A Gay Dad's Message to the Airlines: Put Kindness First

This week our family took to the the air and highways of the U.S. on a whirlwind trip to celebrate family.  In light of recent viral news pieces, as two dads traveling with our four-year-old son, I had my reservations about how things might unfold.

This in no way diminishes the way others feel they have been mistreated, but I’m happy to report that we enjoyed a most rewarding trip.  Our ground crew was efficient in boarding all passengers in a  respectful fashion with those who had physical needs first, those with children under 2 next, all active military after that, and because we planned ahead (and paid a small fee) we boarded with group one and took our seats.  We were greeted in a kind manner and those who could immediately tell that we were both parents to our child made friendly eye contact and regarded us with the unsaid camaraderie we all know when traveling with little ones.  We packed plenty of activities and made the most of things.  At the end of the flight our son was invited to stay behind for a visit to the flight deck and a hug from our flight attendant.  We did our part to make things smooth and they did theirs.

Throughout the boarding process our flight crew was jovial and kept their cool when other passengers were in clear violation of policy, such as one indignant passenger who walked her non-companion dog (aka: pet) onto the aircraft and unclipped the leash, allowing the dog to move about the cabin.  Certainly there were some terse negotiations among the flight and ground crews, but ultimately it was handled professionally.

During the taxi process as the crew was giving the required safety spiel, another passenger chose that time to unbuckle, stand up and rummage around his baggage in the now-open overhead bin.  Crisp instructions were given over the PA, interrupting the process of the safety talk.  We were about 20 seconds from having to have the aircraft stopped when the passenger finally complied.  These issues are completely avoidable, and this crew did their best to get us off the ground on time.  While I recognize that some recent issues with the airlines have been poorly handled, there are also so many good flights with decent people doing what they can to keep us safe at 30,000 feet.

In my opinion, the airline industry has been in dire need of a return to putting kindness first.  For far too long we, as passengers, have been made to feel like we are an imposition instead of the paying customers we are.  We book our expensive tickets, choose from ever-reducing routes, and plan for the challenges of navigating all the TSA regulations that seem to change on a daily basis.  We try to understand the ever changing landscape of how large is too large and how heavy is too heavy for our baggage, and what constitutes yet another fee.  We join airline clubs and pay a la carte for every little thing.  When we finally get into our seats we hope we will get off the ground in a timely manner.  And now we have to worry that someone will become agitated or an airline professional will begin a brawl.

It is time for passengers and crew to find a happy medium, and that means those who are beholden to shareholders understand that it really isn’t all about money, and that long-term success comes in the form of public perception and passenger loyalty.  We all need to bring humanity back to travel, and in this current political and social climate we are all a bit more on edge, worried that we are being singled out by others.  Perhaps we need to take a deep breath and see one another as people with hearts and families, and that we really all can just get along.  Maybe I’m being a bit naive, but I’ve seen the best of it and I’ve seen the worst, and I know it’s time for a change.

As we travel farm country in the middle of America this week, we are fortunate to be greeted as just another family and not challenged as some have been in recent weeks.  Perhaps we present ourselves in a welcoming manner and not expecting the worst from people, but I know we try to give others the benefit of the doubt before assuming they are against us.  If they prove me otherwise I will clearly protect my family, but I believe we will help bridge some of the misconceptions of how families like ours are just a family built on love. Life is good and we plan to keep making memories and including travel of all kinds in our future.  Here’s hoping the trend goes toward a kinder, more gentle experience.

This piece was penned by Dennis Wood, a dad whose family we have twice featured on our site. Read those articles here:

Gay Since the 1970s, Dad Dennis Has a Plan to Fight Back Against Injustice

Then & Now: Dennis, Jody & Sam

For more on the issues with the airlines, read:

United Airlines Detains Gay Dad for Having Hand “Too Close” to Son’s Genitals

Gay Dads Denied Family Boarding on Southwest


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