flying tips what to expect on board when flying with a baby

Updated February 2016

 

Flying Tips

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

flying tips

You can take your travel system to the gate.

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.

                                                           

29 Comments

  1. It's actually a myth that babies have to suck on something for take-off and landing. As a Flight Attendant, I hated seeing babies woken and forced to drink. Please let your child sleep in peace! As a mom, flying with three kids on transatlantic flights, I never did this. They stayed, often asleep, in their car seats for take-off and landing. We never EVER had ear problems. I did make sure their ears were healthy by visiting the ped a few days prior to flying (once we did "catch" and ear infection and he was on the mend the day we flew).

    I think this was true in the days of the unpressurized cabin but it's not true today. Babies often cry when the air conditioning is turned on after take-off but ear problems are rare. It's only when the person (of any age) has had an ear infection, head cold, etc. recently. Then, that really hurts but healthy ears can handle pressurization changes.

    If you're flying with exclusively breast fed babies who don't take pacifiers (like I did) no worries! Be sure they're in their car seats for take-off and landing as this is the most dangerous portion of the flight.

    Let's "kill" that unhelpful "tip" for good!

  2. I agree, babies certainly don't have to be woken up if there is no need, but just like adults can sometimes be uncomfortable with air pressure change ( we understand and simply pop our ears, yawn, swallow, chew gum etc) babies wouldn't understand the unfamiliar feeling. Hence, if they are uncomfortable, or have a slight ear infection, feeding etc can help.

  3. The Nanny on Etihad was actually too busy to help us at all, she couldn't take my baby so I could eat, sleep etc, she just oohed and aahed a bit and then was off. Great idea, doesn't work in reality.

  4. Oh what a shame. I'm guessing full flights because of summer holidays etc? But still the airlines should expect these flights to be busy and full of children. I'm curious, did you ask the Nanny to at least give you 15 mins to eat your meal in peace and did she refuse? Maybe worth informing Etihad so they can review this service? Hope you had a lovely holiday though. 🙂

  5. How would one breastfeed an 8 month old baby during take-off/landing if the airline requires them to be strapped to you? Or does that rule not apply to 8 month olds?

    Lydia

  6. Hi Lydia, it may mean a bit of leaning over and readjusting baby to a comfortable latch position,, but it is possible. The lap belt loops over your seat belt so there is room to manoeuvre . have a fab time.

  7. Hi, thanks for posting all these great handy tips! I'm only halfway your website and found already lots of useful information.
    We are planning to travel from Germany to Australia with a 10 month old (on outbound flight, and 12 months old on return leg). To break up the flights we'll do a one night stopover in Singapore. We are unsure what is the best time to fly with a toddler, overnight or during day time? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Cheers

  8. Hi Verena,

    Thanks! Hi, great idea doing a stopover in Singapore. I've flown both day and night flights and find them fairly similar. However, you may prefer a day flight as then you know most people will also be awake, especially as they are a little more active at that age. Plus it could mean that you are not as exhausted trying to get them to sleep if a night flight.

  9. Hello,
    My Hubster and I are flying with our 22 month old from South Africa to UK. We are flying British Airways. I have noticed that no meals are provided for an infant, which is fine, but what meals would be the easiest for me to bring on board?. Can I bring a meal that would require heating in a microwave? Any suggestions?
    Thanks
    Debi

  10. Hi Debi,

    BA do provide infant meals but they are of the puréed food type which a 22m old may not be too interested in. They also provide food and bottle warming facilities.
    Food wise, cooked pasta twirls, mini sausages etc, some fruit like a banana etc could always prove handy. Alternatively, the pouches such as Ella's Kitchen or the Woolies equivalent can be brought on board too.

    http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/food-and-drink/special-meals

  11. Hi Carrie,what a great blog, so helpful for new mums! Im flying with my 6.5 month old from Sydney to Dublin via Etihad. I am hoping the nanny will be a helpful service. I am not expecting her to mind my baby but it would be great to have a central contact for getting boiled water, heating up food etc.
    Do you know if they will let me bring on homemade baby food in a thermos jar?

  12. Hi Ciara! When are you flying? I'm doing the Syd to Dublin with Etihad at Xmas and my bub will be just shy of 7 months �� very nervous!

  13. Hi Carrie,very useful tips!! I am flying with my ten month old baby in oct in Cathay Pacific Airlines.I booked a bassinet as my baby is very tiny so thought she would fit into it..jst worried about the tv screen and light over d bassinet.Can I control it?? My baby is breast fed and eats solid…how can I carry hot water to prepare her cereal on board and how much??Also how can I carry homemade food for her ??
    Thank u…waiting for your reply..

  14. Hi,

    There is a product out called FlyBabee which is made to go over the bassinet and stops cabin lights from distracting little ones. Alternatively, I know several Mums who use a thin blanket and tape to make a shield.

    Some airlines allow flasks others do not as it depends on the countries airport security, so it is tricky to make this decision. You have several options. Either put sterilised hot water in baby bottles and use a insulated bottle warmer cover, like timee tipee do, to keep it warmer for longer.
    Or ask for hot water at the airport and fill up baby bottles and use bottle cover.
    Ask for hot water on board the flight.
    Or use cooled, sterilised water from home and then just warm the bottle up from hot water from plane, and then pour into cereal etc.
    Homemade food can be carried in any plastic box, container etc.

  15. Hi there – I flew British Airways from London to New York with a 6 month old with a bassinet and tried to use a muslin to cover the bassinett so baby wouldn't be distracted but was told by staff that i wasn't allowed t cover the bassinet for safety reasons. So just be aware you might not be allowed to do that.

  16. Thanks for this. I think you had an over zealous crew as far as I'm aware, nothing is in their handbook re this.. If in doubt, please ask them to check and show you as they can check the manuals on their hand held tablets.

  17. Hi Carrie- what would you recommend regarding taking a stroller if the trip involves several connections? Is it best forgetting trying to take it to the gate and instead checking it in and picking it up at the final destination? Thanks

  18. A lot depends on how old baby is and destinations, as some destinations have transit strollers to use, and a baby carrier is very handy for smaller ones for transit stops too.

    It also depends if you have long transit times…as you could request to have it made available of this is the case

  19. hi i have a very long flight and i am flying by Emirates to mauritius. my baby is 15 months old and is on blue top cow milks. does emirates provide cow milk about 4 feeds of 8 onces of milk?

  20. Hi yes they should have enough especially if you are transiting through Dubai and are on 2 different planes.

    I also usually make sure I have enough for 1 or 2 feeds and put in a baby bottle, keep cool by placing in a ziplock filled with ice- which is easy to replenish at an airport or on the plane. That way you have some with you just in case of any unplanned delays etc.

    Have a lovely time. Mauritius is beautiful!

  21. Hi Faye, hope I'm not to late! Yes the liners are a great idea as it is tricky to clean bottles properly on board. I've also used Milton tablets and used the sink in the loo to help clean too!

  22. What a great blog. So happy I came across it! I will traveling with my 8 month old from America to South Africa soon. Due to a family member being on their death bed, we’re leaving as soon as we get her passport. Any tips for a last minute (literally) flight?

    I looked at the bassinets that are available but my daughter is well over 20lbs. So that may not be an option.

  23. Hi there… I m planning to travel with my 5 months old baby from India to London. Unfortunately i m travelling alone as my husband is in uk and he cant come due to some health issues. Can you plz suggest the best flight to travel with a baby… and do i have to buy my own bassinet or they provide it. And what about the airport?? How am I going to carry my baby.. ( specially when going to loo ) i m really nervous.

    • Hi Nahid, a lot depends on your personal preferences. If you read my post on Top Family Friendly Airlines you will gauge an idea of what some airlines provide.
      The airline will provide a bassinet- but you will need to request it when you book your flight. Some airlines allow you to do this immediately ( BA) on their website but obviously it will not be available if someone has booked the same flight with a baby. Emirates are very good with babies as are Qatar and Etihad. I would highly advise using a Baby carrier at the airport and then keep in your hand luggage for when you disembark in London and walk to baggage reclaim. It means you have your hands free for luggage, and for going to the loo.

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