Have you ever been the victim of plane rage? I know we all feel like screaming when we're cooped up in a metal tube at 35,000ft for hours on end – but when a grown adult actually explodes in anger, it's terrifying to behold.
I have experienced it twice, and on both occasions, the anger has been directed at my children. On a night flight to Cape Town, a very big man completely lost his temper with my very small son – because he claimed he was "kicking" his seat (which, by the way, had been reclined so far back that his head was on my child's lap).
The second experience was during a flight home with a colicky baby, who started to wail as we began our descent. I was mortified by his screams, but no amount of cajoling would soothe him. As my stress levels soared, a woman turned round, swore at me, and screamed that I should "shut that brat up".
So when Gatwick airport published its recent survey asking parents to reveal the most stressful things about travelling with children, I wasn't surprised to hear that top of the list was the worry that their offspring might disturb other people. More than half of the 1,000 parents polled said they became stressed when their children cried or misbehaved, and four in 10 said they had received nasty comments or "evil stares" from others.
Thankfully, Gatwick is doing its best to make things easier for people travelling with children – and those who aren't – with the introduction of dedicated family lanes in security areas, staff who are trained to deal with young children, new (free) kids' play areas, and family lanes on immigration zones – the last being a first for airports in the UK.
All this is very welcome, but there is clearly a deeper issue that needs resolving. Children are becoming increasingly demonised by adults. (The recent call for "child free" zones on planes is just one example of this intolerant attitude.) I know not all children (or parents) are angels, but if adults think it's acceptable simply to banish them, give them "evil stares", swear at them, or break out into an almighty rage, it's not surprising that our offspring think it's perfectly acceptable to have a tantrum too.