Friday, November 19, 2010

Destination Melbourne

Yesterday, Bethany and I embarked on our first great expedition together, flying the 3000 or so kilometres from Darwin to Melbourne, just the two of us.

I used to think our first great expedition was when I forced myself to get into my car with her for the first time and drove a terrifying 10 minutes to the Nightcliff Health Centre. Or possibly when I walked with her in the pram to Woollies through the blazing tropical sun. Those trips had been like horror movies, at least insofar as my heart was in my mouth and there was a lot of screaming.

And if they were that bad, what would this plane trip be like, I wondered? The last flight I had taken was when I had been 5 months pregnant, and that time I had been seated next to an alcoholic with a personal hygiene problem, and the smell of stale sweat and VB almost combined to bring back my morning sickness. Would I have him again? Or maybe the woman who sued Qantas because a three year old child cried on the flight and ruptured her eardrum?  My anxious imagination generated all kinds of scenarios:

Bethany fell asleep in my husband's arms as we waited at the airport, but then woke up just after he gave her back to me, as we boarded the plane.

Not what I wanted.  She tends to whinge if I sit with her in one place for too long.

But judging by the smiles, waking up to find herself on an aeroplane was the Best Fun Ever!

I kept waiting for it to all go haywire, but it never did.  I fed her on the way up: she fell asleep and didn't wake until we were disembarking (onto the tarmac - it was 9 degrees - her little eyes shot open as soon as she felt it).  It was nowhere near as difficult as those early trips in the car and pram.  It made me realise how far Bethany and I have come since those early days.  All you new mums, take heart - it gets easier!

Of course, it helped that the two empty seats on the plane were next to me.  (Very wise, Virgin Blue, very wise.)

The only issue I had was with the stupid baby seatbelt.  Airlines supply you with a strap that goes around the baby's waist and hooks into your own seatbelt.  I hate to break it to you, Virgin, but in the event of an emergency, that seatbelt is not going to protect the baby.  There is a reason that baby carseats have five point harnesses and face backwards.

The baby seatbelt appears to be one of those annoying gestures of safety that have been bureaucratically put in place without regard for common sense by some bright spark who has never looked after a baby.

You can't bring a capsule on to secure your baby more safely, presumably even if you pay for an additional seat.  JetCrapstar is apparently a bit more open to using a range of restraints, but even they object to using a Baby Bjorn or Ergo or similar to help hold your baby during the flight.  Apparently this is a 'safety issue'.  Why is a mystery.  They're obviously better secured in an Ergo than they are by that baby seatbelt, and are less likely to suffer major spinal or brain damage from whiplash in the event of sudden turbulence.  A friend and I have speculated that maybe if the aeroplane goes down, and you are unconscious, it is easier for the cabin crew to rescue your baby than it would be to extract her from an Ergo.  You are probably unconscious in this scenario because you have headbutted the seat in front of you because that is the only way to do the advised 'brace position' while holding a baby on your lap.  Personally, I think in the extremely unlikely event that the plane goes down, we've all got bigger problems.

The only function of the baby seatbelt provided I have observed is that it is one more thing to sort out when you are trying to juggle your luggage and settle your baby in a confined space.  And that's what airlines should aim for, I reckon, making it more difficult for parents to settle their crying babies on planes.

But that issue aside, the cabin crew were fantastic.  Very attentive.  And when we arrived, they carried all my cabin baggage for me across the tarmac, up the stairs, and into the terminal, so I could just focus on Bethany.  Other mums from my mothers group have also given rave reviews of travelling Virgin with a new baby.  I'll be using Crapstar on the way back so we'll see if that's as good.


  1. This is a great blog Caroline, I've really enjoyed reading it. You present information so clearly and comprehensively. I'm glad Bethany was so well behaved for you on the way down to Melbourne and I will be interested in hearing how Jetstar matches up to VB on your way home.

  2. Discovered this blog today and I love it! I have my first flight with my 4 month old next week and hope he does as well as yours did.