Dubai: I chose Orcs with blood-curdling cries. On full volume. Over nine hours. And it was a perfect lullaby, I think, because the alternative was a plane-full of children dealing with air pressure changes – and not very successfully. Mothers, fathers, aunts and neighbours, no matter how you may want to yell at - they are the guardians, after all – you find their gaunt faces and tired eyes weep misery. The ability to yell ‘control your children’ suddenly does not exist. No one is denying babies are cute and cuddly – and have that nice ‘baby’ smell (most of the time) – but boy, stress out their little systems and they will let you know they are not happy.
For first-time parents trying to get away, perhaps a long-haul flight – and every plane ride at this point is long-haul – is stressful and exhausting. Not to mention a lesson in tactical planning. “Gone are the days when you could book a flight in the last minute, pack just hours before a journey, get a good nap on-board,” explains 35-year-old Indian expat Arvind Gurav. He recently took a five-hour flight, from Dubai to Kolkata, with his wife, Tanusree Chakraborty, and their four-month-old Reyaansh.
The challenge was upped when the couple found themselves booked on rows that were far apart. “We made a last-minute decision to head home and since it was a packed flight, we initially did not get seats together. But a quick call to the airlines’ [Emirates’] customer service and this was sorted,” says Tanusree.
“Until now my wife and I had travelled the world with a different perspective. With our son coming into the picture, the world now revolves around him. So you can imagine when we decided to head home (Kolkata), we were a little nervous,” said Gurav who works in customer service for a private company in Dubai.
The couple later tweeted how pleased they were with the airline, whose staff came over every time there was turbulence to check in on the peacefully sleeping tot.
When he was awake, Reyaansh was pampered with stuffed toys, extra blankets and much baby talk by the crew, they explained.
Tanushree says: “He [Reyaansh] did not trouble any passengers. He slept for quite a while, and when he was up, he was happy to be in our arms. All in all it was a great flight.”
But how do you ensure a smooth flight for a child who has never been airborne before?
Comfort is key: Favourite foods, toys and most importantly, blankies. Remember, to your infant, you are the world; recognizable people and things will keep anxiety at bay.
You get special treatment, take it: Most planes will allow people with young children on first – take this chance to situate yourself and your kid. Stow away the baggage, stash away the passports and settle in.
Cotton wool for the ears: As the air pressure in the cabin will undergo changes with altitude, it will impact the baby’s ear pressure. Also, the noise levels on a plane can range anywhere from 60 to 100 decibels – these cotton balls can help keep the sound – and so the discomfort – away.
What you must not to is:
1. Allow your child to run free, and ‘explore’ the plane, no matter how convenient it seems. For one, this will take away from their understanding of discipline; for another, it will lead to a lot of ill will from fellow passengers.
2. Do not change baby diapers on your seat – head to the toilet to sort this out; yes, even if getting out of your seat is tough.
3. Do not ask your neighbor to look after your child – unless they specifically ask.
The yells of babies tend to set off something primal in people; it’s the call of helplessness; it’s a creation of despair.
Perhaps that’s why the sound of Orcs was so much more comforting; better fiction than confronting the real, the primary.
Emirates rules and regulations carrying infants and young children
Emirates sent Gulf News a link to the airlines rules and regulations for parents with babies, infants and young children.
According to this, you can carry an infant under two years old on your lap. “We'll give you a special seat belt extension. If you’re flying with a child over two years old, you'll need to buy a child's fare and they'll have their own seat."
If you're bringing your own child safety belt or seat (known as a child restraint device or CRD), it must have a label to show that it's approved for use in an aircraft by:
• Any Joint Aviation Authorities
• The United States Federal Aviation Administration
• Transport Canada
Using baby car seats on the plane
You can use an infant car seat on the flight, however, you'll need to book a separate seat and pay a child's fare.
If you bring a baby car seat on your flight, the check in staff will check that it carries a label showing that it's approved for use on an aircraft, along with the instructions for use.
Infants weighing under 10 kilograms can travel in either a forward facing or rear facing car seat, however if your infant weighs more than 10 kilograms, their car seat must be forward facing.