Horror Stories From Parents During the Pandemic

  • Traveling with children has always been stressful. The pandemic has made it even more so.
  • Numerous delays and cancellations and fuller flights make it harder for parents to catch a break.
  • One mom said she spent 14 hours on the phone with United trying to fix a flight for her unaccompanied sons.

Airline customers have endured a summer of aggravating travel, with unruly passengers, fed-up flight attendants, and overbooked flights.

Seasoned flyers know that preparation is key when traveling with children, but parents say it’s been impossible to plan for smooth skies this year.

Parents can pay extra to sit next to their kids, and sometimes they still end up separated by rows. Cabins are fuller this summer, making the problem worse, according to William J. McGee, an aviation advisor for Consumer Reports Advocacy.

Airports are a mess. Every day, hundreds of flights are delayed, canceled, or rerouted. It’s hard to pacify your children with snacks while they’re wearing masks.

Lauren Smith Brody, the author of “The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby,” recently recounted on Instagram how she’d spent 14 hours on hold with United after trying to fix a flight for her sons, who were traveling as unaccompanied minors.

“We need the system to be set up in a way where the employees are better trained and have more agency to serve parents in a way that’s actually safe for their kids,” she told Insider.

Three parents shared their most recent travel nightmares with Insider. Let them serve as a warning if you plan to travel soon.

My son puked, and my daughter wouldn’t wear her mask

“We traveled to Seattle in June, and within 30 minutes of takeoff my 18-month-old son puked all over me and my 4-year-old daughter had already decided she was not going to wear her mask.” — Kelsey Searles, cofounder and head of operations of MiliMili

The flight attendant wouldn’t let us throw away a poopy diaper

“My 6-month-old son had a massive poop in his diaper just after takeoff. I changed him in the bathroom, but there was no trash area in the stall. When I asked the flight attendant where the trash was, she pointed to a plastic bag hanging on the door. I reached to throw the dirty diaper in the bag when she practically yelled that I couldn’t throw it in the trash.

“She actually told me to take it back to my seat with me! I then proceeded to make a huge deal of telling the other passengers around me, ‘Please excuse the smell, I’ve stowed a poopy diaper under the seat with my carry-on,’ until, finally, another flight attendant came up, apologized, and took the diaper to the trash.” — Lindsay Donnelly, mom blogger

We couldn’t sit together and arrived a day and a half later

“Back in July, I took my two kids to Las Vegas to visit my parents. I intentionally booked a direct flight so we’d have minimal time in airports, but the trip was a disaster.

“First, our flight was delayed by two hours. Then it was canceled. American Airlines had canceled multiple flights, so everyone was rushing to customer service to get rebooked. It was a mob scene.

“I was finally able to get booked on a flight the following day, but we couldn’t get a direct flight, and there were no seats together. I ended up getting a hotel room that night, but I had checked our bags, so we had no change of clothes. We finally arrived in Las Vegas a day and a half later than I had planned.” — Portia Mount, marketing vice president and podcaster

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