Its a question many people think and a few actually ask – what really is the best airline for kids? Which airline takes the best care of young children before, during and after flying? Which airline makes it easier to navigate the challenges of flying with a baby or infant?
In this post, I am going to deal with the main points of what to look for when selecting your airline, especially for flights that last more than an hour or two.
The information contained here could save you a lot of heartache and make your travel so much more enjoyable – so here goes. Enjoy the read :).
The best airline for kids key criteria:
They enable you to book your actual aircraft seat.
This may seem like a strange one to have as first in the list but you do not want to be separated from your partner and other children during a longer flight. Being together enables you to manage your children and any situations so much more effectively.
They provide interesting children’s meals.
Having food that your child will actually eat is important on a longer flight. Key factors are variety and simplicity.
Also – do they have a range of baby food on board?
You can book in Bassinet Row when flying with your baby
Many times it is a real blessing to sit in bassinet row with your baby. Not only do you get the use of a bassinet for your baby to play and sleep in but you also get a lot of extra leg-room and freedom which can be wonderful when you have all the baby stuff! Find out more on the pro’s and con’s of bassinet row.
Are their flight times child friendly?
This can be a really important point when booking your flights. We generally flew Emirates from New Zealand to Dubai enroute Africa and one significant factor was the flight departed New Zealand at about 6pm and flew all night, after a transit in Australia. The children would generally sleep 5-8 hours of the 14 1/2 hour flight from Australia to Dubai, ‘shortening’ the apparent length of the trip.
We also stopped flying through Bangkok (once our family connection had shifted elsewhere) as the flight departed at about 2am – a terrible time for trying to check-in and board aircraft with kids.
They have child friendly luggage allowances
Some airlines seem to think that you can still travel light when you have a baby – well not if you want to get to the other end still sane.
These days there are strollers / buggy’s, car seats and portacots plus all the extra clothes, toys and necessities for your trip. Some airlines cater extremely well for these and others are very poor. This can make a huge difference in whether you will be facing extra overweight luggage charges or not.
Key: Read the fine print before you book!
Check what you can take on as free extra luggage. Some airlines enable you to take on a buggy / stroller / pram plus a car seat per child plus a portable cot / crib. Others may only let you take one of these free and you have to include the others in your checked-in luggage allowance. Still others will include all as part of your checked-in allowance.
On some of our trips we had a double Mountain Buggy (approx. 22kg), 2-3 car seats and a portable cot – all for free, on top of our allowance already.
Check what allowance they provide for each child. Do they have the same as the adult – both for checked-in luggage and carry on luggage allowance?
Check the allowance for your infant. Some airlines give no allowance. Some may give a reduced amount for checked luggage and also carry-on luggage.
Do they have child-friendly policies and staff?
There are some airlines that are just not that focused on having children fly with them, while others proudly promote this as part of their competitive advantage. You can easily assess their booking and luggage policies to see if they are kid friendly. Also look for what they provide on board for the children – packs, entertainment and food.
Do they have a children’s frequent flyer programme?
Are there special programmes or procedures to assist in the airport?
Some airlines provide faster handling and more assistance if you are flying with a baby or young children. This may include priority queues, faster luggage handling, children’s lounges / games rooms to list a few.
What size aircraft do they fly?
When flying long-haul, size does matter. The ability to walk up and down an A380 or B777 compared to a B737 is marked. The larger aircraft have two aisles, meaning you can ‘do laps’. They have multiple sections and galleys – meaning more places to explore and many different people to meet. There is often more space in the configuration just making it easier to move around.
Is the plane configured with generous size seating and leg-room?
Some airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates to name just a couple intentionally have lessened the number of rows on their long-haul flights to give more space and comfort. The airlines promotional material should highlight if this has been done or not.
Is there power at the seats?
At times you just want to show a dvd or play on the ipad – but when you are traveling for long periods your battery can run out. The ability to have a USB port or an actual power point at your seat can be a life-saver.
It is perhaps okay to get delayed or cancelled when you on an overseas adventure by yourself in your early 20’s. Well – it is a major problem and hassle when it happens with a few kids. It can be very disruptive, costly and aggravating.
Select an airline that doesn’t cancel flights unless it is an unforeseen safety issue (or similar) and that generally keeps to their schedule.
We gave up flying one African airline after they cancelled flights on just us a few weeks before we travelled – it was just way to disruptive and expensive.
So now you are armed with what to look out for in choosing your preferred airline. The good news is that most of the child and baby friendly airlines are not that much more expensive but they provide a lot of service, peace of mind and sanity for the extra money. Often when luggage allowances are considered they can actually be a very similar price to the low cost airlines.
For more detailed information on choosing your airline and booking your flights with a baby and child in mind, click here.
In closing, here is a list of some of the best airlines for kids:
- Air New Zealand
- Gulf Air – have a sky-nanny programme
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Airways
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Qantas – can be a bit hit and miss from our experience although the airline has improved over the past few years
- Virgin Atlantic
- Japan Airlines
Also – here are a few links that provide more details on many of the above airlines and what makes them baby and child friendly:
Thanks for reading this article. I trust it was helpful.
Feel free to leave a comment or question below and I will be sure to reply.
Great advice, tip sheets and airline reco’s for kids. I enjoyed reading this post very much. Well done Richard!
Thanks Peter for taking the time to read the article. Appreciate your comments also.
Flying can be pretty tough for parents of young kids – so just trying to assist them with advice sourced from our many flights.
All the best.