Travelling with Kids: mutiny at 30,000 feet

Nine-year-old Calvin is not impressed when mum forgets to secure him a window seat on the flight from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai.

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Last month, for the first time in his life, my nine-year-old son had to make do without a window seat on a plane. This happened thanks to his mother who, having booked tickets from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai with Etihad Airways at the last minute, forgot this all-important detail while hurrying to complete the online transaction.

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I didn't find out about my unpardonable oversight until we had boarded the plane and were shown to seats beside a smug teenager ensconced by the window. While I stared in utter joy at my aisle seat - my first in a long, long time, because Calvin, of course, always gets the window and my husband the aisle (on account of his lanky frame, he claims) - my son plonked himself down in the middle seat and looked at me with betrayal in his eyes.

It was instant mutiny.

He refused to eat or drink or talk to me or even accept the toy the stewardess handed out. He just sat there, either reading the safety instructions card or memorising trivia from his battered, dog-eared airplane guide. The only time he looked up was during take-off, when he turned his attention to the window and sighed as though the very purpose of living had been taken away from him.

We landed in Mumbai in the midst of a heavy downpour. This made Calvin cheer up considerably because his vision of a rain-soaked holiday, complete with giant umbrellas and rubber boots and frogs, was going to come true. But before we disembarked, he made me solemnly swear to bag him a window seat on the Etihad Guest website 24 hours before our flight back to Abu Dhabi.

"Yes, of course," I said sincerely, and we went on to enjoy two blissful weeks at my parents' suburban Mumbai home. It rained non-stop the entire time and, because the street was flooded and I didn't want Calvin disappearing down an open manhole (which happens a lot to unsuspecting pedestrians in Mumbai during the monsoons), my mum and dad took to accompanying Calvin to the roof every afternoon, where he got to stomp about in puddles to his heart's content before traipsing downstairs for hot chocolate and cookies.

A day before we were to fly back to Abu Dhabi, I tried to check-in online and get that window seat, only to find out that the flight was operated by Jet Airways and that the airline currently does not offer web check-in for passengers on codeshares.

I broke the news cautiously to Calvin, who was staring raptly at a large frog that had climbed onto our bedroom windowsill.

"It's OK, mum," he said, when I'd finished explaining. "I bet if we ask nicely at the airport, they'll be happy to give us a window seat. And even if they don't, it won't matter, because I'll have this frog to keep me company. Now, say 'hello' to Hoppy."