FAA reauthorization to include provision for families

Together! At last!

Together! At last!

In what can be described as the first big legislative win for the Family Travel Association (FTA), the latest FAA reauthorization includes a provision that will make it easier for families to sit together on flights.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, earlier this week put forth the provision to require airlines to ensure children ages 13 and younger are seated adjacent to an adult traveling with them or an older child traveling with them.

Formal groundwork for the provision actually started last year when the two Congressmen introduced similar legislation, H.R. 3334, the Families Flying Together Act of 2015.

The FTA—an organization for which I have sat on the board since the beginning—has been a huge advocate of the move and advised the legislators on this decision. What used to be a given—families seated together on a flight—is not so much the standard anymore. As airlines have added more and more ancillary fees, including fees for seat changes and seat upgrades, traveling companions sometimes get separated.

According to an article on TravelPulse, the reauthorization is expected to be approved by the House and Senate sometime before the July 15 deadline, which means FEDERAL REGULATORY PROTECTION TO KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER ON FLIGHTS SHOULD HAPPEN BY FRIDAY. Yes! Power!

I think my favorite part of today’s news are the official quotes from the two senators involved.

“The Families Flying Together Act will put an end to the absurdity of toddlers sitting separate or unattended on an airplane — requiring airlines to plan ahead so that families with young children can fly together,” Nadler said in a statement issued through his office. “For several years, we have tried to force the airlines to enact family friendly seating policies, and to not shift the burden onto other passengers to vacate their seats so that children can sit with their parents. Thankfully, the new FAA bill includes this common sense measure allowing families with small children to travel together safely and reliably without disrupting other passengers.”

Davis echoed these sentiments.

“Traveling with young children can already be very stressful for parents and when you can’t sit together on a flight, it only makes this process more difficult,” Davis added. “All we’re asking is for airlines to do a better job of accommodating parents ahead of time so we can make flying a better experience for families and other passengers aboard. I think most airlines have the same goal. This provision is important to updating an industry that continues to see growth in family travel. While my first choice is a long-term bill that includes major reforms that I believe are necessary to improve safety and increase global competitiveness within our aviation system, I am glad this provision and other sensible reforms are included in this extension and I look forward to voting for it.”

If you see me drinking champagne with breakfast this morning, now you know why. Kudos to all of my colleagues at the FTA, and to traveling families everywhere.

Note: The picture that accompanies this post was from Air New Zealand via TravelPulse.

Dumb stuff people say (and write)

I fly solo on business trips, but I am not a pedophile.

I fly solo on business trips, but I am not a pedophile.

Believe it or not, Donald Sterling—the racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers—wasn’t the only person to say something really dumb in the last week.

Nope, in the world of family travel, Tracey Spicer, a mommy blogger from Australia, scored some serious stupid points, too.

Spicer, who has A RECURRING COLUMN in the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote Sunday about how she doesn’t want her “kids sitting next to a man on a plane.” In a nutshell, her post alleges that men are more likely to commit child sexual abuse on planes.

One of the final lines reads: “Sure, not all men are pedophiles [sic], but offenders are predominantly male.”

(Seriously.)

If this line isn’t offensive enough, the rest of Spicer’s argument certainly does the job. She cites “data” from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that indicates “90 percent of all child sexual abuse is committed by someone in, or known to, the family.” Then she goes on to write: “However, stranger danger is a risk and women are perpetrators in only about 8 percent of the cases.”

Spicer cites other “information” to support her case. One incident—an obvious outlier—was from 2001. Another, from 2012, widely was accepted to be a case of an airline behaving badly. She mentions a third incident, but that one was from 2012, as well. And it also wasn’t cut-and-dried.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the author for trying to raise awareness among parents that you never know who your unaccompanied minor might get as a seat-mate on a long flight.

Still, to do it and besmirch all male travelers in the process—that’s just irresponsible and dumb.

Here’s a novel thought: If you’re a parent and you’re spazzing out about who your child might sit next to when he or she flies solo, how about you just FLY ON THE PLANE WITH YOUR KID?

More important, why do so many people wig out over issues relating to family travel by air? Why do kids on planes prompt people to do and think and say such weird stuff?  What is it about family airplane travel that makes so many sane humans sound nuts? Every time an item like this hits the news, I ask: What could we be doing differently to change the perception of kids on planes?

Let’s hope we find some answers soon.

All about the storybook(s)

AAcover

Inside spread, Alaska Airlines magazine

This is shaping up to be the biggest week of the year for those of us here at Wandering Pod, and it’s all about the placements.

First, on Tuesday, the April 2014 issue of Alaska Airlines magazine hit seat-backs with a cover story written by yours truly. The story, which runs nearly 4,000 words, spotlights family travel in Hawaii. In it, I pulled together anecdotes and experiences from five years of visiting the Aloha State with (at least one of) the girls.

Check it out by clicking here (and then scrolling to page 34, where the piece begins).

Next, later this morning, Powerwoman, L, R, and I will hop in the Prius and head out to Yosemite National Park, where we’ll spend the next four days disconnecting from the world and exploring as a family.

This trip is part of a HUGE package of articles I’ll be writing for Expedia’s Expedia Viewfinder blog. The effort is in conjunction with Expedia’s new “Find Your Storybook” advertising campaign; during the promotion, each Viewfinder will create content about a dream trip.

The first of *my* storybook stories is slated to run on the Expedia Viewfinder later this month. I’ll be creating oodles of content for this site, too. Stay tuned!

Hope for Family Travelers on Planes

Kate. Photo by Shanell Mouland.

Kate.

The Internet has been abuzz this week with praise for a tear-jerking essay from Shanell Mouland, the woman behind Go Team Kate.

The story was titled, “Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C,” and was published Jan. 9. In it, Mouland recounts an anecdote from a recent flight with her 3-year-old daughter, Kate, who has autism. Details of the story are irrelevant here (honestly, I encourage you to gather some tissues and read the piece yourself). The bottom line: The dude who sat next to Kate was just a really good human being.

Over the course of the multi-hour flight, the guy smiled at the child. He engaged her. He let her touch his computer. He even played turtles with her. And at no point did he make it seem as if Kate or Shanell were annoying him or invading his personal space. He was just a good guy.

I loved the story for a number of reasons.

First, as a parent, it’s uplifting to hear about a stranger going out of his way to be kind to someone else’s kid. Second, as a supporter of the autism community (I’ve done work for AbilityPath), it’s wonderful to read about someone treating a child on the Spectrum with the kind of patience and respect these children deserve.

Finally, as a blogger, I love the bigger picture. At a time when airlines get kudos for segregating family travelers and passengers seem to enjoy ganging up on those of us who travel with kids, this story was a welcome breath of fresh air, a feel-good example of the reality that there still are some people who fly the “friendly” skies.

The piece left me feeling hopeful that maybe, just maybe, the prevailing attitudes about family travelers on airplanes can soften and change.

We just need more people like the Daddy in 16C. And we need to hear more stories like his.

Family Travelers to FAA: It’s About F-ing Time

Thankfully, R doesn't need a device to be happy in flight.

Thankfully, R doesn’t need a device to be happy in flight.

Sure, business travelers will insist that they benefit most from the FAA’s announcement today to allow the use of most electronic devices. They’ll say they now can work uninterrupted from the moment they sit down on the plane. That productivity will increase.

In my book, nobody wins more than moms and dads who travel with young kids.

If you’ve ever flown with your little ones, you know that the most difficult parts of every flight with youngsters are the take-off and landing—the parts of the flight that wreak havoc on tiny eardrums. These are the 20 minutes (10 on the front end, 10 on the back end) when electronic devices previously had been banned.

In our family, we have referred to these periods as the “Quiet Zones.” Fittingly, on last week’s flight home from Ireland, L and I had a pointed conversation about why we passengers couldn’t use devices during those stretches. The conversation went something like this.

L: “Daddy, can we please read a Kindle book?”
Me: “We can, honey, but we have to wait until the plane takes off and gets to a certain point in the sky.”
L: “Why?”
Me: “Well, because that’s what the pilot says.”
L: “But why?”
Me: “Because.”
L: “WHY?”
Me: “To be completely honest, honey, I don’t know. The pilot says that’s the way it is on his plane, so we have to follow the rules.”
L: “The pilot’s rules are stupid, Daddy.”

She was right, of course. I’ve always thought the rules were stupid, too.

Now, thankfully, we parents can pull out all the stops to distract our traveling partners. Kindle books. Smartphone games (like this one). Digital doodlers. Even the iPads.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thanks to you, Federal Aviation Administration, for finally ending one of the dumbest and senseless in-flight policies in recent memory. It’s a great day for us family travelers (and all travelers, for that matter). And it’s about f-ing time.

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