I was asked earlier this morning what I think of AirAsia’s new kid-free coach section they’re calling a “Quiet Zone,” and if I think it’s a case of discrimination. I have to say, after reading over the details from AirAsia, I think it’s more a case of really, really foolish marketing.
First of all, I think they’re silly not to charge an extra fee for passengers sitting in these rows 7 through 14, which remain the standard fare of all coach seats on the flight, other than a few that may have extra legroom for an extra fee. But the reason they haven’t placed a higher premium on these seats may be explained away by my next point.
What are they going to offer those passengers every time they fail to provide a quiet flight? And to what lengths will they go to try and keep the rest of the aircraft–and the couple of rows of first class in front of them–quiet? Gag screaming babies? Tell parents they can’t take their fussy infants or restless toddlers for a stroll around the cabin to calm them–because a passenger in row 10 might hear them?
And did anyone looking at the airplane plan notice the infant bassinet positions on the aircraft are in first class just two rows in front of this quiet zone, and also on, you guessed it, row 15? Click here to see the layout.
Now, I understand that there are passengers who might be desperate to get some sleep or finish a report before a business meeting. And they probably don’t want spit up or strained carrots on their suits when they arrive. As I’ve said before, let’s make business class about business, and business travelers can get what they pay for.
I also understand some people are more sensitive to getting their seat backs kicked repeatedly by toddlers during flights. And there are those who, for whatever reason, just generally do not like children no matter how adorable, inquisitive, or well-behaved they might be. I’d prefer they not sit next to my family either if possible.
Here’s my question:
Why didn’t they instead designate that section as the “Family-friendly Zone”? Not only would that put a positive spin on their move toward segregation–an effort to make happier family travelers as well as happier travelers without kids, but it would likely improve the very situation they’re only dodging with this change: crying, unhappy young children.
Did it ever occur to anyone at AirAsia that by seating families–and those who appreciate them–together, those with babies and toddlers would find themselves in a less hostile environment, in a place where breastfeeding and eating Cheerios are par for the course, where young kids may enjoy each other’s company, and easily pass and share toys? Just think, when parents are doing all they can to get seated in rows 7 – 14, that leaves a whole ‘lotta kid-free rows throughout the rest of the plane, doesn’t it?
Not to mention, AirAsia could let all the other passengers seat themselves first as a show of good customer service–while at the same time allowing families a little more time to let their children burn off their energy before settling into their seats. When they finally board at the front of coach, there would be no need to juggle babies, toddlers and car seats through a sea of already seated passengers. Everybody wins.
What’s more, by seating the youngest passengers at the front of coach, they’d be the first to receive snack service–not the last. And as any parent knows, there’s no faster way to quiet a kid than to break out the snacks.
What do you think about AirAsia’s “Quiet Zone”? Do you think it will help make for happier travelers — or more loyal customers in the long run?
CARES GIVEAWAY ENDS SOON! Have you entered to win the CARES flight harness I’ll be giving away this Friday? Don’t forget you can earn several extra entries, too, if your heart desires. Entries must be posted by midnight 2/14/13 – go to the post here for details.
Related posts and pages:
- Five ways airlines can make happier travelers of us all
- Should more airlines ban babies from first and business class?
- What ever happened to family preboarding?
Having just recently flown from San Francisco to Paris with 4 out of 5 of us using AA miles, I had to smile when I saw this email waiting for me:
Hi Shelly,I am planning a trip to see my grandmere in France with my husband and toddler. Chase will be 15 months when we plan to travel in April. We have AA points we would like to use. Unfortunately AA does not fly direct to Paris. We usually have a layover in NY when my husband and I have traveled in the past. I was wondering if you have any thoughts about how we should do this. BTW, our baby has not traveled on a plane yet, this will be his first experience. We will likely rent a car in France. Here are our options:
- 1. Round trip direct flight from SFO to LHR, then train to France, rent a car in France.
- 2. Flight from SFO to CDG with layover in JFK. Rent car in France to go to grandmere’s house 2 hours away.I thought a direct flight (leaving in the evening) would be best. But, then we have to make additional plans to get from London to France. Or, am I over thinking this and should we just do the layover in NY like usual? If we go to London we would visit a day or two, then continue on.Also, I am seriously thinking about purchasing a seat for Chase (extra $1,000 with 75% off for infant – ugh) and taking his rear facing car seat (he’s a small baby).Thanks!Madeleine
While space remains (at the award level you need) on these flights, you can actually use AA award travel to fly SFO to Paris CDG on American Airline’s codeshare partner: British Airways. To see these BA flight options, go to the AAdvantage booking page at https://www.aa.com/reservation/awardFlightSearchAccess.do and search in your date range for flights from SFO to CDG. When you get your search results, de-select the boxes by American and Alaska Airlines to only leave British Airways flights showing in your results. These outbound flights are not available every day of the week, but hopefully with a little flexibility in your planning you can make one of the flights work for you.
I would highly recommend going this route with BA if possible for your family, for two main reasons:
- The overseas flight is timed very well for travelers with small children, leaving around 5 p.m. from SFO, which may be helpful for your family as it was four ours. I am a big fan of the overnight flight going to Europe because we A) Do not lose an entire night of sleep thinking about an early morning departure, B) get to the airport before crunch traffic, C) Have a chance to settle into the new and (for the little ones) very stimulating environment of the airplane before having dinner, then a movie…, and D) Sleep! And in an airplane that is kept dark for all passengers to do the same, and on a longer flight than you’ll get landing in Chicago or New York. By the time we get to our European destination, we are short on sleep but everyone’s ready for bed when it’s actually evening local time.
- I would especially recommend taking the British Airways overseas flight for your family for this reason: Britax toddler seats for lap-held toddlers, such as yours! Take a look at the one we used above, and get more details in the blog post One very good reason to fly British Airways with your lap-held toddler. This means you can have an actual place to put your lap child (up to 24 months) during the cruise portion of your flight, sitting up or reclined in his adjustable seat with a 5-point safety harness.
IMPORTANT: The trick is, you need to reserve seats along the bulkhead row where these are mounted, and because you will book your award flight(s) through AA, you will not be able to select these seats yourself. So when you call your AA reservations agent, as you’ll need to in order to notify them about your lap child and pay his 10% fee and taxes based on the “retail” ticket price, be sure to get the BA record locator number from the agent before you hang up (it’s different from the AA number). Then you’ll be able to call BA and have them assign your family appropriate seats–and also link your seats together in case you have purchased one in a separate transaction (not with miles).
Hope this all makes sense! Please feel free to comment back if you have any other questions or learn anything new you can share with the rest of us. Thanks for a great question and best of luck with your adventure!
Related posts and pages:
- France – My recommended Paris Airport Shuttle providing car seats and boosters
- France – Montmartre Carousel, Paris
- France – Car seat advice for Paris airport shuttle with baby
- France – Paris: 5 Best with Children Under 5
- France – Best baby-friendly cafe in Paris
- France – Finding diapers in France
- France – Tips for juggling toddler naps while visiting Paris
- France – The captivating carousels of Paris (with some free in December)
Have a burning question for me? See how to submit yours here.
A reader’s comment from last week’s blog post: Will your child’s car seat be allowed on the airplane? has proven once again that not all airlines are created equal in the eyes of parents. In fact, this mother’s recent experience with United Airlines is enough to make you wonder if anyone at United actually knows the so-called rules they feel at liberty to enforce.
Hello Shelly and fellow readers – I’m just online trying to find any info I can on car seats on planes. I just got back from a trip to San Francisco and on our return flight we had a nightmare experience with our car seat!!
It’s a long story I won’t bore you with even though I could go on for HOURS about the way we were treated. But basically we were told the car seat had to face forward. I have flown several times with my infant and knew it could and in fact should face backwards.
Even after asking them to show me the airline’s rule book, and it stated that it could face forward or backwards and should follow the car seat manufacturer recommendations, we were still told it had to face forward. We were told if we did not face it forward we would have to deplane immediately.
The attendants were extremely rude and condescending to us. They humiliated us in front of the whole flight and kept saying that we were holding everyone up and that we didn’t know the rules and maybe should just get onto another flight. I had to bite my tongue and just follow their instructions or risk being thrown off and potentially being stuck in the airport with no way to get home.
Shelly, what ARE the rules around car seats on the flight? This was a United flight, btw.
Thanks so much,
If your child was still within the height and weight limits to be using your car seat in the rear-facing position, then that’s exactly how it should be installed on the aircraft.
This is not the first time I’ve quoted this FAA advisory circular in this blog (see What can you do if your child’s car seat doesn’t fit in the airplane seat? and other flying tips and advice on the help page here, and if you’re planning to fly with a rear-facing car seat for your child, especially on United Airlines, you might want to print this to bring along with you and highlight this section specifically:
f. Operators Prohibiting CRS [child restraint system or car seat] Use. No aircraft operator may prohibit a child from using an approved CRS when the parent/guardian purchases a seat for the child. If an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the aircraft operator has the responsibility to accommodate the CRS in another seat in the same class of service. The regulations also permit an aircraft operator to use its discretion in identifying the most appropriate forward-facing passenger seat location, considering safe operating practices. For example:
(1) A CRS with a base that is too wide to fit properly in a seat with rigid armrests can be moved to a seat with moveable armrests that can be raised to accommodate the CRS.
(2) An aft-facing CRS that can not be installed properly, because of minimal pitch (distance between seats) between rows, can be moved to a bulkhead seat or a seat in a row with additional pitch.
This is not the first time United Airlines has threatened to–or actually deplaned a family for refusing to improperly install their child’s CRS (car seat) on a flight. You can read about a family of 5 that experienced this same scenario twice with United Airlines in this News Release. Diane, and any other parents reading this who have experienced similar treatment by any US-based airline should consider contacting FlyersRights.org, and certainly contacting the airline to report the details of their incident.
When you write your formal complaint to United, you might also want to cite the FAA’s informational brochure for parents linked from their web page here, which states,
The FAA recommends that a child weighing:
• Less than 20 pounds use a
I am sorry to hear about your troubles, Diane, and I hope this will help for the future. Too bad the flight attendants couldn’t realize THEY were the ones holding up the flight, not your family.
Parents, have any of you been told you can’t install your FAA-approved car seat rear-facing on an airplane? How did you handle it?
Related posts and pages:
- What can you do if your child’s car seat doesn’t fit in the airplane seat?
- Will your child’s car seat be allowed on the airplane?
- Age and height restrictions for airplane bassinets
- Your child’s 3-1-1 travel kit for carry on
- Best convertible car seats for travel
- Car seat alternatives for travel
- Index of online Air Travel Tips and Advice
I hadn’t flown Alaska Airlines in quite some time, so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found on our recent flight to Kauai (and no, they did not sponsor our travel or this post).
With so many rants about airlines, toddlers and their parents in the blogosphere (often earned, but rarely helpful), I thought it was worth pointing out what Alaska is doing right by travelers with toddlers and young children. Maybe some of the other airlines will take note – but I’m sure those of you parents reading this will. And feel free to share your own recent experiences in comments below.
- Alaska Airlines, as I discovered in that cold sweat that comes every time you discover your family has been split between two or possibly three rows on the aircraft (with your three-year-old next to strangers), reserves two “family rows” in most flights to help ensure families with young kids stay seated together in case of last-minute seat shuffles. A simple phone call to reconfirm my flight was all it took – they were able to group us back together again, saving my sanity and surely that of the folks who might have been seated next to parentless children on the 5-hour flight.
- Alaska’s fleet, to my knowledge, is not equipped with in-seat TVs. However, most Alaska Airlines flights over 3.5 hours offer “dig-e” digital in-flight entertainment players with over 75 movies and children’s programming built in. The cost for these is $8 or $10 per flight, depending on flight length (the flight to Kauai it was $10). Each dig-e player takes 2 headsets, so one is all it takes for 2 kids.
- Food for purchase includes a surprisingly healthy (and pleasing to my extremely picky eater) Kids’ Choice snack basket for $6 on all flights over 1 hour. Pirate’s Booty, turkey snack stick, squeeze apple cinnamon applesauce pouch, organic strawberry yogurt & honey graham, fruit chews and… Wikki Stix!
- Alaska Airlines still offers family preboarding—even before the rock star frequent flyerati, encouraging those who will lug their car seats or need to set up their CARES harnesses to get on board and get set up before the rest of the passengers fall into place. Who benefits most from this? Well, I don’t think you’ll hear any complaints from the aisle seat passenger who got whapped in the head by a passing car seat on his last flight.
- Sure, these days most parents are happy just to be seated together with their children during domestic flights. The rest here is gravy. So how did they really hit a home run with this flying family? A round of free mai tais for the grown-ups and warm cookies for all before landing. “Aloha!”
Thanks, Alaska Airlines, for keeping kids (and their parents) in your sites. Keep up the good work!
Friendly Trip Planning Tip: When you have a choice, choose wisely! Remember the airlines comparison chart in Travels with Baby to help find the most baby-friendly, toddler-friendly, and family-friendly airlines when choosing between carriers for your next big trip.
How about you?
Have you flown Alaska Airlines with your kids? What’s your favorite airline to fly with your baby, toddler or little kids?
Last week I heard from a mother preparing to fly with SAS from theUnited States to Eastern Europe with her FOUR children, ages 6, 5, 4 and 11 months (cross your fingers for smooth flights and connections for these fearless family travelers!). As you can imagine, she was shocked as she called to confirm her flights, only to find out that the airline would not allow her to use their bassinet for her baby because she is 2 months past their age limit for using bassinets, which for SAS is 9 months.
Although the particular bassinet used in the aircraft is rated to 24 lbs., the agent—and manager stood firm by their policy and refused to reserve a bassinet for the lap infant. She’s not the first parent to get caught off guard by an unexpected age limit for airplane bassinets (a.k.a. sky cot). Here are a few reasons to be aware of if you have overseas travel with an infant in mind:
- The shapes and sizes of the bassinets themselves can vary a great deal between airlines, and even between different aircraft models operated by the same airline.
- More often than the weight of the child, it’s the length of the baby that is more of an issue regarding the size of a particular bassinet.
- Additionally, many airlines put their feet down when it becomes more likely a baby will be able to pull up or climb and topple over the side of the bassinet.
If you plan to take advantage of an airline’s bassinet for an upcoming flight with your baby, you should make sure you choose an airline that will accommodate your infant at the time of travel. And remember bassinets are generally available on a first-come first served basis, to those who are seated in the proper locations on the aircraft. (Much, much more on that in Travels with Baby, including the possible drawbacks of being ont the busy, bulkhead row with baby .)
Here are just a few of the different ways airlines specify their bassinet policies:
- SAS – Bassinets for infants 9 months and younger. Click here for m0re information about flying with infants on SAS /
- Air Canada– Bassinets for infants who cannot yet sit upright and weigh less than 25 lbs or 12 kgs (specific age not stated). Click here for more information on flying with infants on AirCanada
- Lufthansa – Bassinets (cots) for infants up to 14 kg and 83 cm (32 inches) in length. Click here for more information on flying with infants on Lufthansa
- KLM – Bassinets (carrycots) for infants no longer than 65 cm (25 inches) and weighing no more than 10 kg (22 lbs) on day of travel. Click here for more information on flying with infants on KLM
- Virgin Atlantic – bassinets (cots) for babies up to 1 year as long as they fit the bassinet, which varies in size between aircraft and classes of service. Follow this link for details. Click here for more information on flying with infants on Virgin-Atlantic
- American Airlines – bassinets on 777 aircraft and some 767 aircraft for children under 2 years and weighing less than 35 lbs. (15.8 kg). I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a sky cot that seats a 23-month-old! (Perhaps it’s like British Airways’?) Click here for more information about flying with infants on American Airlines
And remember, British Airways not only provides infant bassinets (sky cots) for babies, but also offers a limited number of the Britax toddler seats that can be mounted on the bulkhead for children under 2 years. Click here to see it and read about our experience flying with this toddler seat.
Have you flown with an airplane bassinet? Share your experience and wisdom below!
First, thank you so much for your informative blog. It’s been a godsend so far in preparing to travel long haul with our 11 month old!
Thanks to your blog I’ve discovered the BabyB’Air and have ordered one. We plan to use this during our long haul flight from Australia to New Zealand and then on to Los Angeles (and back again!) as well as the US internal flights with Southwest.
On the Southwest website it reads that no belts such as this are allowed to be used on the flight – can you tell me if this is the current ruling from the FAA, or am I within my rights to use it during the cruising portion of the flight? I am hoping to print off advice from somewhere to show any flight staff who might question our use of it.
In Australia all flights require a baby lap belt, which seems common sense to me. It’s scary US airlines don’t have the same rules!
Hoping for any advice you can give.
Read more about the Baby B’Air and find out where to purchase it in Car Seat Alternatives.
It was a smooth take-off for the 10+ hour flight on which my family had been split into two separate rows by the airline. The baby and I sat in our window seat on the bulkhead row, where a bassinet could later be mounted, while an eastern European couple returning from their honeymoon occupied the two seats beside us. Things were already a little awkward on our row as I nursed to keep the baby comfortable during the rapid change in altitude, but we gave each other polite smiles, looked in opposite directions, and pretended we were all somewhere else for a little while.
Then the baby threw up.
There are reasons I recommend parents bring a change of clothes for themselves as well as for their infants and young children when undertaking long flights, and this moment—and the second round that began later that flight—top the list. Thankfully, the flight attendants were very supportive and helpful, and although the flight was completely booked—in coach that is, the horrified honeymooners were reseated in business class.
As a result, the barfing baby and I gained the two freshly vacated seats for the duration of our overseas flight in addition to our own less-than-fresh one, and I couldn’t help but think how well it worked out for everyone. Other than having to wear lavatory-rinsed, wet clothing for the rest of the flight.
Naturally, there are also a multitude of other offenses these tiny travelers may commit while airborne. If you’ve spent any amount of time in their presence, particularly during or shortly after meals, I’m sure you catch my drift (and perhaps a little of the banana puree).
Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more minimum age restrictions imposed by airlines offering exclusive classes of service and special amenities for business travelers. Though it seems to me priority to baby-free travel would fall to the section labeled “business class,” rather than “first.” Regardless, when consumers have a choice between airlines they should choose wisely, especially those traveling with a baby or young child—and those who would prefer to travel without.
Everyone offering harsh criticism of Malaysia Airlines this week should take note that not only do they offer virtually all of the above to travelers with infants, but they have also demonstrated an appreciation of their family travelers by continuing to offer family preboarding (even before first- and business-class travelers, unlike many other airlines), and have created children’s play areas and private baby care and lactation facilities in many airports that they serve.
Now, on the off chance that any other airlines are looking for ideas on how to improve the customer experience for those traveling with or without babies, I hope they’ll consider my suggestions in: “Five Ways Airlines Can Make Happier Travelers of us All.” And remember, there are also numerous tips to help you keep that baby, toddler, and preschooler quiet and content on that next flight in Take-Along Travels with Baby, so do keep it handy. And in case you’ll be flying without an infant of your own in first class on any other airline, you may want bring a copy as well. We know how you value your sleep.
Related posts and pages:
Five ways airlines can make happier travelers of us all
What ever happened to family preboarding?
Tips for long-haul and overseas flights with a baby
The real reason babies and toddlers need ID for domestic flights
Cost-saving tips for families packing checked baggage
See more on air travel in FAQs and Popular Topics
All content of this blog (c) Shelly Rivoli
If you’re preparing to fly with a baby or toddler this summer, particularly on American Airlines, the news that “you’ll no longer be able to gate check your large stroller” may have you wondering what that means exactly—and how you should plan on getting your family through the airports and between terminals (AA stroller disclaimer here).
In a nutshell, this news is no news for those of you already traveling with a compact-folding travel stroller (often called an umbrella stroller) or lightweight stroller frame you use with your infant car seat. However:
- If you travel with a compact-folding twin travel stroller, however, even the weight of the compact folding Maclaren Twin Triumph is technically just over the official limit of 20 lbs., weighing in at 21.6 lbs. without accessories.
- If you’ve been traveling with a jogging stroller, even one that folds to fit through the X-ray scanner at security or releases wheels to fit into its own travel bag at the gate such as the classic Phil & Ted buggy, it’s time to make a new plan for that next flight. Even the B.O.B. Summit single jogger weighs in at 23 lbs. and the Classic Phil & Ted (without doubles kit) weighs 25 lbs.
What’s a parent to do—especially one with two tots to get to the gate? Here are five tips for getting your little one(s) to the gate without that large stroller from home:
1. The obvious: Get a lightweight travel stroller if you don’t already have one (my recommendations here). Your back and your relatives greeting you at baggage claim will thank you. And if you’re renting a car on the other end, you’ll thank yourself when you see the tiny trunk of that rental car (especially overseas!).
2. If you’ll be traveling with twins or two young children close in age, consider getting two lightweight travel strollers—and a set of stroller connectors like these from Prince Lionheart or Munchkin “stroller links.” Some parents actually prefer having the option of splitting apart the strollers when needed, and sightseeing with only one stroller (or narrow clearance) at times during their vacations.
|GoGo Kidz Travelmate|
3. Get a set of wheels for your car seat and check that stroller you can’t part with in a sturdy travel bag or simply rent the jogging stroller or twin you want at your destination and don’t risk damage to your own stroller. If you’re already taking your toddler car seat onboard for your flight, you can simply wheel your child to the gate in it with the addition of a GoGo Kidz TravelMate handcart or budget-savvy Traveling Toddler strap that attaches your forward-facing car seat to your rolling carry-on and quickly separates when needed at security.
|KangaKid backpack carrier|
4. Wear your child in a child carrier or “baby backpack.” Once your child tips the scales at 20 lbs or more, it may no longer seem the obvious (or preferable) choice. Especially if you’ll be spending long periods standing in long lines. If your child is 20 lbs. + and you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet, make sure you use a carrier rated for your child’s weight with extra support such as a chest strap and padded hip belt, such as the Ergo, or take advantage of the 2-in-1 benefits of a combination daypack carry-on and child carrier as with the Kanga Kid or Kelty Transit.
|SafeFit backpack harness|
5. Use a safety harness and “leash.” If your child is old enough to walk it, but still too young to be trusted to stay by your side when a world of excitement beckons beyond the sea of rolling suitcases, or when you’ve already been standing in the same line for 20 minutes, don’t take chances on losing him—or your place in line. The SafeFit backpack harness looks like a mini daypack two of my kids have no been quite proud to wear during travel, and I love that you can fit a few diapers, travel pack of wipes, and board book in it for convenience. (I use a carabiner clip to hook it to my belt loop at times and keep both my hands free.)
For more help planning your airport strategy, see chapters 16 and 17 in Travels with Baby, and for help passing the hours at the airport and on the plane see the Air Travel and Entertainment to Go sections of Take-Along Travels with Baby. Additional tips and resources below. Good luck!
Related posts and pages:
Best Lightweight Travel Strollers and Accessories
Stroller accessories and travel bags
Car Seat Travel Bags and Carriers
How to keep your toddler or preschooler entertained at the airport – while you enjoy a cup of coffee
Cost-saving tips for families packing checked baggage
Tip #47: Baggage fees and babies
Ask Shelly: Advice for flying to India with a 2-year-old
Ask Shelly: Which car seat compatible stroller for travel to Paris?
See more Air Travel FAQs and Popular Topics
All content of this blog (c) Shelly Rivoli
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