Before I get to the real point of this letter, let me first start off by saying thank you. I realize your primary job is to see to it that the hundreds of passengers sharing the giant tube in the sky with you arrive safely at their final destinations. And I appreciate that. I really do. In this category I would give you an A+ since I’ve always arrived in one piece and mostly uninjured after each flight.

Parenthood and Passports - Open Letter to PilotsSure, I’ve had the occasional bumped head upon standing up in the row built for people who are 4’11” or shorter. And yes, at times I’ve banged my thigh on the arm rests while walking through the aisle dragging a carry-on that was probably just a little larger than allowed, but these misfortunes are of no fault to you. Truth be told, I’m clumsy. Quite clumsy actually. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have at least one bruise somewhere on my body. But I digress.

This letter isn’t about my tendency to walk into things or the lack of space on airplanes. No, I actually have another bone to pick with you.

Airplane Intercom Issue

Let’s talk about the intercom system for a moment. I realize it serves a great purpose, but it has now become the bane of my traveling life. I know most pilots and flight attendants only utilize the intercom for informative, necessary purposes. In the past, I’ve witnessed a few chatter boxes abuse their intercom authority, but that isn’t even the issue I want to address. I want to discuss the appropriate volume in which one should speak on the said airplane intercom system. In my opinion, ideally, pilots or flight attendants should speak one or two octaves above a whisper. (Think: library voice.) This should especially be the case after the aircraft is already in flight and people have begun dozing off. However, it never fails, right as I start to drift into an uncomfortable, seated semi-sleep, somebody’s voice comes blaring through the speaker directly above my head startling me into a fully awake state.
Every single row has a speaker right above it, and unfortunately there is no volume control. Pilots and flight attendants, if you are naturally a loud talker, it quite literally sounds like you are yelling in our ears.

The day I started hating the intercom

I was always mildly aware of this annoyance when traveling BC (before child), and yes, I found it a tiny bit irritating, but totally tolerable.

All that changed on our flight back to the United States from Belize. Our 17-month-old daughter was exhausted. She had been up all day without a nap, and to make matters worse, our flight was delayed – further exasperating her level of exhaustion and crankiness. After having a huge meltdown in the airport as we prepared to board, I was able to get Avery calmed down, and alas she was peacefully sleeping in my lap during the flight. She was PASSED OUT, limbs sprawled in every direction. My husband and I gave each other mental high fives commending ourselves for our exceptional traveling skills as parents.

Parenthood and Passports - Open Letter to Pilots
Avery passed out on our flight home from Belize… moments before the pilot interrupted her nap.

But about one hour into the flight, our traveling/parenting skills were put to a big test when the pilot’s booming voice came roaring through the intercom overhead. He was so loud that I could have probably heard him from our seats in coach without the freaking intercom. Seriously pilot, who the heck did you think you were talking to? My 85-year-old grandmother?! Trust me, she was not on the plane.

My daughter’s limp, sleeping body jumped in a startle as he began talking yelling. I tried to cover Avery’s ears, but it was too late. She was not only scared, she was now wide awake and utterly pissed about it. She obviously wanted to voice her frustration, but doesn’t know how to blog or write a strongly worded letter… So instead, she let out the shrillest wail informing the entire cabin of her disapproval of the pilot’s lack of volume control. The only thing more audible than our loud-mouthed pilot was the cry bellowing from our disgruntled toddler. She was in a full-fledged fit. Her back arched as she went from crying to straight up screaming. Nothing would console her.

We tried holding her, putting her down, feeding her, giving her toys, reading to her, playing with her… We tried walking with her, bouncing her, distracting her with cartoons, we tried snacks again. Nothing was working. I felt the stress and anxiety bubbling up to a boiling point as I tried to ignore the eye daggers being thrown in my direction from nearby passengers.

Parenthood and Passports - Open Letter to Pilots
How we keep our toddler, Avery, entertained on flights.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we were able to get our startled, cranky, sleep-deprived little traveler to pipe down. She sat in the floor in front of our seat and proceeded to pull everything out of our carry-on bag. At this point, I didn’t care. I was mentally and emotionally spent and would have let her do whatever she wanted if it kept her quiet. That is likely the reason we walked off the flight without our camera, which is still missing and probably gone forever. (Thanks a lot pilot.)

Moral of the story

While I may have been angry as a hornet in the moment, I’m no longer upset with the pilot. In fact, I still have a great appreciation for pilots and flight attendants and the jobs they perform. So please don’t look at this as a letter of complaint. Instead, look at it as a PSA… A pilot service announcement. All I ask of my pilot and flight attendant friends is that if you use the intercom system, lower your voice. We can all hear you just fine even if you speak a bit on the softer side. In fact, most of us would probably greatly prefer that.
That mom

10 thoughts on “An open letter to pilots and flight attendants”

  1. Oh I have been here! When we flew to La Paz last year I swear I was going to rip the intercom out of the wall and hurl it at the flight attendant after she woke PJ up. I fortunately was still nursing at the time and was able to off we “comfort boob” but boy was I annoyed!

  2. We struggle with this every time too! Our daughter is so hard to get to sleep on an airplane, so I just cringe as soon as the intercom goes off. :/ Luckily she’s a pretty heavy sleeper, so we can usually get her to fall back asleep. But seriously, why the shouting??

  3. I swear this is a recent thing?! I’m not a parent but on my last few flights I swear I’ve jumped a foot in the air from fright when someone makes an announcement! Surely it doesn’t have to be that loud if you’re just telling me that we are at 30,000ft and expecting some light turbulence in a few hours?! Use the super volume for emergencies only please!

    1. I’m so glad to hear you say this. I thought maybe I had just become extra sensitive since becoming a parent.

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