There's the familiar fidget annoying tip tapping on the back of your seat, the loud-mouthed blabber yelling across the aisle and the person sitting next to you is taking up more than their fair share of the allocated space – and yet it's the small person sitting on my lap on a short haul flight that is apparently the cause of all budget airline misery. In the history of the world.
Or so it feels, based on passengers who feel they and they alone should be allowed to travel, and that babies and children should somehow be kept in a box at home.
There are few things in life as stressful as travelling by plane and coping with a baby.
Unfortunately as a solo mum of one (with close family living abroad), I now have to contend with both just to get my babysitting privileges.
On three of the four short-haul flights so far this year my baby was impeccable considering her age (three, four and five months). She was better behaved than many 'adults' I have endured in 30 years of flying – she slept and fed quietly and when awake smiled and played with chuckles aplenty.
What is it about the general sight of an infant on a flight that makes people's blood boil (especially when she hasn't even cried)?
With the holiday season kicking off, here are my personal top five phrases other passengers have said in my general direction. I could write you the script and I'm dreading my next unavoidable trip. Here's what I wish I could reply, instead of politely nodding and attempting to do my best to keep the peace onboard.
1. "Are you SURE it's not hungry?"
You're guaranteed to be asked this approximately 27 times from airport A to airport B. Yes, I'm pretty sure she (not IT) is not hungry. In fact you watched, open-mouthed, as I struggled to feed her one-handed leaning on my knee in the queue for the boarding gate. That was 25 minutes ago. I promise hand on heart that she'll be asleep as soon as we take off, until then she's just taking in the novel, confined surroundings of our budget airline shared seat. The more times you ask that, the more I'm going to question my own skills at spotting her signs.
2. "Does she not like people?"
She's incredibly sociable actually, just not when surrounded by sour-faced people who think she shouldn't be onboard. She can feel your stress you know. She's so sociable in fact that during a tedious wait at one delayed baggage pick-up she made us friends (who we still see long after the trip) by dancing on the carousel and cheering up bored passengers. It's just YOU she doesn't like, because you dislike life itself.
3. "Can't you throw it out of the window or something?"
Golly what a practical idea! I've often thought that flinging a child out of an aircraft at high altitude will solve your problems. Not. She's not even whimpering. Just sitting here looking curiously at her surroundings. So it's just her presence that offends? Get a grip please. What planet do you inhabit? A childless one, obviously.
4. "It shouldn't be allowed."
My favourite. WHAT shouldn't be allowed exactly? I want to scream for clarification. What offends? Reproduction of the human race? A child going to visit their grandparents? Were you delivered whole into the world and somehow skip the being under 10? I hear this one a lot, usually muttered loudly on the bus, on the train, at the swimming pool. As if all children should be kept at home and life should cease completely for the parent responsible.
"My 5 month old baby is more tolerant than you," my inner I've-had-no-sleep wrath wants to exclaim.
5. "I'm so glad I'm getting off now."
You and me both. Thanks for the sympathy. Okay so she cried for a couple of minutes when she had trouble sleeping with all the noise and bright lights. I concede that might be a bit annoying. But some perspective please? What about the guy three rows back with his iPod on full blast for the duration? Or the woman eating lingering stink-to-high-hell cheesy crisps for 30 minutes?
Actually would you mind holding her while I scoop up all the toys, muslins and Tommee Tippees from under my seat and get my passport out of my hand luggage? And no I can't do it one handed while carrying a sleeping baby. And yes, I know I should have thought of that before I booked the flight, but you have two hands free and I don't. Do your good deed for the day; one day you might need assistance with your bag too. Or heaven forbid have to travel with your own child on an essential trip one day.
What have been your worst experiences of travelling with a baby - and the best too?