As a Boston area native who’s lived in Ireland for more than a decade, I’ve become something of an Aer Lingus regular. My experience of flying with Ireland’s national airline has been quite positive, with the understandable hiccup here and there.
Most recently, I was caught in horrendous weather and endured significant delays on both sides of the Atlantic on a brief trip to Boston just after Christmas.
Of course, Aer Lingus was not to blame for the extraordinarily high winds, rain, snow and flooding in the two places, though I was surprised when my Dublin flight left Logan Airport in conditions that prompted every other airline to cancel their scheduled transatlantic flights.
After a very bumpy takeoff and ascent, we arrived in Dublin Airport safely and I was delighted to get back to my family on the day I was scheduled to.
My friends, relations and colleagues know that years of flying frequently across an ocean have done nothing to diminish my still overwhelming and admittedly irrational fear of flying. The first time my wife flew with me – a Ryanair flight to Spain – she couldn’t get over how jittery I was for three consecutive hours and the way I shook uncontrollably at even the slightest turbulence.
No matter how many times I am told that being in an airplane is safer than being in a car, I will never accept that human beings were meant to be hurtled through the air in a “tin can” at 500 miles per hour and 35,000 feet above the ground.
While I am usually gripped by my fear of flying before I board an aircraft, a different kind of fear will dominate my thoughts when I’m at Dublin Airport waiting for an Aer Lingus flight to Boston in a few weeks.
That fear is how will my 17 month old son behave for the more than six hours that the flight will last? What kinds of torture might he have in store for us, his family, and for our fellow passengers?
Lest anyone think our beautiful baby is actually a little demon, he is, in truth, a very happy sort who seldom cries and spends most of his time either laughing or joyfully endeavoring to destroy our home.
Yet like virtually all children his age, he doesn’t like being confined or held for long periods of time and enjoys his newly discovered freedom. As such, the thoughts of him being effectively trapped in a small space for several hours fill me with trepidation.
I am comforted by what I have seen on innumerable Aer Lingus flights. And that is the wonderful assistance invariably provided by the cabin crew to those individuals and couples traveling with their little ones.
I’ve been witness to a range of behavior from young children and to a range of reactions from fellow passengers to this behavior, but the attention and care of the cabin crew has always been the same.
As part of our preparations for the flight next month, my wife, older son and I have done some research on long flights with babies and have talked to plenty of others who’ve done it. Naturally, “best practices” are to bring on board a surplus of all necessary supplies, to have toys, games and other distractions at the ready and to feed the baby immediately after takeoff so as to keep him occupied. In addition, I plan to spend a lot of the flight carrying my son around the plane because it will keep both me and him from considering where we find ourselves.
Most parents who’ve been through this or a similarly long flight inform us that they were nervous too and that, typically, their children have spent substantial portions of the journey sleeping. This has largely put us at ease. We are keen to focus on the time with family and friends back in Boston, and not on what might go wrong on our way there or back.
This is a special trip for me in that it is Baby Larry’s first trip to my home. From my encounters with countless Irish emigrant couples on Aer Lingus journeys from Boston to Dublin or Shannon and onward to all parts of Ireland, I know how much it’s meant to them. We’re doing the same thing; we’re just doing it in reverse.
I fully anticipate that it will be an emotional experience for me to have my son meet his new, even younger cousin, whose christening we will attend, as well as other American relatives and friends. He’ll also get to see the neighborhood I grew up in and to absorb the (as he’s already been told) unparalleled sights and sounds of my home city. Just as so many Irish parents I’ve spoken to were desperate for their young children to see from whom and where they came, I can’t wait either – even if I’ll remember it much better than he will.
There’s really no way that a relatively straightforward flight from Dublin to Boston and back could detract from such a lovely time for our family. But at the same time, wish us luck!