Screaming infant on a flight

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ITN was mailed a copy of the following letter, sent by a reader to Virgin Atlantic Airways.

In September 2005 I took Virgin Atlantic flight No. 8, Los Angeles-London, returning on flight No. 23, London-Los Angeles, on the 14th. Flight 8 was a delight, but I am still recovering from the effects of flight 23. It’s about a kid who screamed for five minutes every 15 minutes for 13 hours nonstop, starting in the Heathrow Airport departure lounge.

I commented on this nonstop screaming to your representative at the desk and said I sincerely hoped I was seated away from this screamer, as I had some work to do on the flight. I was seated directly behind the screaming infant, so my seatmate, a man of about 80 years (I am 70 years old), and I got the full blast.

The parents were helpless. In fact, the father walked away from the situation and socialized as far away from the screamer as possible. Given the lung power of this child, I would estimate that it disturbed upward of 100 people.

I asked a psychologist friend of mine why a screaming kid has such a devastating effect on people. She said that it goes right back to the genetic level of primitive humans. At the sound of a screaming kid, the adrenal system kicks in at highest alert and shuts down all other physical and mental systems. After four hours of this, the average person would basically be in a state of psychic shock. My fellow passengers and I took it for 12 hours.

I vowed that I would wait at least three months before writing to you gentlemen about this, just to make sure that this wasn’t a temporary upset, yet I am still upset that the airline representatives at the holding area knew that this kid had been uncontrollably screaming for over an hour and that it was logical to assume he or she would go on screaming, since it was amply demonstrated that the parents had no control whatsoever.

If I were a professional cymbals player for a major orchestra and wanted to practice for the “1812 Overture” on a 12-hour flight, would your staff stop me from doing so? If yes, why am I being discriminated against? If your response is that the child is uncontrollable, then, hypothetically, would a known homicidal maniac, also uncontrollable, be allowed on your flights?

For three months I have been talking to frequent flyers. They have sworn that if any airline had as its policy that no child would be allowed on its flights who was under five years of age, they would fly no other airline, even if the nonscreaming-kid airline charged more per seat.

Let me say to you gentlemen that I do not dislike children. Spiritually, I am somewhere between a Sufi and a Buddhist. My disciplines are hatha-yoga and dressage. I have lower-than-average blood pressure. Ordinarily, I am as happy as a clam with my life, but enduring 13 hours of screaming could have made a killer of me (and I say this as a paralegal secretary).

Please, I beg you, bar kids from Virgin Atlantic flights. Announce this new policy and see your business boom.

SHIRLEY BLANCHARD
Mission Hills, CA

ITN sent another copy of the above letter to Virgin Atlantic Airways (747 Belden Ave., Norwalk, CT 06850) and received no reply.

In a follow-up to ITN, Ms. Blanchard wrote, “After writing to the chairman as well as the vice-president of Sales and Marketing of Virgin Atlantic, I received no reply. Then, while at our local Trader Joe’s, I met a man who was wearing a Virgin staff jacket and told him my story. He said he would see what he could do and suggested I write to the airline again, which I did.

“I got a reply from Mukarram Kanjikotwal, Customer Relations Executive, who wrote, ‘I was very concerned to read of your experience on our flight. . . I do appreciate that you felt that the parents did not have any control over their child and could not calm him down. However, I trust you will accept that there is nothing that our staff could have done, other than having a word with the parents.

“‘I have noted your comments with regards to the effects such children can have and your suggestion that we should disallow children on our flights. I can fully understand your reason behind this suggestion after the incident on your flight. While instances such as this are rare, they do occur every now and again. We cannot move towards taking any drastic measures in such matters unless we get an enormous amount of feedback from our passengers who have been affected. Even then, there are many other factors and intricacies which may influence our final decision.’

“I received a second letter from Virgin, this time from Alessandro Mancini of Customer Relations Claims Executive Data & Legal. He wrote, ‘Please accept my apologies for the difficulties you experienced recently. . . We operate a system whereby, as well as statistical reports that are presented to our Board of Directors, the letters we receive are also copied to the relevant department heads. Our experience shows that our customers’ written words have a powerful effect on the management teams. Wherever we can learn from and make changes to improve customer experiences of our product and service, we will.’”

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

ITN was mailed a copy of the following letter, sent by a reader to Virgin Atlantic Airways.

In September 2005 I took Virgin Atlantic flight No. 8, Los Angeles-London, returning on flight No. 23, London-Los Angeles, on the 14th. Flight 8 was a delight, but I am still recovering from the effects of flight 23. It’s about a kid who screamed for five minutes every 15 minutes for 13 hours nonstop, starting in the Heathrow Airport departure lounge.

I commented on this nonstop screaming to your representative at the desk and said I sincerely hoped I was seated away from this screamer, as I had some work to do on the flight. I was seated directly behind the screaming infant, so my seatmate, a man of about 80 years (I am 70 years old), and I got the full blast.

The parents were helpless. In fact, the father walked away from the situation and socialized as far away from the screamer as possible. Given the lung power of this child, I would estimate that it disturbed upward of 100 people.

I asked a psychologist friend of mine why a screaming kid has such a devastating effect on people. She said that it goes right back to the genetic level of primitive humans. At the sound of a screaming kid, the adrenal system kicks in at highest alert and shuts down all other physical and mental systems. After four hours of this, the average person would basically be in a state of psychic shock. My fellow passengers and I took it for 12 hours.

I vowed that I would wait at least three months before writing to you gentlemen about this, just to make sure that this wasn’t a temporary upset, yet I am still upset that the airline representatives at the holding area knew that this kid had been uncontrollably screaming for over an hour and that it was logical to assume he or she would go on screaming, since it was amply demonstrated that the parents had no control whatsoever.

If I were a professional cymbals player for a major orchestra and wanted to practice for the “1812 Overture” on a 12-hour flight, would your staff stop me from doing so? If yes, why am I being discriminated against? If your response is that the child is uncontrollable, then, hypothetically, would a known homicidal maniac, also uncontrollable, be allowed on your flights?

For three months I have been talking to frequent flyers. They have sworn that if any airline had as its policy that no child would be allowed on its flights who was under five years of age, they would fly no other airline, even if the nonscreaming-kid airline charged more per seat.

Let me say to you gentlemen that I do not dislike children. Spiritually, I am somewhere between a Sufi and a Buddhist. My disciplines are hatha-yoga and dressage. I have lower-than-average blood pressure. Ordinarily, I am as happy as a clam with my life, but enduring 13 hours of screaming could have made a killer of me (and I say this as a paralegal secretary).

Please, I beg you, bar kids from Virgin Atlantic flights. Announce this new policy and see your business boom.

SHIRLEY BLANCHARD
Mission Hills, CA

ITN sent another copy of the above letter to Virgin Atlantic Airways (747 Belden Ave., Norwalk, CT 06850) and received no reply.

In a follow-up to ITN, Ms. Blanchard wrote, “After writing to the chairman as well as the vice-president of Sales and Marketing of Virgin Atlantic, I received no reply. Then, while at our local Trader Joe’s, I met a man who was wearing a Virgin staff jacket and told him my story. He said he would see what he could do and suggested I write to the airline again, which I did.

“I got a reply from Mukarram Kanjikotwal, Customer Relations Executive, who wrote, ‘I was very concerned to read of your experience on our flight. . . I do appreciate that you felt that the parents did not have any control over their child and could not calm him down. However, I trust you will accept that there is nothing that our staff could have done, other than having a word with the parents.

“‘I have noted your comments with regards to the effects such children can have and your suggestion that we should disallow children on our flights. I can fully understand your reason behind this suggestion after the incident on your flight. While instances such as this are rare, they do occur every now and again. We cannot move towards taking any drastic measures in such matters unless we get an enormous amount of feedback from our passengers who have been affected. Even then, there are many other factors and intricacies which may influence our final decision.’

“I received a second letter from Virgin, this time from Alessandro Mancini of Customer Relations Claims Executive Data & Legal. He wrote, ‘Please accept my apologies for the difficulties you experienced recently. . . We operate a system whereby, as well as statistical reports that are presented to our Board of Directors, the letters we receive are also copied to the relevant department heads. Our experience shows that our customers’ written words have a powerful effect on the management teams. Wherever we can learn from and make changes to improve customer experiences of our product and service, we will.’”