How To Handle A Kid Kicking Your Airplane Seat, According To A Flight Attendant

If you find yourself irrationally annoyed when you experience a kick on your seat mid-flight, you're not alone in the least. As far as annoying passenger behaviors, seat-kicking has ranked high in numerous travel surveys. In Expedia's 2017 airplane etiquette study, the "Rear Seat Kicker" received the most votes for problematic kinds of passengers (for the third consecutive year!).


To gain a deeper insight into this common airplane nuisance, Islands spoke exclusively to veteran flight attendant Barbi, who flies internationally for a major airline. With nearly four decades of experience under her belt, Barbi has witnessed many seat-kicking incidents. Whether the instigator is a car seat-strapped baby or a bored kid, this situation can be challenging for everyone involved. Interestingly, Barbi has observed a sense of "entitlement" among passengers in the past few years. "Yes, the flying public has certain rights and expectations that should be met. However, when you're crammed into a metal tube hurtling 500+ mph through the air at 30,000 feet above the ground, there isn't a lot of personal space," she said.


It can be tricky to know what to do when a seatmate is invading your already limited personal space. Fortunately, Barbi has some expert advice on how to navigate a child kicking your airplane seat. She also gave some sound tips for parents. While situations are circumstantial, mutual respect and kindness are vital across the board. "It's everyone's responsibility to try to work together and be gracious and patient with each other," Barbi said.

Communicate calmly with the parent

A child's seat-kicking may be seriously testing your patience, but it's a definite no-no to vocalize your frustrations directly to them. According to Barbi, a passenger's first step should be to politely ask the child's parent for assistance. "Turn to the parent and say something that isn't going to set off a war between you and the parent. Try: 'Hey, I'm sorry to bother you and not sure if you've noticed, but your kid is kicking my seat. Can you make them stop?'" she exclusively told us. Courteous gestures could also help ease the tension, so throw in a friendly smile. 


The parent's response to your request will determine the next steps you take. If a parent is making an effort to manage their child's behavior, Barbi advises passengers to practice patience and work things out calmly. When a parent refuses to try and help, it's best to speak with a flight attendant. Barbi described two approaches for reaching out. 

How to approach a flight attendant

While communicating with a flight attendant is appropriate in this predicament, you shouldn't make a scene when doing so. Barbi exclusively explained, "My personal choice would be for the passenger to get out of their seat and talk with the crew privately, out of sight of the other passengers, and see what they can do to help." In most cases, flight attendants will be able to accommodate both parties. Barbie added, "It's our job to keep everyone safe and comfortable, and we have lots of tools at our disposal to handle these kinds of situations." These tools include changing passengers' seats and offering distractions for the seat-kicking child. 


The second way to approach a flight attendant is a bit more risky. As shared by Barbi, passengers can ring their call button to notify a flight attendant and simply ask if the attendant can help with their current seat-kicking predicament. "This puts the passenger with the kid in the spotlight and can usually help deter the problem with the flight attendant present. However, sometimes that can escalate the problem, making things worse, something we try really hard to avoid on the airplane," Barbi said. Indeed, passengers should exercise caution with this approach — and be sure not to overuse your call button, as it's one of the things flight attendants hate.

Flight attendant-approved tips for parents

Now, what should you do if your child is the in-flight seat-kicker? "This is all circumstantial because ... all flights are different, but if you can get up and walk your child up and down the aisle (as long as the crew is not in the middle of service or the fasten seatbelt sign is on), that's great," Barbi exclusively explained. Surely, engaging your child in feasible activities is a sensible course of action when they're kicking a neighbor's seat. Consider bringing noise-canceling headphones or a surprise bag of toys to keep your little one occupied during the flight. But don't fret if you didn't come prepared. Airlines sometimes provide activity kits, coloring sets, and entertainment programs for kids.


A parent shouldn't hesitate to talk to a flight attendant either, as they'll be happy to offer support. Taking accountability and sharing the steps you've taken will make this process easier. "We're a pretty empathetic bunch, and many of us have kids and understand it's tough traveling with them sometimes," Barbi said. Whether you're a frustrated parent or an airplane neighbor, open yet considerate communication should help settle the issue.