Paper Airplanes – Delta Vs. Child Passengers (and Parents)

UPDATE- The below was originally published to this blog on March 12th. I sent a copy to Delta through their Customer Survey request AND a separate copy to Delta’s Customer Service Department. I received auto responses to both, but have not yet received the promised “live person” reply from either source as of today, March 23rd.

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Haven’t written in a while.. just crossed over into the land of 19 months! Prior to a week ago all letters were “G” and all numbers were “9”, but we are rocking and rolling now!I’ll have more details later- here is the real scoop for this post and the reason I’ve been so busy…..

Paper Airplanes – Delta Vs. Child Passengers

Going High-Tech on Delta
Going High-Tech on Delta

On February 25th I flew Delta flight DL1558 non stop service from Tampa to Los Angeles with my mother and my 18 month old daughter. I paid for THREE FIRST CLASS SEATS. Ok, yes, I know, I didn’t have to buy the baby her own seat – especially in First Class – but I really did have reasons for doing it. We had just finished 6 months of pure single-mom hell, living out of a suitcase and planning, packing, loading pods for a cross country move. I wanted to thank my mom for traveling with me to help with the baby on the flight. I needed the extra luggage allowance for all the stuff that didn’t fit in the pods. But most of all I was terrified of flying such a long distance with a baby that suffers from frequent ear infections. This being her first flight, I had no idea how she would hold up and I wanted all the in-flight space, entertainment, food and distractions that money could buy. Don’t roll your eyes – first time moms do these things. Well at least the crazy ones do.

I read and re-read all of Delta’s web site information a hundred regarding what amenities to expect so I could plan what I would and would not have to bring for the flight. Their First Class splash page shows “In Flight Power”, “Personal Video & Audio” and “In Flight Wi-Fi”. Slick! No need to worry about battery extenders for the handhelds, no need to pack every toy on the planet if they have video screens (Cartoons! Maps! History Channel!). And thank god for in-flight wi – fi.. when all else fails – Netflix or FaceTime with Papa! They even had a toddlers meal I could choose for Maddi so I didn’t have to worry about bending over her with a knife and fork! Sweet!! If only I could live there, right?!

We arrive at the airport with Maddi half asleep in her stroller at stupid o’clock in the morning. I was thrilled with my decision to go First Class and was looking forward to my own baggage and security line. Until we got there anyway. Yes we still had to wait to check our bags – but really – in perspective, we didn’t have to wait in the HUGE line, so I was still happy. The check in lady was pissed that my dad asked for a pass to walk us to the gate and then didn’t tell us which gate we were to go to, screaming “NEXT!!” before we could ask her. Hmm. Ok, it is early.. maybe she just hasn’t had her coffee yet. Off we go to the short security line.

The security line would have been short… if they didn’t single out my poor mom (who was of course holding the baby to go through the line)  and check all the baby bottles with a new liquid screening machine they had never used before…. Ok… security is a good thing, someone always has to be the first person to test the machine…I’m going to stay optimistic about my very expensive and totally voluntary decision to go First Class on Delta. Delta is the only airline to offer non-stop service from Tampa to L.A., just thought I would mention that.

We hang out at the gate a bit and then begin the pre-board process. I hand the woman two boarding tickets – one for me and one for Maddi. She stares at them and says “there is no mark for ‘baby in arms'”…. I’m like “yeah.. the piece of paper I just gave you is for a seat…”. No biggie, I’m sure people don’t usually buy a second seat for a toddler, but please just let me get on the damn plane, put down my purse, get my child comfortable and hand me my damn champagne. And a cappuccino. And a couple chocolate dipped strawberries for breakfast. We get to the door of the plane and they ask where the stroller tag is… huh?! No one at any time said we needed one. Blah. Waiting in the cold plane-tunnel-connecter-thing filling out a luggage tag for the stroller. Mission accomplished and stiller handed off, on to find our seats.

Let me just stop here and say that I have flown first class many times before this. So it wasn’t like I was expecting a friggin’ jacuzzi in the cabin, but I DID have other recent and legitimate experiences to compare it to as well as the information on the web site that had a 2014 copyright. I didn’t know how to feel when we entered the cabin. I was disappointed. I was embarrassed. I felt taken advantage of.  This was NOT what I paid for. No, there was no champagne. No, there was no cappuccino. No strawberries either. There wouldn’t even be any coffee if you didn’t lean out into the walkway and wave down the stewardesses who were sitting in the kitchen section reading the paper for most of the flight. But the staff and the service wasn’t my real problem.

We had booked two seats together on one side of the plane for the baby and I, and my mom was sitting across the row with a very nice lady who was also very pissed about the apparent champagne shortage. Between Maddi and my seat was an enormous plastic hump whose only purpose was to house the technology that changed the volume and channel of the in-air stereo. Never mind that no one goes anywhere without their own music, but this hump made it so I had to actually climb up and squat on my seat to be able to reach over to help the baby with her seatbelt, to eat, find and play with her toys, etc. This got old fast. And of course the guy in front puts his seat back limiting our movement to get to the bags under the seats. So there went the notion that paying for first class would give us more room. But that isn’t why I am upset.

Instead of looking at the “Personal Video & Audio” screen we were promised, we had several seat pockets that contained nothing but an old Skymall and a brochure on how to PAY for the wi-fi service. Pay….for the wi-fi service….. seriously WTF?!? Ok… lots of video on the iPad I brought.. I will not cry. PS- no plugs either for recharging. You have to ask the stewardess to charge it for you in their kitchen. Yes, I know I am sounding like a spoiled little princess at this point, but I could have rented an RV for what I paid for these tickets. At this point the announcement that the in-flight movie will be “The Butler”. Great movie, but not exactly a Saturday morning repeat play on Sprout or Disney networks. Sigh. But the total false advertising on the web site and the lack of modern amenities was not why I was really upset.

I’m sweating bullets as the plane starts to taxi away. Maddi falls asleep. Slept through her toddler meal… another deep sigh. When she woke it was definitely time to change her and we waited our turn for the bathroom. With all of the curtains between the cabins thrown open throughout the entire flight, we were sharing our bathroom with the front half of the plane. It was difficult to grab her and get up in time to nab the available bathroom, so I sent my mom up to hold our place. The time finally came and we made our mad dash to the front. When we opened the door, we immediately realized there was only room for one adult in here with the baby. With toddler and diaper bag in arms, I stepped up to the challenge and fought to close the door behind me with my knee.  Again, WTF?!? The holder for the liquid soap had rusted leaving the soap container sitting in the bottom of the sink. The mirror had that weird over-cleaned haze when the chemicals start to eat the surface of glass. There was less than zero counter space to toss the diaper bag while I tried to work out where the hell the changing table was….. did they even have one? What I found before locating the changing table made me cringe. The back of the door was covered in cigarette receptacles and snuffing instructions.

According to Wikipedia, smoking was banned in 1998 so this plane was built who knows how long before that. 1998 was 16 years ago, which doesn’t seem like that that long ago unless you are child-safety minded. It wasn’t until 2004 that the FDA even passed the “Pediatric Rule”: Pediatric Rule, a regulation that requires manufacturers of selected new and extant drug and biological products to conduct studies to assess their safety and efficacy in children. Gives you a little milestone in safety history to put the time frame in perspective. At this point I’m thankful that the plane even has seat belts.

Ok- found the changing table. It hangs three feet over the toilet and comes down in three folded wood pieces to account for the wonky curved plane shape. This is so not cool. Just a piece of frigging plywood on hinges. When I have to change Maddi at Walmart they have a padded curved changing table with a safety lip so the kid can’t roll off AND a safety strap that you pin the little wiggle worm down with and I can’t remember the last time I experienced turbulence at Walmart. So again –  WTF?!? Apparently I put the diaper bag on the toilet seat beneath her? I’m not camping, I’m flying First Class.

I did some research when I got home – according to the ADA’s (Americans with Disabilities Act ) web site:

ADA contains requirements for baby changing stations that should be satisfied by baby changing station manufacturers. Performance requirements for vertical baby changing stations

The units of vertical baby changing stations should comply with 13 requirements, namely, (1) 

  1. be vertical in design, (2) YES
  2. comply with ADA 4.27.4 Operation with One Hand or Closed Fist, (3) NO IDEA
  3. be equipped with a safety belt, NO
  4. contain an unit bed that is horizontal in design to prevent child from rolling off bed, YES
  5. contain a concave changing surface to ensure  child’s comfort and protection, NO
  6. be provided with dispenser for bed liners, NO
  7. be provided with instructions containing full color universal characters and written in English, German, French, and Spanish to facilitate multilingual understanding, contrasting in color and be molded into unit to prevent peeling, fading, or vandalism, DIDN’T LOOK – WAS HOLDING ON TO BABY FOR DEAR LIFE
  8. contain a manufactured date molded permanently into the unit and visible when the unit is installed, DIDN’T LOOK – WAS STILL HOLDING ON TO BABY FOR DEAR LIFE
  9. contain a manufacturer’s item number molded permanently into unit and visible when mounted, DIDN’T LOOK – WAS FEELING ARMS GO NUMB FROM HOLDING ON TO BABY FOR DEAR LIFE
  10. protrude no more than 6” from the wall in its closed position and less than 33.25” when fully open, NO IDEA
  11. be adaptable to 16” stud wall construction with punch-out predrilled holes, NO IDEA
  12. be equipped with a molded-in Baby bag hook, NO
  13. be provided with all hardware for installation in most wall types. WHATEVER

Conclusion Baby changing stations are a modern convenience that makes changing a baby’s diaper easier and safer for parents. Complying with the above mentioned laws and standards is a necessary condition for making the stations accessible to everyone and preventing serious injuries and infections.

That, my friends, THAT is why I am upset. There is no way that you can keep flying a plane that old and not only completely misrepresent the level of service and availability of amenities, but to NOT UPDATE TO COMPLY WITH CHILD SAFTEY STANDARDS IN 16+ YEARS!

Then on top of all of that we sat on the runway for a good 30 minutes waiting to taxi in while watching one of the passengers run to the front begging with the stewardess to let him off because he was having a panic attack…finally we got off the plane and waited for our stroller to be returned in the cold-tunnel-connector thing. And waited. And waited. 50% of the plane had already got off when someone opened the side door to take special Diamond members out onto the runway. When the door opened they handed us the stroller that was sitting outside the door just outside for who knows how long…. true story.

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Wikipedia Smoking on Flights information:

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflight_smoking]

Delta’s First Class Splash Page:

[ http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/in-flight-services/first-class.html]

Americans with Disabilities Act ( ADA) article re Changing station safety:

[http://www.babystations.com/blogs/babycommerce/6464574-us-laws-and-standards-concerning-baby-changing-stations]

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