Is it Selfish to Take a Child on a Long-Haul Flight?

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This was the question that I was asked last week. Travelling with a baby? It was a no-brainer for me – of course it’s selfish.

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I’ve travelled loads with my baby boy, including a long-haul flight to Canada when he was six-months old. I’ll continue travelling with a baby, so I can forgive you if you’re surprised by my answer.

The fact is it is selfish, but aren’t we all selfish? I don’t think of anyone else when I book my tickets. I think of myself. We all have our own reasons for being on a flight. We all make choices and most of us do what we want. We don’t stop to consider the other passengers when we click ‘book’.

Some people snore, some people like too many drinks, some people smell…the list goes on…but those people don’t avoid flying. I was a selfish traveller before I had Nova. I travelled for my own enjoyment. Now I have a baby and guess what? I travel for my own enjoyment.

If anything, I have even more reason to travel. I want to share as much of our world as possible with my mini-explorer, showing him a variety of sights, sounds, tastes and smells. I hope it’ll enrich his life and give him great foundations for his own choices when he’s older.

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The question stemmed from this ‘Babies on Planes’ article on the Guardian. It says that ‘no parent should feel like they have to placate judgemental passengers with treats and apologies when their child has an age-appropriate outburst in public spaces’. It’s a response to the sudden popularity of those sweetie bags you may have seen on your FB feed. You know, the ones that people are leaving on their fellow passenger’s seats on planes. They come with a note that offers an apology for any noise from their baby during the flight.

BBC Three Counties Radio got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to talk on The JVS Show, sharing my thoughts and perspective on travelling long-haul with a baby. They told me that I’d be sharing the line with a supposed etiquette consultant who despises children and thinks they shouldn’t be allowed on a flight, let alone out of the house. She was a real charmer.

One of her first comments was something along the lines of children should be locked in a bedroom until they can use a knife and fork. Yep, I’m being serious.

The host painted a common scenario, one where he talked about an annual long-haul flight he takes to Argentina, costing over a £1,000. He asked why his flight should be ruined by screaming babies.

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I’m completely understanding when people say they don’t want to hear a baby cry for hours at a time. Even as a mama, I don’t particularly want to listen to that either. However, it is categorically unfair to label all babies as the same. It’s utterly ridiculous. At six-months old Nova had been on five flights and didn’t scream for the entire journey on any of them. Quite the opposite, in fact. We had people congratulating us for having such a good, little traveller. And I don’t know any babies who scream for a whole day, so I don’t know why they kept referring to them as ‘screaming babies’. Why not just babies?

You can listen to exactly how the debate went via this link if you skip to 1hr 53m. It’s only a few minutes long and I like to think that I represented the baby travel side of the camp pretty well, but let me know what you think.

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I’m under no illusions that Nova could be the complete opposite on our next flight. As much as you can prepare, there are some things that you can’t predict or control, such as turbulence and illness. So I guess in reference to the article, do I feel the need to make a little apology note and goody bag in advance?


I think the key to a successful flight with a little one is good preparation (as mentioned in this these baby travel tips), luck and a positive outlook. By preparing an apology note I’d feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. I guess like a glass half-empty kinda viewpoint. Personally, I think babies pick up on our emotions and that includes things like nervousness and stress.

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That said, part of me gets it. Us Brits are famed for our politeness and apologetic nature. We’re always apologizing for things, even if it’s not our fault or a big deal. If Nova did have an outburst whilst I was sitting next to someone the chances are that I would say sorry. Not necessarily because I feel shamed, but more just out of politeness and for the fact that I know it’s not an enjoyable thing to listen to (for me, let alone them). It also breaks the ice and cuts any tension.

If someone was rude to me about his crying (perhaps like the woman on the radio show alluded) then I probably wouldn’t apologize and would be more defensive. However, I’ve only really encountered kind people, who offer their sympathies before I even have the chance to mutter a sorry.

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It was suggested on that same radio show that some people would ask to leave the flight if a baby started screaming before take-off. We all know how precious space is on a plane, especially when you have a zillion baby things, so fellow family travellers, perhaps we should start encouraging our babies to cry at the start if it means more space…?!

What do you think? Is it selfish to take a child on a long-haul flight?

Read More…

Flying Long-Haul With A Baby via KLM

12 Amazing Tips for Flying With a Baby (Short AND Long-Haul)

Seven Perks of Travelling with a Baby via KLM

The Fifth Overseas Trip With Nova: Six Months Old [Canada]


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Comments (13)

  • Aw 2 years ago Reply

    Selfish cow
    Nobody should have to listen to your little sproglet for 1 second especially when there are passengers that will be spending much more money than you earning the airline their revenue (newsflash economy does not make money).
    I would ask to have you and your child sit in the toilet right at the back of the plane so it can’t be heard.

  • […] Is it Selfish to Take a Child on a Long-Haul Flight? […]

  • Wandermust mummy 4 years ago Reply

    I don’t think it’s selfish – flying is a fact of life these days and not just for “selfish” and indulgent beach breaks (not that there is anything wrong with that either). I’m an expat – 7 hours from home. I don’t think it’s selfish to want my baby to forge a relationship with grandparents and other family members.

    The last two flights I’ve been on have had older gentlemen in the bassinet rows who have complained to me at the beginning of each flight about the presence of a baby. Don’t book a bassinet row if you want to reduce the risk of being seated next to a baby! I’d like to point out like ours my baby had never (famous last words) had a meltdown on a plane.

    Like you say other people have things that irritate me on flights but I don’t tell them not to fly.

    Well done for representing us flying travel mums

    Taylor Hearts Travel 4 years ago Reply

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment. It’s so nice to hear that you get my point of view. It’s most definitely not selfish to want your little one to have a relationship with their family.

    Ugh to those gentleman (who perhaps shouldn’t be classed as gentleman). Why is it ok to complain about a baby, particularly at the start of the flight if they’re not causing a fuss and if it’s the bassinet row, but not ok to complain about overweight people encroaching into the other seat, or loud snorers etc etc?!

    Thank you and well done to you for helping to redefine family travel. :) x

  • Suzanne Jones 4 years ago Reply

    Is it selfish to take a child on a long-haul flight? Of course not – some people really should learn to get over themselves.

    Taylor Hearts Travel 4 years ago Reply

    And that’s putting it politely!

  • […] for us to argue and deliberate over with Taylor Hearts Travel who asks (and answers) the question Is it selfish to take a child on a long-haul flight? Char Taylor openly opines that it’s a purely selfish act to travel with a baby and in all honesty […]

  • Laura 4 years ago Reply

    “I don’t know why they kept referring to them as ‘screaming babies’. Why not just babies?”
    Yes! Babies cry whenever and wherever they please…time to get over that fact of life. The days of anyone actually enjoying a flight are long gone. I never feel bad about bringing my daughter onto the plane. If she’s crying and disrupting the person next to me, of course I apologize as I would in any other social setting. But I won’t be staying locked up at home with her until she’s 6. That’s just ridiculous.

    – Laura

    Taylor Hearts Travel 4 years ago Reply

    Exactly! And they also laugh, gurgle and smile. It’s not just all screaming and nothing else!

    Could you imagine staying locked up for six years?! What utter rubbish. Surely it’s better to start them early and get them used to different environments and how to act around other people in public. It’d be a massive shock if they only went out when they were six.

    Carry on enjoying those family adventures – I know I will! :D

  • Manasi Kumar 4 years ago Reply

    The thing I worry most about our bub on flights is not other people but how to keep him safe when he is bored of sitting still and liable to want to touch everything and anything in sight… In very cramped surrounds! It’s only natural for frustrations to occur flying all jammed in together but it’s a necessity!

    Taylor Hearts Travel 4 years ago Reply

    Oh I feel your pain. How do they manage to have such velcro hands and such an incredible interest in the things that you don’t want them to look at, let alone touch?! Nova spent an eternity playing with a seat flap on one of our flights, which I let him because it was entertaining for him and safe.

    So long as you stay away from the door, you should be fine ;)

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave) 4 years ago Reply

    Totally agree Char – even as someone who absolutely hates having to listen to babies crying and screaming non stop on a flight (longest 2 hours of my life earlier this year en route back from Europe sitting behind a toddler having a meltdown), it is totally ludicrous to suggest that people are selfish for flying with their babies. As you say, pretty much everyone books flights for their own reasons and a parent with a new baby shouldn’t have to be any different. Parents and babies have as much right to be there as anyone else and babies cry, it’s hardly a newsflash, so as frustrating as it might be listening to it, it’s just part and parcel of what you sign up for when you fly, if you want a guarantee of no babies on board, don’t fly!!

    Taylor Hearts Travel 4 years ago Reply

    Oh gosh I can imagine it felt like forever on that flight. Poor you, poor parents and poor baba!

    If someone wants to avoid kids, snorers, smelly people, rude people etc etc doesn’t that mean that they either don’t fly or they get a private jet? Neither are feasible for me so onwards and upwards I say!

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