So you've all booked a flight from Dublin to Orlando and luckily, you've chosen to go at the same time as me and my family. Some of you will, like us, be heading off for a bit of a holiday and hoping for sun, heat, roller coasters and perhaps some time at the home of the world's most famous rodent. It's likely that some of you will be travelling for work and others may be visiting family or returning home. Whatever the reason, I hope it's all good for you.
I'm sure you understand that this route attracts many families with young children who are incredibly excited to be going on holiday to Disney World, and for whom the long flight can be quite a trial. I suggest that if you don't wish to be disturbed by their chatter and the hopefully infrequent but inevitable tears and tantrums, that you pack ear plugs or invest in some noise cancelling headphones or even upgrade to business class. I hope your flight will be as pleasant as possible but young children and older people with disabilities exist and must be at least tolerated and hopefully even respected.
It's likely that I will board before you. Most airlines allow these small accommodations to reduce the stress on people like my son, caused by lots of waiting about. So when you're walking down the aisle and see the skinny boy who might just be kicking up a fuss about something, you can feel relief that you're not sitting next to him if you want but please, don't stop to tell me so like one heartless git did last time we flew. If you do find yourself sitting in our vicinity, well sorry. I promise you that all of the people in my party will be doing our very best to distract, entertain and if needed, reassure my disabled son. Know too that the child himself will be doing his best to cope with what to him can be a difficult situation.
You may think that people like him shouldn't fly if it's so difficult for him. I disagree. Flying is not an activity reserved only for adults and non-disabled people. We're all at liberty to travel so long as we abide by the legal requirements. It's important that we try to be as respectful and polite as possible to those around us but if my son shouts at times, that doesn't mean he can't fly.
Last year there were a few stories about parents and autistic children being removed from planes before take off. I read and was disgusted by some of the vitriolic commentary about these incidents. There were those who advocated bashing the kids against seat backs and throwing them out in mid-air. Apart from these extremists, there were many who just whinged about how their right to peace and quiet was disturbed by children and "mothers" (rarely fathers) who expected to be treated as saintly just because they'd given birth. I don't think that's the case. I'm sorry to say that when you're in a public space you have no right to peace and quiet, especially not when you're trapped in a moving can in the air. You have a right to travel in security and safety and as much comfort as is possible. But people of all kinds exist and they have to get about too.
So instead of judging, rolling your eyes and tutting (like one couple did last time) or staring (again, we had this last time) or getting pissed off at me for putting my son's seat back when he finally fell asleep (as the man behind him did last time- he actually pushed the seat back up! I let him, I was too worn out by then to protest) I have a radical idea- why don't you try a smile, and ask, "is there anything I can do to help?"
That would be truly heroic.
Know also it could be worse. I flew to Portugal with my sister last August. There were a few children in front of us, one of whom cried a little as we landed. That was fine: children sometimes cry and the parents were doing their best to comfort the little one. Behind us though were a group of people travelling together who yapped loudly the whole time, their braying voices forcing all around them to hear all about their exploits, and it was Too Much Information! Worse yet, someone kept farting and I was tempted to pull out the oxygen mask to have some clean air to breath. I was so relived to step off that plane.
Enjoy your flight!