It was dark in the cabin, the seat belt sign was on, passengers were watching the in-flight movie, and we, the crew, stood in the coach galley talking about…oh I don’t remember, but I do remember we were flying from Los Angeles to New York and it had been an uneventful flight. Which was nice for a change. I had been just about to remark on the nice flight when the flight attendant working in the first class galley called us in the back.
I answered the phone, “This is Heather.”
An exasperated voice asked, “Is he back there?”
“Yeah, he’s here, hold on.” I shrugged my shoulders and handed the phone to the one in charge, a tall, tough-looking guy with a goatee. Don’t let the looks fool you. He’s really sweet and mushy inside.
“What!” he exclaimed, holding the phone to his ear. He rolled his eyes. “There’s a child lost in first class,” he said, and that’s all he said, hanging up the phone and making his way up the aisle to sort the matter out.
Of course the first thing that went through my mind was a visual of a very young child running through the first class cabin causing a ruckus. I figured the parents were asleep in coach and totally oblivious to the child’s whereabouts. I mean what else could it be?
Once while deadheading on a flight years ago, I felt something strange moving between my ankles. When I looked down, I gasped. Oh my. There on the floor crawled an infant – right out from underneath my seat! I picked up the baby, cradled her in my arms, and turned around. Behind me slept a young lady. I spotted what looked like a diaper bag lying on the seat beside her.
“Excuse me,” I said, tapping her on the bony shoulder. I held out the infant. “Is this yours?”
She nodded, took the baby into her own arms, leaned her head against the side wall, and closed her eyes.
Leesa, a Gadling reader (and soon to be flight attendant), wrote and told me about her experience with not just a lost child, but a child traveling with a parent who might as well have been lost, considering he knew no boundaries, another common occurrence on flights these days…
Once last year while on a Qantas flight back to the US from SYD, we were lucky enough to have one of the exit rows on a 747 where you have like 6 feet of wonderful leg room. Ahhhh, so nice. Anyhow, this man had his 2 year old screaming child for 2 hours dancing and singing right in front of us – in OUR leg room. Of course the crew was busy working so we were given an up close and rather unwanted performance RIGHT in our very coveted leg space!!! Hey, we booked early for those seats!!! The nerve!
I know this might be hard for some of you to believe, but no one wants to play with your child. So please do not assume that just because your little bundle of joy is adorable and smart that we all want to share our space with him or her. Nor does anyone want to watch your child making laps around the airplane. Now I’m not talking about walking up and down the aisle doing the bouncy bounce to make baby stop crying, or the quick lap around to get the blood flowing (just make sure the seat belt sign is not on), I’m talking about the trek from coach, through business class, all the way up to first class, and around again. People pay big money for those premium class seats and they do not want to be disturbed by you or your adorable little monster, which is why when the flight attendant in charge got the call, I assumed – we all assumed – there was just another child making the rounds.
Hey, it happens. But it’s our job to keep it from happening.
Unfortunately, in this case, there was nothing to stop from happening, because the child turned out to be a teenager, a very well mannered one, and the teenager happened to be looking for her father who was supposed to be sitting in first class while the rest of the family sat in coach. His empty seat had apparently been unoccupied the entire flight. No one had noticed. Immediately the purser grabbed the paperwork and sure enough, we really were missing a passenger in first class, and we were three hours into the flight.
Turns out the father had decided to run and get something to read at the bookstore prior to departure while the rest of the family boarded the aircraft and took their seats in main cabin. Because they were in coach and he was (supposed to be) in first class, they had no idea he never made it back in time. Can you imagine his face when he got to the gate and found the plane, along with his family, had departed to New York without him?
Which brings me to the lesson of the day. Passengers, do be on time! The airplane will not wait for you, even when you’re seated in first class. Flight attendants, do not assume anything, especially when it comes to passengers. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something new happens.
Photos courtesy of (little girl) artolog (first class seat) Richard Moross