Flight nightmares: The family from hell

Last updated 09:56 18/02/2014

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I suppose we should have expected it. My husband and I been upgraded to business class on the Auckland to Los Angeles flight on Air New Zealand due to a stuff-up at their end, so karma had its way on our return.

Once you've flown business class, a return to cattle class is a bit of a shock to the system, but the plane was half empty and we had the entire middle row of four seats to ourselves, so it wasn't too bad.

We were congratulating ourselves on being blessed by the air-travel fairy when suddenly that little pixie changed her mind and decided we needed some bad luck to balance out the good.

A large family boarded - mum, dad, three kids and what was probably an aunt and uncle, and settled in two rows behind us.

They spread out over three rows - fair enough, there was plenty of room to go around.

However, any thoughts we had that we'd all snooze our way in relative comfort all the way back to Auckland were dashed.

Before we could even check that our seat backs were upright and our tray tables folded away, one of the finest sibling scraps I have ever seen broke out in the aisle between two boys, who were aged about 7-9, and a girl aged about 3.

The two boys went hammer and tongs over possession of some kind of video game, and proceeded to kick and tear at each other until two very angry flight attendants pulled them apart. They were marched back to their seats, where the flight attendants gave a very stern warning to the parents who had, during the melee, not moved a muscle.

We couldn't hear everything that was being said, but enough to know that they'd be put off the plane if one more outbreak occurred.

Apparently subdued, the two boys sulkily strapped themselves in and we took our place in the queue to take off.

As the wheels left the tarmac, an unholy keening started up. The little girl wanted to get off the plane, and wanted everyone to know it.

Strapped in themselves, the flight attendants could do nothing about the noise which, if you can imagine it, sounded like fingernails down a blackboard combined with a buzz saw. Never in my life have I heard such a noise - I couldn't believe it was coming from a human being.

On and on it went, until the flight attendants were able to leave their seats and inquire as to the child's welfare. 

Whether or not her parents were inured to the sound, or just didn't care, they took offence, haranguing the flight attendants that they were being unfairly picked on.

The boys took advantage of both their parents' and flight attendants' attention being elsewhere, and began scuffling again, only this time in the row behind us, which resulted in their kicking and shoving our seatbacks.

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With the girl still squealing and the boys doing their best pro-wrestler impressions, the aunt and uncle decided to get involved. They tried to break up the boys scrapping, but did so by yelling at them, adding to the din.

As our terror flight proceeded south, the situation became a little calmer, but the threats of the flight attendants as to what the consequences would be upon arrival in Auckland did little to deter the kids.

Their parents, and the aunt and uncle, fought all the way back as to whose fault it was and how to deal with it, while their offspring smeared the contents of their dinner on the seats. The toddler alternately napped and yelled.

Many passengers, including us, complained throughout the flight, and the flight attendants should have received medals for their efforts to calm things down. They did their best to move people around to minimise contact with the Family From Hell.

As the hours wore on, the kids tired themselves out and fell asleep. A period of relative calm followed, although we could hear the four adults still squabbling amongst themselves.

When we reached Auckland, the shell-shocked passengers couldn't disembark fast enough. We were apologised to over and and over again by the frazzled flight attendants.

We noticed that the air crew were insisting that the Family From Hell remain seated, and as we left the aircraft we passed airline security who were on their way to the cabin. How I wish I could have been a fly on the cabin walls for that little scene!

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