Do we really need to apologise for babies on planes?

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 Photo: Getty Images

As a parent, taking your baby on a flight can be nerve-wracking. How is the baby going to react to this new environment? Will her ears hurt? Will she cry? Will you be able to settle her? And will the other passengers on the plane judge you?

Whether they're judging you is up for debate, but it's true that many passengers aren't happy to be sitting near a baby. A recent Wotif survey found that 25.8 per cent of Australians say a screaming baby is the most annoying seat neighbour.

Is it any wonder, then, that a new trend sees parents handing out pre-emptive apology notes and lolly-filled packages, explaining to fellow passengers that there's a baby on board and asking them to be patient. Like this one spotted on Facebook recently:

A recent 'sorry in advance' package given to those flying with a baby.
A recent 'sorry in advance' package given to those flying with a baby. Photo: Supplied

"Hello! My name is Peyton. 
I am 3 months old, and I'm just learning how to fly.
So I'd like to give you this small gift in case I fuss or cry.
Here are some earplugs and some candy.
I hope this makes your flight nice and dandy!"

Reactions to the social media post ranged from agreement with the parents' strategy to bemoaning crying babies, to outrage at such an apology even being a necessity.

So is this a considerate sentiment or a sign that we're feeding a lack of tolerance within our mid-air communities?

Kirsty Rice, an expat who has flown with her four children countless times from babyhood onwards, says parents are feeling more and more obliged to make pre-emptive apologies like this. It's something she's noticed on flights over the past couple of years, with the notes and goody bags becoming more elaborate – but she says parents shouldn't have to feel bad about their babies behaving like babies.

"There is not a person on this planet who was not once a child. We get it, sometimes babies cry on planes, sometimes they don't," she says. "While none of us want to sit near the babies - not even those of us who have had four of our own! - we all understand that every parent will be doing the best they can to keep their child settled."

Others think it's a considerate way to let other passengers know there could be some, well, unexpected turbulence. "You generally feel guilty before you even get on a plane," says mum of two, Sarah Watson. "You are very reliant on the people around you and I have never had anyone who hasn't been happy to hold a baby as I go to the toilet."

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Still, she admits, it isn't something she would do. "The little package is a lovely idea but I shouldn't have to feel that bad about taking my baby on board a flight."

Some say it could be an effective explanation for those who don't know what it's like. "I think it's excessive, but cute," says mum Heidi Linehan. "I think this would work well for people without kids because they might not understand how hard us parents are trying."

She adds that it's a shame people feel they need to do things like that, as it perhaps shows a big concern towards judgement. "To make these packs up would be expensive and time consuming, so maybe you'd need to be a bit paranoid to do it."

It seems the only certainty in this situation is that parents will always find it hard work taking their babies on long flights.

Wotif travel specialist Kirsty La Bruniy has three top tips for parents flying with babies:

  • If your baby is crying, get on the move and address the situation right away. Passengers tend to be more sympathetic if they can see you're trying to make your little piece of cargo happy again.
  • Ask the flight attendants if they have anything that can help. For my five-month-old they had oodles of baby food and a lot of willing babysitters, and for older kids there are often colouring in books, pencils and other airline activities.
  • Food, food and more food – for little babies, feeding on the ascent and descent will help stop their little ears causing them issues. Plus it's a great distraction for anyone of any age, so pack some snacks for everyone.

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