American Airlines has become the first major carrier to charge a fee for bringing a screaming and/or crying baby onto a domestic flight. The fee will be applied on an adjustable scale, starting at $10 for a crying baby, $15 for screaming and $20 for spitting, vomiting or other non-diaper emissions. In addition, a surcharge of $1 per minute will be added to the total until the baby stops, falls asleep or finds something to suck on besides the arm of the passenger sitting next to it.
American spokesperson Amelia Vanclepstine attempted to justify the screaming baby fee. “The checked bag fee just isn’t bringing in enough revenue,” she told reporters. “Passengers are lugging larger carry-on bags and wearing three or four outfits over each other. We even caught a man who swallowed six pairs of socks. He would have made it to his destination but the smell of the in-flight meal brought the hose back up. We charged him $15 for excess baggage and $10 for using more than one barf bag.”
Parents of screaming babies are protesting the fee. “I sat for three hours next to a 400-pound guy who smelled like Old Spice, old shoes and old goat,” shouted Marge Androse over three screaming toddlers. “My kids were crying because he reminded them of their fathers – well, one of their fathers.” Roger Van Heltz had another view. “They should pay me. My screaming kid is part of the Homeland Security System. Even the promise of 72 virgins isn’t enough to convince a terrorist to sit through that.”
Other airlines are planning to follow suit. Continental is considering charging $30 per screaming baby unless the parent agrees to chew enough gum to provide all of the other passengers with temporary earplugs. United plans to charge $20 for the first screaming baby, $30 for the second and $40 for any passenger who is driven to screaming by the noise. Southwest is going against the trend. Instead of charging for screamers, Southwest flight attendants will entertain passengers by holding the babies on their laps and doing ventriloquist acts – making the babies swear, complain and act like normal passengers.