travel with children

That first flight and that screaming baby

My Alaska Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Seattle Tuesday afternoon provided a great refresher course on what’s great – and what’s not – about modern day air travel.

The great part: the people you end up talking to.

The not so great part: crying babies.

On this very full flight there was one inconsolable child who cried and screamed pretty much the entire flight. I was sitting a row behind the family and I could see that they were trying to remain calm and solve the problem, but nothing seemed to work.

I thought I was a hero there for a second when the crying stopped after I passed the little girl the frog-shaped flashlight I travel with. But after a few seconds, she went right back to weeping and everyone on the plane went back to rolling their eyes and plugging their ears.

That’s the not so great part.

The great part: meeting people who aren’t bored (yet) with flying.

In my row, there was a 15 year-old girl going home to Seattle who apologized for making me and Mr. Middle Seat get up so she could take her seat by the window. She told us she’d insisted her mother get her that seat because she was nervous about flying alone.

Mr. Middle Seat chatted her up during the flight and as we all got up to leave he asked her if she was still nervous. She was, she admitted, because now she was afraid she wouldn’t find her mother in the airport.

I offered to walk out with her and on the way she told me that on the first leg of the trip, she couldn’t find her friend for at least a half hour when she landed in Las Vegas.

After asking assorted – unhelpful – people for help, she ended up crying and calling her mother, who said “Do I have to fly to Las Vegas to get you?”

So we walked off the plane together, down the concourse, down two sets of escalators, past the baggage carousels and out to the curb. A second-nature trek for me, but definitely daunting and confusing when seen through the eyes of a newbie traveler.

My new buddy called her mom, who said she’d be pulling up momentarily. And I said good-bye to what I hope is now a more confident traveler already planning her next great adventure.

Tracking a toddler’s airport pat-down

I spent much of Monday morning trying to track down the parent who posted the video (below) of a 3 year-old in a wheelchair getting a very thorough pat-down at an airport security checkpoint.

It turned out the video was shot in 2010 and had been posted on YouTube over the weekend. But that didn’t stop it from going viral.

Here’s my story about the video – and the TSA’s response – that posted on

A video shot in 2010 showing a 3-year-old boy receiving a pat-down from a TSA agent went viral today. The toddler was wearing a cast and sitting in a wheelchair.

In an annotated videotape of the incident posted March 17 on YouTube, the father is heard reassuring his son, whom he calls “Rocco,” while a TSA officer is seen patting down the squirming boy and taking swabs of the chair and the cast. After asking the parents to lift the boy’s shirt and offering them the option of going to a private screening area, the officer is also shown swabbing the boy’s back.

The video has been viewed more than 400,000 times. [updated]

Before conducting the check at the Chicago Midway Airport, the TSA officer tries to reassure the boy by asking what he likes — “Tigers? Animals?” — and then asks the boy to sit up. During the inspection he also tells the parents what he is doing and tells Rocco that he’s a good boy.

Comments added to the video by his father, said, “I was told I could NOT touch him or come near him during this process. Instead we had to pretend this was ‘OK’ so he didn’t panic.”

Reached Monday morning,  the boy’s father, Matt DuBiel, said the video was made in spring 2010 during a family trip to Disney World.

“We had a baby five weeks ago, and I was looking at some old family videos on Saturday night, and I got incensed and emotional watching it.”

DuBiel says he posted it on YouTube to share it with family members who have heard him talk about the incident but who hadn’t seen the video.

Noting that the incident took place more than a year ago, TSA, in a statement, said: “Due to the fact that this passenger was traveling in a wheelchair and had a cast he would have been unable to pass through the walk-through metal detector or imaging technology and therefore received alternative screening, a pat-down and use of explosives trace detection.”

“It doesn’t matter when it was,” said DuBiel. “That’s the TSA and that is my son. And he is wearing a body cast. The TSA agent did the best he could with a ridiculous situation, but someone should have stepped in and said, ‘That’s enough.’ ” He said he didn’t make a fuss at the time because he was worried about getting the whole family through security. The family was traveling to Disney World.

“At the time, they didn’t  have the rules in place for children that they have now. But, regardless of the new or old rules, my position is that it’s unacceptable to treat a toddler this way.”

Last fall, the TSA revised its rules for children 12 and under, saying they no longer have to remove their shoes at security checkpoints. The agency’s policy for Children with Disabilities states that “if your child is unable to walk or stand, the Security Officer will conduct a pat-down search of your child while he/she remains in their mobility aid, as well as a visual and physical inspection of their equipment.”

“While recognizing that terrorists are willing to manipulate societal norms to evade detection, our officers continue to work with parents to ensure a respectful screening process for the entire family at the checkpoint,” TSA said Monday.