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Solo flyers: Are kids our worst nightmare?

My name is Mike. I’m a lone, childless traveller.

I took a year out to travel and went on 13 trips all over the world. I’ve lost count of how many flights I took (sorry Greta). One was 15 hours. And it took two back-to-back 10-hour night flights to reach New Zealand.

So are the prospects of little seatkickers and their stressed-out parents travelling near me the thing I most dread on a long journey? Well Japan Airlines think so, as they’ve introduced a seating plan that warns you where screaming babies will be seated when you book online.

Is this going too far? Are children and their parents the worst nightmare for solo flyers? In my year of frequent flying, I’ve not had my seat kicked. I’ve heard plenty of plaintive wailing from nearby in the cabin. Watched plenty of toddlers patter past my seat (I always go for the aisle) pursued by their tired mother or father.

On a fractious flight from Israel, a lady on the neighbouring window seat had trouble settling her baby. Any withering looks were from passing fellow parents. I only raised an eyebrow when she eventually hid away the sleeping child right under the seat in front of her.

As for choosing a seat at online check-in, all I want is that aisle, never in the middle section, and ideally with no-one behind so I can guiltlessly recline as far as possible. Anything else is in the lap of the gods. As a single flyer you’re going to be sitting next to other passengers, unless your wildest dreams come true and the flight is half empty.

As you board and watch the plane fill up, admittedly there’s a natural warning light when families file past. It’s simply built-in. But also true for that hulk of a man who’ll never comfortably fit into the confines of his economy seat, or the nervous passenger who’s going to need the loo every five minutes or want to fiddle about with their bags stowed overhead. There are a whole host of potential pitfalls, including fellow lone passengers who might bother you with inane chatter or their entire life story.

But families are on a mission more than the rest of us – to get through a long journey with as little fuss as possible. They have the extra strain of keeping their young ones happy and calm in an alien, artificial environment. For me it’s relatively straightforward. I can ease away the hours by settling back to a few movies, the familiar trash on my iPod (yes, I’m old school) and attempting to drift off on a light cloud of prescription sedatives. All of this can be done under the protection of headphones, just in case there’s a little bit of yelping going on nearby.

The parents win my respect every time they chase that sleepless toddler up the aisle or change a nappy in the incredibly cramped toilet, let alone having to worry about what other passengers think of them and their offspring. It’s a tough gig.

But basically we’re all in it together, whether alone or with kids in tow. We just want to get that flight done with minimum drama and have our own ways of dealing with long periods in a confined space.

Kids aren’t the worst nightmare, in fact they can be the most predictable of the lot. Booking that next flight will remain a lottery, so I won’t be using that screaming kid seat plan.

Written by Mike Osborn

Mike lives in Manchester City Centre and swapped life at the BBC for one of travel, writing and photography. He tells his tales on

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