Updated February 2016
Here is some general information to give you a realistic idea of what lies before you.
1) Families with young children generally get to board first. Make the most of that time, as it really helps take the pressure off finding space for your luggage etc. In 2012, some American airlines including United Airlines, US Airways and American Airlines changed their policies.
However in February 2016, United Airlines reversed it’s policy and now allows families flying with children under 2 to pre-board. If the airline/airport doesn’t have that policy or you are unsure, ask for the extra time to board at the boarding gate.- (American Airlines will allow you to board early if you make this request). A handy alternative if your baby is a wriggler or an older toddler, is one parent boards first and finds space for the bags, whilst the other parent waits with the baby at the gate lounge. This means little one can crawl or toddle and work off some energy, rather than sit in their seat waiting for everyone else to board.
2) Most, but not all airlines will allow you to bring your stroller/pushchair/pram to the gate or the doors of the plane. As a general rule, don’t expect your buggy to be stored inside the cabin but instead in
the hold with the rest of the luggage. However, it is always worth asking the crew if they do have room in the cabin. (Only worth trying this if your stroller is very compact and collapsible). If they do allow it and have space, consider this a bonus. There are no actual designated pram compartments in the cabin to store them. Cupboards which store aircraft equipment and/or premium cabins passengers’ jackets are usually used to store the occasional stroller. If the flight is full, it is highly unlikely that your pram will be brought inside. A travel system is considered one piece of luggage. N.B Some airlines have a weight limit on strollers, and if they exceed this, they must be checked in immediately and cannot be brought to the gate.
3) If your stroller is in the aircraft hold, then you will generally collect it at the baggage belt, where you collect your suitcases. Also check in oversize baggage if you can’t see it on the belt. Some airports/airlines will bring it to the aircraft door on arrival once all other passengers have disembarked. It really depends on each airlines and /or airports policy. e.g British Airways try to do this into London and Emirates into Dubai . A baby sling/carrier is highly useful if you need to collect at the baggage carousel. Some airports/airlines do provide a courtesy pram for you to use on arrival/transit. Please see my post on courtesy prams and strollers, to see which ones.
4) Babies often cry during take-off and landing because of the change of pressure which hurts their ears. Crying does actually help relieve this, but it’s not exactly soothing for you and your fellow passengers. Feeding your baby can help relieve this pressure this or sucking on a dummy or pacifier. If you are thinking of weaning them off of a dummy around the time of your flight, I would recommend waiting until you have returned.
5) Flight Attendants will not allow your baby or child to sleep on the floor. Even if you have the bulkhead seat and the bassinet is too small, they won’t allow it for safety reasons. (Those reasons being the overhead oxygen mask will not stretch that far, and in the unlikely event of a rapid decompression, the time of useful consciousness is minimal. This combined with the other effects, will mean it would be difficult to get your baby close to the oxygen supply.)
6) If you need milk warmed up, ask before you need it. Most airlines will do this for you, it depends on their policy, so definitely ask before you travel. (Ryan Air now allow heating up milk, but this policy only recently changed. ) Cabin crew are happy to help you, but unfortunately they could be very busy with the main meal service. Furthermore, they could over heat it, so you’ll need time to let it cool.
7) If you are breast-feeding, there is no private area on board the plane to feed. This may seem obvious, but I have been asked. (Unless you really want to use the loo?) If you are particularly concerned about privacy, then the window seat is your best bet. It’s unlikely that you would be able to use the galley, as the crew will need regular access to and from that, but do ask as some crew will be happy to oblige. For more information on breastfeeding policies, see this useful airline and airport guide
8) If you need to pump and use a plug, or need to charge a phone, many of the larger international airlines do have in-seat sockets in economy class too. They do vary from airline and from aircraft type to aircraft type, so check on your airlines website before you go.
9) If you fly with Gulf Air or Etihad they provide a specially trained sky nanny for free, to help you with boarding, disembarking and they will provide some entertainment for the children. Well worth considering, especially if flying solo or have several kids.