DADDY DIARIES: Adventures of flying with a child

Monday April 15 2019

I'm usually critical of the way airline crew speak in that intercom system as if their voices are drowning, but on this night nothing was more relieving than that sound. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH


I am generally a T-shirt and chino pants or jeans guy.

But I discovered that donning a full suit whenever I have a flight makes life easier. I will tell you how shortly.

You see, most of my flights are usually in the company of a young curious man who has a tendency to keep stopping and staring at duty free shops, airport signage, and just people.

He has recently added saying “Hello, my name is Milan” to young girls.

The result is that half our time is eaten up by his shenanigans, because a simple move from the check-in counter to immigration desk is occupied with me reminding him to look ahead lest he walks into a pillar.

Why a suit? It’s magical, I tell you, because I get "processed" faster at counters and there’s more attention to us on board.


“What drink will you take, sir?”

“And the young man, sir?”

“Are you guys enjoying the flight, sir?”


Now, it happens that on one of my return flights, I was not in the mood for sharp shooter shoes and a tie, so I decided to slide back into my default; graffiti tee shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers.

We stood on that queue at Hamad International Airport for so long that by the time our passports were stamped, our names were reverberating through the airport speakers with threats of being offloaded.

We ran across that airport like mad people, and because of the pressure I had not gotten a minute to button my trousers and roll back the belt after the security checkpoint.

I was literally clutching at my trousers while dragging half a man in one hand plus his bag and my own bag in the other.

One small wrong move and travellers would have seen me tumble down in mere boxers, trouser on the floor.

I regretted not adding an extra hour or two to my itinerary to allow time for these dramatics.

As it turns out, that pressure plus the running might have aggravated something in the young man’s system.


Halfway into the flight, he developed a fever; 39 degrees. 39! The little screen mounted behind the seat in front of ours showed that we still had three hours in the air.

By this time, he had vomited all the food eaten. He just clung to me with tears rolling down his cheeks.

He was trembling, goose bumps scattered all over his skin. Even with airline crew constantly checking on us and trying to offer solutions, I felt helpless. No parent wants to be in that situation.

As it turns out, airlines do not exactly carry serious medical crew, and their on board pharmacy has very little in the way of serious medicine, probably because it is impossible to predict what may befall someone among 100 plus passengers.

The contract between the airline and a passenger is to get you home; not treat you mid-air.

It is easier to have a sick baby in the house, because you can do a 160kph drive to the nearest health centre and have some white suppositories shoved up his rear to cut down on the fever.

Up there is a different story, one I would not wish even on my enemy. Holed up in a closed vessel breathing artificial air, the minutes dragged on.

I looked at him looking straight into my eyes. He expected dad to conjure something and bring things back to normal.

I had for several years learned how to pack for a baby, but on this particular day I failed to include a simple bottle of Paracetamol in his bag, an oversight that was turning a would-be calm flight into a nightmare.

I was so desperate that  I walked to like three fellow passengers with babies and asked if any of them had painkillers or anything that can bring a baby’s fever down . . . none had.

My boy is a fighter, because he somehow held on until an announcement was made that we had began our descent into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

I'm usually critical of the way airline crew speak in that intercom system as if their voices are drowning, but on this night nothing was more relieving than that sound.

I had taken a photo of him on the tram before we boarded our aircraft, one that I have kept safely as a constant reminder that if I ever forget something while packing his travel bags, let it be everything else but not first aid paraphernalia.


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