Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Child's meals on planes

By far the main activity for children on planes is eating. All the other things one might try from Game Boys to books do not have the sure fire attention grabbing hits that eating does. But there is a problem here. Airlines do not know what the heck they are doing.

Let me explain. By far the seemingly most sensible option is to pre-order a child's meal for your child. Now, the rational person would think that, in so doing, the airline would carefully think about the needs of the child and the parent and structure an offering that, while certainly not lavish, covers all the bases and gets the job done.

Well, throw rationality out the window because here is what actually happens. Let's suppose that you actually end up getting a child's meal that you ordered -- and this is a big suppose because they might not come or worse, may come from one child but not the other. Then what do you get? Here is the offering on Qantas (morning flight from Melbourne to Brisbane):
  • One popper juice
  • One muffin
  • One roll-up
  • One corn flakes
  • One cup of milk
  • One fruit cup
  • Cutlery
  • One bowl
  • One paper napkin

Again, seems reasonable but that is 'ground level' thinking. Here is what happens to this meal at altitude: child tries to insert little straw into popper juice. If successful, child not understanding the subtlies of fluid dynamics, lightly squeezes box as they pick it up causing juice to, if you are lucky, squirt in their face and, if you not, squirt in over their heads into the row behind. It does so, quickly so that said child is without juice and remember this was the first thing they reached for.

They then ask for the roll-up for which you say, how about eating something healthier first. Why you say this at altitude is beyond me. But you do. Then child goes for the muffin. However, only 30 percent of muffin reaches their stomach. The rest forms a layer to crumbs over themselves and their seat.

Still hungry, they go for the corn flakes, and attempt to pull the lid off the milk cup with predictable consequences. Some milk ends up on the bowl. Other milk ends up again in the child's lap along with the muffin crumbs and corn flakes that flew all over the place as, in this case I tried to open that stupid little packet.

Ditto all this for the fruit cup but substitute pieces of fruit for corn flakes and juice for milk.

Finally, we get to the roll up which turns into a sticky treat which sticks to child's teeth and they complain. You then reach for the toothbrush you carry around for such emergencies ... ok you take you finger and attempt to scrape roll up off teeth but then get it all over your hands with little option but to turn into a five your old yourself and just wipe them on the seat.

Let us understand precisely what has happened here. There are no winners. The child has not got food. The parent has not been relieved of stress. And the airline, well they have a cleaning issue that will impact on turnaround time.

And all this could so easily have been avoided. First, you could be on an airline that does not provide meals. That forces you into your own solutions which would basically involve jelly babies (clean sugary fun). Second, you may not order the children's meal in which case an adult meal comes, they child refuses to eat. They are hungry (the same thing that occurs with the child's meal) but things are cleaner.

Finally, the airline may just give an ounce of thought and (a) use pop-up juice rather than popper; (b) provide a cookie that doesn't leave too many crumbs; and (c) provide some fresh fruit such as grapes. Then add a little toy like McDonalds has worked out and we are all happy.