Traveling alone with children

This happened while we were waiting to board our British Airways flight from Glasgow to London. It was one of those turnaround flights where the plane came in while we were already at the gates. We waited a bit for the passengers to get off and a bit more before they announced for us to board.

I thought they were going to let those with children board first but instead they asked for the first half of the plane to board through one door and the second half to board the one next to it. This made boarding a little faster than usual as we made two lines. While standing in the queue, I watched a woman struggle with her two children.

I first noticed her when she suddenly leapt over a row of chairs for her girl of about 2 years old. The woman was to one side of the queue fiddling with what seemed like a pram when she suddenly turned, jumped over a row of chairs like a champion hurdler and grabbed her girl who had taken the opportunity of her mother’s distraction and wandered off. She plucked her daughter up, swung her around and dumped her on the very chairs she leapt over, before looking firmly into her daughter’s eyes and said DO NOT WANDER OFF. Meanwhile her boy of five years was busy turning himself in circles next to the pram.

The woman went back to her things, where she pulled out her son’s jacket and tried to put it onto her struggling son. While she was doing that, her daughter had popped herself off the chairs and was wandering down the sky bridge on her own. The sky bridge did not lead directly to the plane. At the end of it was a flight of stairs that led to the tarmac where we had to walk to the plane in the cold. Hence her need for her children’s jackets. Hence her reaction that came next.

She leapt up at the sight of her girl running off and jumped to grab her before swinging her back to the counter. In that split second, her son who was somehow caught in the mom’s actions, got swung around 180 degrees and slammed his head against the wall leading to the sky bridge.

The resounding TWACK was a bit of a shock to me, but probably not as much as the boy. He bawled his heart out as his mom picked him up while she apologised for tripping him. At the same time she grinder out another warning to her daughter for wandering away. Her daughter started crying, I’m not sure if it’s from forcibly being tucked into a jacket, from being yelled at or because her brother was crying. I watched as the woman’s hands hesitated momentarily between her two children as she couldn’t decide which came first, to dress her daughter up or to comfort her son with a bump.

All this happened in a matter of minutes. I stood there watching, as did everyone else in the line, and the BA staff at the counters. No one lifted a finger to help. I’m not sure why the others didn’t, perhaps because it happened so fast that it was soon over before you realise it happened. For me, I hesitated because I didn’t know the protocol for such things. As a mother, how would one feel if a total stranger stepped up to offer help with her children? Would she accept the help gratefully or take it as an insult to her inability to control her two monkeys? If I did step in, what could I possibly have done since I am a total loss when it comes to children.

I’m not sure why the BA staff didn’t help. Perhaps years of dealing with passengers of all types, families included, have immunised them from such drama. But this isn’t about service. This isn’t about whether people did anything or not. It was about witnessing a mother struggle on her own with her two children. Her attention was unfortunately split between two little people who typically required a lot of focus. I could feel her gritting her teeth while she tried not to lose control of herself while she was slowly losing control of the situation.

Children are a fucking handful. I salute any parent who has to travel with them without an extra pair of hands.



  1. I was on a BA flight home from Melbourne once when I encountered similar unhelpfulness from the BA folks toward a parent travelling alone. My seat neighbour had a 6-month old baby and was struggling with him the entire 8-hour flight. (I tried to help a bit cos I really felt bad for her.)

    When it was nearly time to land, she asked the cabin crew if they could help her off the plane with her barang-barang first, because the infant was beginning to wail up a storm and was really annoying all the other passengers . The flight steward told her huffily that they were all needed at their positions after landing, she could get off the plane first if she wanted but no one was available help her with her bags and stroller. I was so incensed I said to her, this is how we’ll do it. You carry your baby, I’ll grab your bags, just point out to me which stroller is yours and we’ll get you and your stuff off this miserable plane.

    Obviously when the plane landed all the cabin crew were just standing around saying thank you and bye. Surely that’s not more important than assisting that frazzled mother?!

    1. my colleague was complaining the same of the Changi Airport staff. some mother was struggling with her things and so my colleague asked a staff to assist the lady. the staff told my colleague to tell the mother to approach the counter there *points far far away* to ask for help.

  2. They are still worth having.

    1. i’ll take your word for it!

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