Restless toddler kicked off flight for posing 'safety risk'

May 18, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. ET

Based on news stories from the past few months alone, we can build a pretty impressive case for how it is becoming damn near impossible for parents to fly with small children. The latest account of a parent "targeted" by an airline comes from a mom who claims her 17-month-old son was kicked off a plane for normal toddler behavior.

If this story is true, God help all parents of toddlers out there — myself included. Emily Kaiman of St. Louis, Missouri, was on what appeared to be a typical flight with her young son Shai. Kaiman was flying on US Airways with her mother and three other small children from Fort Lauderdale, returning home to St. Louis. The family had a layover in Charlotte that extended from one to three hours. After getting back on the plane, Shai grew restless.

As the plane began to taxi the runway, Shai, sitting in his mother's lap, stuck his leg into the aisle, according to WSOCTV. Kaiman was corrected by the flight attendant.

Kaiman told WSOCTV, "And I'm very apologetic and I say, 'I'm so sorry. I will keep him as best as I can. I will do my best.'"

As toddlers sometimes do, Shai remained fussy for the next half hour as the plane taxied the runway. To the passengers' surprise, the plane was routed back to the gate, and the Kaiman family was confronted by airport personnel. Kaiman was told that the flight crew determined they would not be flying with her child, to which this mom replied, "Are you kidding me?"

The flight crew called Shai a safety risk for allegedly standing on the arm of a seat to reach the luggage compartment after boarding the flight. Kaiman disagrees — she says it would have been impossible for her toddler to reach that high, and she held him in her lap to contain him through the whole trip. Though Shai was deemed a safety risk, the family was allowed to fly later in the day.

This story would be shocking if it was the first time we had seen parents mistreated on a plane. Just last week I wrote about how Delta Airlines overcharged a father to sit next to his 4-year-old daughter. A few days before that, United Airlines kicked a teen with autism off a plane. A few months before that, a United Airlines flight attendant was downright rude to a breastfeeding mother on a plane.

When you put all these stories together, it's fairly easy to make a case in favor of the flying parent. I've said before that I have yet to brave the open skies with my toddlers — partially because I'm scared of treatment like this for those times when my kids inevitably act up. I can't imagine the stress this mom had to deal with: trying to wrangle her toddler and calm three other children, only to be kicked off a flight.

Kaiman says she went to the media because rules for unruly passengers should not apply to a toddler traveling with a parent. This should be a no-brainer, but parents have to keep confronting airlines again and again to get some compassion when traveling with kids. On behalf of all parents, I thank this mom for speaking up.

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