When it comes to flying with a baby under one, all airlines are not necessarily created equal. The issue here is not about money; most international airlines fly children under two for free (however they don’t have their own seat, they sit on your lap). And while domestic airlines’ rules vary from country to country, nobody we know of charges for an under one. (Typically, two is the magic number when you need to start paying because according to aviation law, two-year-olds must have their own seat.) When flying with a baby under one, the issues with airlines relate more to the experience of checking in and the flight itself. Here are a few things to look for – or to ask your travel agent about:
Flying with a baby? Here’s what to ask your airline.
- What is the airline policy on prams? Can you take the pram all the way up to the gate? Or do you need to check it in at the ticket counter? The latter can be a hassle if you have an early check-in (often the case with family travel – you’ll want to get to the airport early), or a long wait in transit. Your own pram will also be a godsend in airports if your baby has day sleeps in it. Most airlines will have small umbrella strollers available for loan, but these are better for simply moving your child around within the airport than letting them sleep, as they don’t recline.
- How early can you check in? With a baby, it’s good to arrive early to request things like having the seat next to you “blocked out” if the flight isn’t full. Of course, you’ll also want to request or lock in your (ideally) pre-requested bassinet if it’s a long haul flight.
- Remember, you can’t typically do a full check-in online if you are travelling with a baby or an infant. Sometimes you will be able to do part of the check in process online, but very rarely will you be issued a boarding pass (presumably because someone needs to actually eyeball the baby). Often, you’ll think you’ve circumvented this but a pop up will ping at the end of the online check-in process saying: “You can’t check-in online, please see the service desk on arrival at the airport.” Far better to realise this in advance.
- Find out what baby items you can check in, or take on board, free of charge. Most airlines will allow two or (typically) three specific baby items to be checked in for free: usually one pram, one travel cot and a car seat. We’re “told” that some parents, desperate for space, stuff the pram bag full of extras like blankets and sleeping gear. (Us? Never!) Remember, you are mostly also allowed to take an extra bag on board for the baby, as well as a bag with baby food. Of course, given that you’ll be carrying your infant, will do better to try and keep the gear to a minimum. See our packing tips for advice on the ins and outs of this.
- While you’re deciding on which airline is best, it’s also worth considering the ins and outs of long haul flights, short haul flights – and that’s even before you get to the million dollar question: aisle or window?