Flight to San Diego: Protocol

I was happily settled in to my biz class seat on the flight from Seattle to San Diego when the flight attendant announced there would be a delay due to an illness on board.

Just before we departed a small child threw up in coach, all over his mother, the seat, the carpet — you get the idea. Provoked by the retching, passengers around apparently began to feel sick too.

The incident happened well behind me, but the conversation over what to do happened up front. There is a protocol — and it does not give anyone a pass when the event happens before the flight departs.  The child and at least one of his parents — they were a family of four — had to leave the plane.

They did, although the child looked fine to me as he walked up the aisle. I think young kids puke for a lot of reasons, not all of which signify significant illness. But the passengers surrounding the family have rights too.

The cleaners came on board and did a rapid clean up job, and we departed after no more than a 20 minute delay. I arrived in San Diego almost on time.

Flying is so much more complicated these days. We didn’t have any peacocks or other wayward animals on board, but we had the sick kid, and a request that no one bring out anything peanut-related as we had a passenger with a peanut allergy among us.

I think of the early days of flying, with the Pan Am flight attendants — they were called stewardesses in those days — wearing white gloves and people getting dressed up to travel. No one even thought about peanut allergies in those days, and I don’t remember many families flying. Travel has certainly changed.

4 thoughts on “Flight to San Diego: Protocol

  1. Wow. Travelers have so much to content with. We have to be compliant with all rules, look 100% well, seem happy, and say nothing. Glad you made it.

  2. for Katie: The protocol made clear that flight attendants are not going to make judgments about the severity of an illness, which might be right. I thought the child looked fine when he walked down the aisle to exit the plane, and kids throw up for lots of reasons. But the flight attendant said to me later that if the incident had happened in the air, we’d have had to divert and land to get the family off the plane.

  3. for J: You know small kids throw up for all kinds of reasons, and I thought the little one looked fine as he walked out of the plane. Mama was covered with puke, poor soul, and once the kid threw up all bets were off — no chance of their continuing on the flight.

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