Children Get Bored 49 Minutes 47 Seconds Into a Flight

Children Get Bored 49 Minutes 47 Seconds Into a Flight

Emirates has teamed up with psychologist and boredom specialist Dr Sandi Mann to undertake research into and finding a solution to catching and alleviating boredom when flying.

Tips for getting through the ‘are we there yet’ moment are:

  • Top three worries for parents when travelling with children on an aircraft are keeping them entertained (64%), disturbing other passengers (43%), and keeping children hydrated (23%).
  • 41% of parents admit to bribing their children with sweets, chocolate and crisps in exchange for good behaviour on a flight. Young flyers will take just 49 minutes and 47 seconds to ask the dreaded “are we nearly there yet?” question on a long-haul flight, according to Emirates.

The Emirates study of more than 2,000 parents of under 12s, alongside observations of children during their playtime, helped Dr Mann create five categories of activity, Active, Passive, Interactive, Creative or Sensory, to formulate a Child Boredom Quotient (CBQ). The CBQ has been designed to help parents work out exactly when their children might get bored and what to do about it, by finding the perfect mix of activities to catch boredom, before it sets in.Emirates B777-300ER

The study found that two-thirds of parents (64%) worry about entertaining their children and 43% expressed concern about them disturbing other passengers, with little travellers aged 3 – 4 the most volatile.

Bribery techniques, such as giving out snacks, were often used just to keep the peace by two-fifths of parents.  Other tried and tested methods of distraction include employing electronic devices (33%) even if they are not allowed at home, handing out new toys (27%), or trying to tire out the children by running around the airport before boarding (16%). However, it’s not just bribery that parents resort to when travelling with their children on an aircraft. An honest 7% revealed that they simply try to relax with an eye mask to block out the disturbance.

Dr Sandi Mann said: “Parents of children aged 3 – 4 find that this is the age at which children are physically very active, gaining independence and needing more sophisticated things to entertain them than they did when they were younger.

“For example, the ‘electronic babysitter’, which is considered a passive activity, might work for older children but not for those who are younger and with a poorer attention span. Breaking up this passive activity for more active or creative activities, such as board games or drawing, will help stop children becoming bored, restless or disruptive during a flight.”

When engaging in an activity onboard, films are the most popular for keeping children occupied from around 40 minutes for the youngest age group (0-2) to 1 hour 45 minutes for the oldest (11-12). This is followed by games either on a smart device or on the inflight entertainment system (keeping children occupied from 30 minutes for the youngest to 1.5 hours for the oldest).

Meanwhile, creative pursuits such as drawing was the most popular until age nine, when quizzes and puzzles become more engaging. Colouring and sticker books have most appeal to the younger ages.

Dr Mann has created a suggested guide for how to structure a plane journey for each age range. The idea is that by mixing up the five categories of activity and stopping an activity at the right time and moving on to the next, boredom and restlessness will be minimised.

Passive – watching films, listening to music

Active – walking up and down the aisle, playing with a pack of cards

Creative – drawing, colouring books

Sensory – refreshments

Interactive – reading a storybook, chatting



Encourage them to sleep.  This is one of the most time-occupying activities onboard with children sleeping, on average, 80 minutes during the flight.

Make use of the inflight entertainment system.  This is a great distraction and can include watching cartoons or movies or playing games.  Emirates ice in-flight entertainment system offers dedicated children’s channels

Don’t overload younger children with too many activities.  Research shows that less is more when it comes to keeping young children distracted.  Allow them to explore their environment and play games such as I Spy

Engage with and talk to children. Children will chat to their parents or each other for up to 100 minutes on a long-haul flight, so remember to switch up activities and don’t always rely on electronic devices.

Make use of the airline’s family-friendly services such as separate family check-in desks and priority boarding with Emirates for families with children.  There are complimentary children’s packs for young passengers and Emirates cabin crew will provide an infant kit filed with useful essentials such as nappies, bibs and wipes.


About the research

The research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Emirates in June 2017. Data was secured via an online survey and the sample consisted of 2,006 parents with children between the ages of 0 – 12 who have been on an aircraft. To help create the Child Boredom Quotient, Dr Sandi Mann of the University of Central Lancashire also observed 90 children aged between six months to 11 years old at play to determine how children behave in real life.

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Michael Flood is the Editor of Ireland's leading travel industry publication, Irish Travel Trade News. With more than 35 years experience, he has accumulated an in-depth knowledge of the airline industry and the travel and tourism world.

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