Travel with kids doesn't need to be daunting if you can select an airline that will make the flights to and fro easy and fuss-free. Here is suitcases&strollers' top 10 ways to suss out that perfect family-friendly airline so critical to the start and end of a successful family holiday.
1. Look for airlines that pitch themselves towards families. If the airline’s website only focuses on business travellers, for example, or has a no-kids zone on the plane this is probably not your best choice. For instance, Etihad just launched their Flying Nannies service last year with staff onboard specifically trained to help you with your children – this seems like an obviously good option.
2. Opt for airlines that consistently win industry awards for service. Singapore Airlines is a good example. Although they may not initially seem like a family-friendly airline, their service is consistently impeccable which is a huge positive for parents because even if the staff don’t want to help you, they’d never be rude enough to actually refuse to do so. (Insider tip: Singapore Airlines actually do often carry spare nappies and infant purees onboard in case of parental emergencies.)
3. The opposite of this is also true – avoid airlines that you know have surly, unhappy service staff. If they were rude to you before you had children, they certainly aren’t going to be happy to see you with little kids in tow.
4. Airlines that are trying to present themselves as fun to fly are also more likely to work for kids. Ava Air has a fleet of planes called Hello Kitty Jet which, surprisingly, doesn’t necessarily specifically target a children’s audience. But pastel pink airlines with everything from the boarding passes to seated upholstery themed Hello Kitty is obviously going to be a huge hit with the little ones. [For a tour inside the Hello Kitty Jets, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
5. Family holidays can be expensive, so it is worth looking at low cost carriers. But beware of what you will lose when you travel budget. Although the initial fare may be cheap, often by the time you add in the baggage allowance, pre-allocated seating, food, airport tax and credit card surcharge you may find the costs work out the same as a full-service airline. And what you will lose are those little extras that make flying with kids so much easier – priority boarding, sky bridges, major airport hubs and frequent flier points.
6. Sky bridges really do make a whole lot of difference, especially if you are travelling on your own with very small children. Shepherding multiples toddlers and infants along the tarmac, past the noisy engines and up the stairs is hard enough while carrying your copious amounts of hand luggage. Imagine what it’s like if it’s raining!
7. Check out the entertainment offerings before you board. The more kid-friendly options there are, the better. An airline that is cutting costs by not installing televisions, for example, is unlikely to also be supplying children’s colouring in kits and they will be so short-staffed no one will have anytime to help you throughout the flight.
8. Opt for newer aircraft. These usually have a better interior design and will be cleaner. For instance, the A380 has a few spots throughout the craft where you can stand in a quiet corner and rock an infant to sleep. And since these are the airline’s premium planes in the fleet they will be more likely to be fitted out with all the little things you need for children such as the full entertainment system and multiple bassinets and toilets with baby change tables.
9. Ask around and talk to other parents. Despite all appearances, there are some airlines that advertise themselves as family-friendly that just do not deliver onboard. You are only going to hear this via word of mouth, so talk to friends and family that have done similar trips.
10.Check suitcases&strollers. We are always seeking the latest airline information to keep families updated about which brands are doing best at keeping parents and their children happy, including our continually evolving list of airlines and their family-friendly (and not so family-friendly) features. To see the latest in which airlines are the most welcoming to travellers with kids, read the story Airlines Compared.
Images: Emirates; Hello Kitty Jet