those up the chain of command in the company will take note of the stress they are causing not only to their employees, but also to a growing segment of the population that will choose to travel with any other airline once they realize American Airlines’ great inconvenience.
As a parent you have enough to worry about with keeping your kids safe, healthy and educated. Do you really need to worry about making an airline happy with your stroller choice on your special family trip? One airline should not dictate a stroller you add to your registry and you shouldn’t have to buy extra strollers just so you can travel with a particular airline.
Here are the details of my trip and some stroller epiphanies:
When I was checking in for my flight from Los Angeles to Orlando I was suddenly informed I had to part with (check in) my trusty stroller due to the fact that it is was 1 pound heavier than the new set limit. I was not informed of this new policy when I called to book our family travel on this American Airlines flight so this news came as a shock.
What was the reason they gave me at the check-in counter? A worker handling items that had been checked at the gate got hurt a while back handling a stroller over 20 pounds and they had to create this new stroller weight limit. From experience I can tell you 21 pounds is nothing compared to 40 pounds - that’s was the combined weight of my carry on plus my 22 month old son. I had to lug both around the terminal that day for two hours because my stroller was taken from me.
I use the word “carry” lightly here. I had to pry my son away from many dangerous and inappropriate things. While my 6 year old just wanted to quietly sit, draw and read, my son wanted to run and explore, grab and climb. No newsstand was safe. No escalator was left unexplored. My older daughter begrudgingly had to keep up. Oh how I tried to pick up and hold my toddler in my arms, have him sit quietly with us, but all was in vain. An airport was an exciting, busy place full of unexplored things so holding him was like trying to hug a wild cat. Oh, and the real fun began when it was his bedtime... That’s right, did I mention I was flying red-eye and was planning on having my toddler fall asleep in the stroller before transferring him (hopefully still sleeping) onto the plane? An overtired, overstimulated toddler is not a pretty sight. They become Jekyll from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! Without a stroller there is no safety net.
Because of this experience I have come to deeply, deeply appreciate my “Citi Mini GT” stroller (this is not a sponsored article), which is honestly the best baby investment I made - along with our “Peg Perego” convertible car seat. Two kids in and I still love using both. City Mini GT is sturdy, but lightweight, and it quickly collapses neatly into a compact, easy to handle package. It has traveled with me all over the world in the last 6 years since I became a mother. It’s been checked at the gate with multiple airlines including United, Air Canada, Jet Blue, Delta and Virgin Airlines. There has never been a problem. And there never will be because no other airline, except American Airlines, has this stroller weight limit at gate check in.
I also realized through my experience that at the airport a stroller is not just a stroller. It becomes a portable crib, high chair, coffee holder, locker and leash on wheels. It’s a sort of fancy wheel barrel that helps you carry all that kid stuff that weighs a diaper bag down. That large basket underneath the seat? It takes a load off your back- literally!
A stroller is a basic and essential tool for keeping a curious toddler safely away from all the dangers a place like the airport offers. It allows a mom to catch her breath reassured her little one can't get into trouble for a few moments.
Let’s get back to the subject of stress and sleep deprivation and all those altercations that have been happening. If we want to avoid more of them, then what we need is a good, empathetic look at the needs of exhausted traveling families - not more burdens. Family lounges and “Quiet Rooms” (like they have on trains) at airport terminals would be tremendous customer service. Within the family lounge parents could “recharge” before a flight, while kids can run themselves ragged and babies that are in a crawling stage can crawl somewhere other than a dirty airport carpet. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, just a safe clean room with a Bring Your Own Toys (BYOT) policy. I think it’s safe to say most parents would be willing to pay a fee to enter such an oasis for an hour and the rest of the passengers on the flight would appreciate kids that are tired out and resting quietly on the flight instead of screaming, kicking the back of their seat and trying to climb over them.
As for flight staff, “Quiet Rooms” might help them manage stress and avoid harsh knee jerk reactions to difficult situations that are bound to occur on a busy flight.
A rise in retail designed specifically for the growing community of “family travelers” has been unfolding. According to a recent TIME magazine article the population born between 1982 and 2000 represent 1/3 of all home buyers at the moment, many of whom are growing families and travel together. Companies are already benefiting from having created products and services geared to accommodate “family traveler” needs. Companies that choose to ignore the needs of this growing segment of the population stand to simply lose significant business.
Extra Tips, Suggestions and Guidance:
For Pleasant and Peaceful Travel
Essential Oils: For the most calming and peaceful journey bring essential oils on the flight with you to aid in boosting your mood. According to Certified Natural Health Practitioner, Cathey Painter of “Ageless Beauty Report”, “Essential oils are the fastest way to change your mood. When you inhale essential oils they instantly go to the amygdala deep in the center of the brain where emotions are stored and processed. The Citrus oils in particular instantly lift and improve mood. Lemon Essential oil is known as ‘The Oil of Joy’ for this reason.” She adds, “If a child is agitated and having a tantrum, you can put a couple of drops on your palms and ask your child to smell it, or you can put your hands around their wrist.*”
Meditation: A nice moment of quiet time, meditation, or even just some deep breaths before heading out on your journey can help you feel centered and allow you to keep your cool when dealing with any potentially insensitive, sleep deprived travelers and air travel personnel.
Spread the Word
American Airlines does not advertise their stroller limit policy well. You really have to look for it and because it’s not a flight industry norm most parents just assume it’s “travel as usual”. Let new mothers know that American Airlines has a stroller limit, especially when they are building their baby registry. Talk about it so no other new parent is stuck in a situation with a child under two on their hand and no stroller to rely on inside the terminal. They will greatly appreciate the heads up.
Help a Mom Out
When traveling, if you see a mom in need, give her a hand. Beth Bornstein Dunnington’s recent blog, posted on Sunny Skyz, shares a travel story of a group of random strangers, all women, coming to the rescue of one pregnant mom at the airport who was brought to tears when she couldn’t manage her toddler. Dunnington shares how they formed a circle around the mom and her son and gave them simple and kind nurturing; a song, a toy, some water, etc., and made it all better.
At the end Beth writes; “It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world.”
What an inspiring quote. Yes, we can.
There is a huge shift happening in our society, with women asserting their power more than ever and stepping up to positions of leadership and influence, in communities, in government, and even in the airport.
Carefully Consider Your Stroller Needs
If you travel a lot with kids you can look into investing in a light stroller or umbrella stroller on the side. Just know, the umbrella stroller will not come with large sturdy wheels and large wheels are important in making the ride much smoother and less bumpy. Do you want to feel like you are holding a jack-hammer all day as you push your child around in it at the airport or your vacation/destination?
There is something nice about having one good stroller to fulfill all your needs. Personally I am not a fan of being limited to what stroller I can buy just because of a policy at one airline company.
If You Love your City Mini GT (like me)
On the Citi Mini GT you have the option of removing one or all three of the stroller wheels which helps bring the weight of the stroller down. Only later did I realize that I could have made my stroller fit within the set weight limit by removing the front wheel of my Mini and putting the wheel in my carry on to take with me on the plane (re-attach it to your stroller after weighing if you wish to use it inside the terminal). What makes a stroller really great (as I mentioned before) is the wheels. A well-made stroller will have large, solid wheels that instantly increase the stroller’s weight. This is what helps your child get a much smoother ride.
Traveling back to L.A., I was ready to triumphantly remove the wheel at the scale, but we ended up doing a curbside check in and tipping the attendant who helped us $20. He never weighed our stroller and we were able to check it at the gate without any problems. American Airlines is known for their inconsistency in upholding the stroller weight limit rule. Some moms are let through with heavy strollers and some are not. It all depends on how empathetic or aware of the rule the clerks is at the counters are.
Here are a few more very helpful articles on traveling with kids:
If you are traveling with twins:
TSA allows you to bring both 5ml and even 15ml bottles in your carry on and “DoTerra” essential oils brand did testing to verify that the process of going through security does NOT degrade the oils at all.
*Caution: Do NOT get essential oils in eyes or ear canal. If essential oils accidentally get in the eyes, take a dry cloth and put some coconut oil or olive oil or even butter and gently wipe the eyes.
For Children under 6 it is recommended you dilute essential oils with Fractionated Coconut Oil or coconut oil