You may or may not have seen my previous post (Destination Melbourne) where I took my 4 mth old daughter on an aeroplane for the first time. To my surprise, that trip went surprisingly well. 4 mths I think is a perfect age for travel - they've settled down from the initial newborn stage but have not yet hit the mobile-quickly-bored stage.
I have just done another trip from Darwin - Melbourne with my baby who is now 6 months old, and this time it didn't go quite so smoothly. Partly this was because she was a bit older and harder work to entertain on my lap in a confined space. But it was mostly because I made the ill-advised choice to fly Jetstar.
On my first trip I flew Virgin and then Qantas, and was pretty happy with both, although I have to say Virgin was a bit more attentive and friendlier. This time I flew Virgin then Jetstar. Again, Virgin was great.
Jetstar on the other hand, sank even below my expectations. We took a 2pm flight from Melbourne. When we arrived, it was already being delayed for an hour. Fair enough. The problem is that the key to flying without a screaming baby is that you have to feed them on the way up and on the way down. You can also get them to suck on a dummy if they'll do that, but mine won't. So, I made the choice to try and string Bethany out with water so that she would feed on the plane.
At 2.40pm I noticed a sign said 'Final Call' for our flight. We hurried over to join a massive queue of people, just in time for the sign to change to 'Flt Closed'. We stood there for 15 minutes. By this time, Bethany's getting hungry and grumpy, so I go up to the Jetstar counter and ask how much longer it's going to be. The woman gave me a dirty look and said, 'We just made an announcement about that. It will be 15 minutes.'
I said I hadn't heard the announcement, and pointed out that the large LED sign behind her said 'Flt closed'. She informed me snootily that meant check-in had closed.
Seriously, lady? Seriously?
What is the point of communicating that information at the gate, in the part of the airport on the other side of all the security, where people go after they have checked in? I even had a sneaking suspicion that this was not what the sign meant at all, but couldn't remember exactly what previous signs had said to compare. So I just said that I thought it was confusing, and evidently everyone else did too, because they had been lined up at the gate for the past 15-20 minutes.
So anyway, some 20 minutes or so later we get on the plane. It is choc-a-block full. We string Bethany out for another 15 minutes or so while everyone boards. Then everyone just sits there and nothing seems to be happening. Bethany gets hysterical and refuses even water, which apart from anything else is clearly unpleasant for the other passengers. A helpful Jetstar flight attendant 2 rows down is too busy chatting up some of the passengers to even check we know what to do with the baby seatbelt, let alone whether they can help.
Finally, there is an announcement that as the plane is very full, they have to get all the heavy bags out of the back of the plane and move them to the front, as the plane is unbalanced. I am told this will take 5 minutes, then 15 minutes. 20 minutes pass and there's no sign of us going anywhere.
The woman in the seat in front of me offers Bethany a small, hard-boiled sweet. I have to tell her no, and she looks at me pityingly, like I don't know what I'm doing. Thanks lady. Because what would make this situation even better is for my baby to choke to death.
My husband manages to get Bethany to sleep on his lap for half an hour, but when she wakes up there is no consoling her. Finally, we get moving, only to be the 7th aircraft queued for the runway, because there is only one runway in operation. Not Jetstar's fault, of couse, but just awesome along with everything else.
In the end, we successfully strung her out for 2 hours and got her to feed on the way up, so we had a pleasantly happy baby for the flight, but there was a lot of crying and carrying on in the lead up. It is definitely my worst flight to date, even though I had my husband there to help.
Anyway, I will be trying to book Virgin in the future and trying to avoid Jetstar. (NB: I have no financial or other interest in any airline and the views in this post only reflect only my opinion as a customer.)