Traveling on a plane with young children can be stressful. Wrestling strollers and diaper bags through security, navigating air pressure changes during take-off, and keeping kids quiet and entertained throughout the flight. Sometimes, a parent might wish for somebody else to take over.
When a woman refused to exchange seats with her on a plane, Cindy Arena did just that—leaving a stranger to babysit her kids for the duration of the flight.
In a viral TikTok video that has accumulated 1.6 million views, Arena initially shared the story in response to an online debate over parents asking strangers to switch seats on a plane in order to travel next to their children.
“If you don’t have a seat next to your kids, should the person that is sitting next to your children move so you can sit with them?” began Arena in her video, and added in a tone of disbelief, “Like someone’s actually asking this question.”
Arena did not hesitate in answering her own rhetorical question: “No. Let them stay with your kids.”
According to the 60-year-old comedian (who is a fixture on the Rochester, New York comedy scene), she is speaking from experience. When her children were much younger, Arena traveled on a flight that seated her separately from her offspring. Her retelling of the subsequent incident left online users with divided opinions.
“This has happened to me. The woman refused to get up. She refused,” revealed Arena. “And my two children at the time were like four and six.”
Since the stranger rejected Arena’s proposal to switch, the comedian headed over to her assigned seat at the back of the plane—entrusting her young kids to the care of an unknown woman.
“Ugh, it was so peaceful,” Arena recalled longingly, but the reprieve from childcare did not last long.
The woman quickly changed her mind about babysitting two little strangers: “Finally, the stewardess comes up (’cause I know she’s coming, because this b— is sitting next to my kids and there’s nothing fun about that) and she said, ‘Um, ma’am, she would like to trade seats with you now.’”
Unfortunately for the stranger, it was Arena’s turn to refuse: “I said, ‘Oh no, no, we need to stay in our assigned seats. Have a good flight!’” The comedian wrapped up the anecdote with a thumbs-up and an ironic smile for the camera.
@cindyarenacomedy #momsoftiktok #kids #airplane #comedy #reaction #boomer #babyboomer #ComicalConversations #Questions #FunnyTalks #comedyvideos ♬ original sound – cindy arena
Some online users in the comments were quick to condemn Arena’s actions. Parents who travel, they argued, should pay extra to book seats together and fly as a family—rather than expect strangers to change their travel plans and accommodate them.
“You definitely are responsible for booking your seats together,” reads the most-liked comment. “That is not the other person’s problem.”
Another TikTok user chimed in with a television reference: “To quote Family Guy, ‘Your poor planning does not constitute an emergency for me.’”
Many users made the case that it was unfair to ask another traveler to change, especially if they had paid extra money for a specific seat. “BOOK A SEAT WITH THE KIDS IF YOU WANT TO SIT WITH THEM,” wrote one particularly passionate commenter. “I PAY FOR MY AISLE.”
The practice of paying more for a specific seat is relatively new, as U.S. airlines only began charging extra in 2008. While Arena didn’t provide the year in which this situation occurred, Budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit are most likely to charge for extras like seat selection and checked baggage, in order to compensate for their low ticket prices.
However, not everyone criticized Arena’s decision-making. Some TikTok users reminded fellow commenters that allowances must be made for emergencies: “People commenting that the seats should always be booked together have never experienced rebooked flights, or other troubles while flying.”
This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.