Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Airline blues

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If travelling with kids wasn't already enough of an ordeal, parents now have yet one more thing to worry about.

In transit to Christchurch this week for a family bereavement, I was blindsided at the Air New Zealand check-in with a slip of paper to sign. Blindsided because travelling at 6pm with a five-month-old baby and a two-year-old toddler is madness incarnate, and I was, in short, in no position to take on board new and potentially explosive information.

And yet, there it was. A piece of paper requiring me to sign away my right of any comeback if the airline damaged my two infant car seats in transit. If I didn't sign, my car seats didn't fly. And if they didn't fly, my kids weren't going anywhere. And as much as I sometimes fantasise about having some time away from them, I don't think abandoning them at the airport is a viable course of action.

Disbelieving, I asked the check-in woman why I had never seen this little doozie before. It's a new thing, she assured me, all the airlines did it now. She didn't add, but it's obvious, that as airlines feel the pinch of higher oil prices and other escalating commodity costs, they are not only rorting several hundred dollars more in fares but also trying to claw back every other little cost in the business.

All of which will probably end with Air New Zealand run the way of several European and US airlines, where you practically have to pay to use the bathroom and you definitely don't see a drop of water or even a end-of-flight hard boiled sweet without removing some weight from your wallet.

In fact it was one of these continental airlines that have already broken a car seat of ours before in transit from Barcelona to Heathrow.

But should you have to stump up if the airline smashes your carseat to bits in transit? Surely if the airline smashed up your suitcase or backpack they would be paying you for the inconvenience.

It seems insane that something as important as a car seat is not treated with due regard in flight, and absurd the parents will now have to insure their car seat to ensure its safety. Even on a measly one-hour flight down country.

Never mind the fact that if you arrive with a ruined car seat you're trapped at the destination airport. Never mind that it will take several hundred dollars to replace but your insurer is bound to find a reason to deny you anyhow. Never mind that on many Air New Zealand flights car seats do not even get bagged up, but thrown, seatbelts akimbo, from pillar to post by a stream of busy attendants and it's a miracle they end up the other end in one piece.

No, what really grates is that when Air New Zealand was battered and bruised as a business the New Zealand taxpayer waded in to bail the airline out and get it back on its feet. But when an essential piece of luggage is battered and bruised from now on, you - the travelling parent, already attempting the almost impossible - are on your own.

Dita De Boni

Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

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