Shocking Video Shows Parent Helping Child Draw On Airline Seat Back Trays

I was sympathetic to parents on planes for many years. I never blamed babies for crying, even on early flights or redeyes. They’re crying because something is wrong, and they can’t always be soothed. Noise cancelling headphones help you take matters into your own hands, while the parents do their best to take care of their child.

That is, most parents are doing their best with kids. I’ve also witnessed some appalling parenting onboard. For instance,

  • I’ve seen a kid scream while the parents fought over who is responsible — the mom decided it was dad’s turn so she encouraged the child to keep crying so the father would ‘have to’ take responsibility.

    Life is stressful, and so are relationships, but that wasn’t the time to passive aggressively self-manage couples therapy.

  • I’ve also seen parents in first class on Cathay Pacific send their toddler running through the aisles just after lights were turned out in the cabin. My bed was made and I was trying to go to sleep. They were telling the kid to run, and even if they wanted to tire him out that sort of seems like something they should have considered doing earlier. I might even suggest (while ducking) that they could have sent the kid running through a different class of service – hah.

I’m a new dad and my wife and I recently took our daughter to New York. She did wonderfully, and I was truly proud when we got compliments on both of our flights from other passengers about how well behaved she was. It was all her of course, and an infant can be relatively easy, but what more could a traveling dad ask for?

I can’t even imagine though what was going through this parent’s mind as they let their child draw on the tray tables of a Lufthansa narrowbody, and even helped the kid to do it. This may be the worst inflight parenting I’ve seen:

Watch this visit and be amazed and truly shocked at the child, sitting on an adult’s lap, drawing with a crayon. The adult even guides the child’s hand to help! The parent should be correcting the child, in this case though they appear to be correcting penmanship.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gary, congrats on being a new and traveling parent. Yes, it is a challenge to travel in an airplane with a child. We started when our daughter was 2 months old and we circumnavigated the globe several times: our longest flights when our daughter was 7 was Key West to Miami, Miami to SFO, SFO to HKG, and onwards to Singapore. She was a trooper the whole way, and I would like to think that part of it was due to Singapore Airlines handing out kiddie bags and KitKat bars the size of shoeboxes, as well as the (at the time, new) seatback entertainment. In addition, we took a large collection of Polly Pocket playsets, puzzle books, washable markers, comfy jammies, and a few surprise gifts and to open along the trip all stored in her little wheelie carry-on. It required quite a bit of planning and attention from both of us, but it made our trip enjoyable. I can only cringe when I see that Instagram video as a blatant example of poor parenting. LH should bill the parents for cleaning the seatbacks or no-fly them.

  2. Congrats Gary (and to your wife) for having a happy family flight – hope they all go this easy. Preparation is key and so is patience – kids sense when parents are anxious and will mirror that. And veteran parents know that in addition to packing books and toys for little kids, a fresh change of clothes is essential, especially for babies (maybe two !). As for those LH parents – horrible. They deserve all the shaming they’ll receive. And a big clean up bill.

  3. Why am I the only one who doesn’t see this as a big deal? Have any of you used crayons lately. They’re incredibly easy to clean up. A baby wipe would take care of that in 5 seconds and it would look good as new. Assuming the parents did clean it up at the end, shame on you for judging them.

  4. As long as its a new shrunken crappy plane from Doug Parker @ American I applaud
    the child for their artistic abilities
    Parker ruined the airline and their planes so its just passenger revenge
    Now of course I don’t really mean this but it couldn’t happen to a better airline ;):)
    Evil poster

  5. Wow, future graffiti artist. People pay big bucks for their artwork. Lufthansa should charge extra for those seats for future flights.

  6. I hope the airline charge(s/d) that parent for the cost to clean or replace the tray tables. It would surely be easy for them to check the manifest after the flight or even after subsequent flights to figure out who had a lap child or child within that age range. Surely if I or my (non existent) child defaced a hotel wall in the same way the hotel would charge me so the airline should do the same here.

  7. Ridiculous. I always blamed the parents not the kid. It’s hard to travel long haul with kids, but if the parents at least try, people noticed and understand. I have experienced (1) kids were woken up in the middle of the night & were encouraged to cry to ‘release their stress’. (2) running down the aisle up and down in premium class (3) throw trash ALL over the place and parents don’t clean up. I mean, how hard is it to pick up trash and put into a bag? (4) not stopping their kids from disturbing seatmates. It’s NOT cute to tap on my shoulder for the billionth time.

    I am very conscious when I travel with kid, esp in premium class because people pay for it and some may have work to do. Make sure kids are at least quiet, and say thank you when FA serves you. Respect them. I don’t even let my kid put those removable stickers all over the seats on CX (they were in the kit). Put / draw on stuff you own, not the airplane.

  8. @Christian, agreed. Inappropriate, yes. Shocking, no. But following the Daily Mail style guide increases the clicks.

  9. @Gary, congratulations. I had no idea you were a parent. It is the best, most important, and hardest job you will ever have. I don’t know the background for the incident described or how far things went before and after the video so I reserve judgement. From personal experience, what the parent(s) may have been thinking was that allowing the child’s display of abstract art on a plastic seatback was the lesser of a wide variety of potentially more disruptive or destructive behaviors. There are many of those that you will probably have the joy of dealing with in the coming years. Other passengers weren’t being disturbed. That’s key. And, if they are not, seatbacks should be made with surfaces that clean easily.

  10. The parents will use the same stupid excuse as when they put their shoes on the seat in front or bulkhead, or onto furniture in the lounge:

    Why worry, somebody will clean it.

    This is such a English/American/Australian disease. Hard to find it within other cultures and societies.

  11. Hopefully the writing/drawing utensils are readily washable.

    Any adult giving young children writing/drawing utensils whose marks aren’t readily washed away with water (or maybe even oil) and those encouraging children to write/draw in inappropriate ways are adults whose behavior is more troubling than any child over whom the adults may have charge..

  12. The person in the seat filming the video seems to have been part of the travel party with the seat-table drawing child. The position of the video-taker relative to the drawings and the potential infant/toddler life-preserver (for emergency water landings ) position seems to indicate just that. Is the person filming afraid of saying “this shouldn’t be done” to the person holding the child or was the video-maker In on the drawing action in their own way too?

  13. My kids are 7 and 8 now. And ever since they were babies, we’ve been doing cross continental journeys (I live in the Caribbean but originally am from South Asia, so our usual travelling consists of at least 36 hours of total travelling time including layovers, for eg: through New York and another country depending on where we want to break our journey for sight seeing) every year. And I can’t be proud enough to see how well behaved they are compared to some kids I see on the aircrafts.

    I get it, kids can be cranky, but then how well you as a parent handle the situation along with how you bring up your kids home also matters! Discipline is utmost important and the parent mentioned in this article is not setting the right example for that kid. We almost always get complimented from the crew or other passengers for their behaviour. And a couple of years ago the Air France crew actually gave the kids special chocolates because how well behaved they were.

  14. I appreciate all of this information.next time I fly,I will take crayons,a rag and cleaner with me. It sure beats three solid hours of screaming and crying such as I recently experienced! I still have a headache after 3 days!

  15. Not the least bit surprised. This is the generation that glorifies graffiti criminals regardless the billions spent on cleaning it up.

  16. @kb can we do that to the inside of your house?

    @scott it is an Airline not an Entertainment facility. It is not a flight and a movie.

  17. I knew before I even saw the video I would not like it. that was because I knew the parent’s face would be blurred out. Was I right? Parents need to take ownership for their brats and their own acts. If this was a teenager tagging a Monet painting the press would NOT censor the parents faces if they were there holding the ladder for the kids to spray paint Monet so why is David obscuring the parents face under this circumstances?

    The parents were holding the crayons that were vandalizing the airlines property. They should be punished also.

  18. Probably democratic parents, everyone else should pay for their stuff and their childs vandalism, its all about entitlement, they bought tickets ,therefore they are entitled.

  19. @Dave said: “Probably democratic parents, everyone else should pay for their stuff and their childs vandalism, its all about entitlement, they bought tickets ,therefore they are entitled.”

    Really??? Your bitter bias is showing. Bye Felecia.

  20. @dave says: Probably democratic parents,

    This is a fine example of an uneducated political BIGOT. Dave.
    1. Narrowbody planes fly short distances not, transatlantic .
    2. Lufthansa is based in Germany, not the USA.
    3. Germany has a parliamentary system of government
    4. The political parties there are comprised of:
    Christian Democratic Union of Germany
    Social Democratic Party of Germany

    These parties are NOT the same as the United States DEMOCRATES that you are insulting.

    Keep your bigot uneducated politics out of this blog!!!!!

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