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I know from experience that flying with a baby can be a daunting experience. Getting through security, finding seats together, and keeping your little one quiet and happy on the flight is a lot. There are ways it can run more smoothly, however. Finding the best airlines to fly with a baby can make it much easier.
I’ve taken my children on several flights over the years, with mixed experiences ranging from excellent (baby slept the whole time peacefully) to disastrous (both the baby and the older child cried a lot, and nobody helped).
What has made a huge difference, for me, is the attitude of the airline staff and how prepared they are to accommodate babies and young children.
In this article, I’ll show you my favorite airlines to fly with infants. I’ll also give you an overview of the main features I look for when picking an airline.
The Bottom Line Up Front
If I had to pick one airline, I’d probably go for JetBlue. They have a good amount of legroom, and they offer pre-boarding for families with kids under the age of 2.
However, I also love British Airways for international flights. I like the free carrycot for flights and the fact that they’ll bring your stroller to you straight away once the flight lands (in certain airports).
My Top Picks
Here’s a quick overview of my top picks for baby-friendly airlines:
- British Airlines: offers a free carrycot, priority boarding, and friendly staff
- JetBlue: offers decent legroom, pre-boarding for families with young kids, and you can bring a free diaper bag with lap infants
- Delta: has a good breastfeeding policy and offers priority boarding and free carrycot on flights
- Alaska: offers decent legroom and priority boarding
- United Airlines: has a good breastfeeding policy, offers priority boarding and free carrycot on international flights
How Can I Find a Baby-Friendly Airline?
There are a few things I look for in a baby-friendly airline (or a child-friendly airline in general). There are some features that you may not have thought to look for before having a baby. For example: what will you do with your stroller? Do you have to book a separate seat for your baby?
Before we go into the airlines I like the best for parents with babies, here are the main points to look for:
I get that this is tricky to tell in advance if you’ve never flown on a particular airline before, but good customer service is key. Traveling with a baby is stressful, even if you have the most laid-back baby in existence! There’s a lot more to think about and a lot more to bring with you.
Look for an airline with good customer service reviews, or at least an airline you’ve flown with before. You may need to ask for assistance during your flight, and it’s nice to know that the flight attendants are friendly and welcoming.
You can fly with a ‘lap baby’ on US domestic flights. This means your baby won’t have a specific seat for themselves: instead, they’ll sit on you. Many parents prefer this option. Practically, your baby will probably be sitting on you for most of the flight anyway, and you can save money by doing this.
Lap infants tend to go free on US domestic flights. International flights may charge for a lap infant, usually around 10% of an adult ticket. The major downside is that lap infants won’t have any baggage allowance. You can pay for a seat for your child instead. These fares vary depending on the airline but usually cost less than an adult seat. This gives you baggage allowance for your baby, too.
Bear in mind that lap infants have to be under two years old. Once your toddler turns two, you’ll have to pay for a seat, no matter what. Some airlines require that you bring a car seat for infants for safety purposes, as it’s considered to be safer to have a young baby strapped into a car seat during takeoff.
It’s also a good idea to look at how easily you can book seat reservations for your family. Of course, you’ll need to be sitting next to your baby (if you’ve booked them a separate seat). You may also have a partner and other children with you, so look for an airline that makes it simple to book seats together.
Some airlines allow families to board earlier, which is so helpful, not only in terms of getting seats next to each other (if you haven’t been able to reserve them) but also because getting on a plane with a baby is hard work! You might have a baby, maybe a toddler, several bags, etc. Priority boarding will allow you to settle your children in while it’s quiet and calm on the plane.
Some airlines offer free carry cots for babies to sleep in. You may need to book these in advance; it’s worth checking your airline’s website beforehand. For example, British Airways offers carrycots that can be used after the seatbelt lights are switched off. This will allow your baby to have a nice sleep in comfortable surroundings.
Food and Drink
Older babies might get hungry on a long flight! Some airlines offer toddler meals, which may be suitable for older babies. You may also bring snacks/food from home, but you’ll have to follow the TSA’s guidance regarding food and liquids in your carry-on luggage.
Most airlines allow you to bring a stroller and a car seat free of charge. For example, American Airlines is good for this. You’ll have to check them in at the same time as your luggage if the stroller is particularly bulky.
Finally, you may want to check out what’s on the menu in terms of entertainment. Young babies won’t benefit from this, but older babies may enjoy a few episodes of Paw Patrol on the flight to keep them happy, so ideally, your chosen airline will have plenty of kid-friendly movies and TV shows for you to choose from.
My Top Airlines to Fly With a Baby
Let’s take a look at my favorite airlines to fly with a baby. I’ll give you a quick overview of why I like them and their pros and cons because, let’s face it, no airline is perfect.
For an international airline, British Airways is an excellent choice for families. With priority boarding for families and the ability to pre-book seats, it’s a stress-free way to fly. You’ll be able to use their free carrycots if your little one wants a nap, too.
They’re also pretty generous when it comes to luggage. You can take a stroller and a car seat for free, and you’ll have a full luggage allowance for two-year-olds and above, which is helpful if you have older children too. Some of their airports offer a free stroller service. This means they bring the stroller to you on landing, saving you from standing in a long line while holding your baby!
They also have excellent entertainment with a wide range of children’s television, children’s meals, which may be suitable for an older baby, and a free entertainment pack for kids.
My favorite thing about flying British Airways is the customer service. If you’re flying solo with a baby, the staff are keen to help. Flying on your own with little ones can be daunting, so that’s important. Also, if you are flying into London, check out the children’s airport lounge if you can. It’s full of fun for little ones!
The downside is that you can sometimes be hit with hidden charges if you fly BA. Also, sometimes the tickets can be more expensive, as it’s not a budget airline.
- Very helpful staff
- Good luggage allowance
- Some airports offer a free stroller service
- Wide range of entertainment
- Free carrycots for use on the plane
- Good entertainment and food for kids
- Tickets may be more expensive
- Some hidden charges may apply
JetBlue is another good option if you’re flying with a lap infant. They have a good amount of legroom in the coach area, which is helpful if you have a baby snoozing on you for the majority of the flight! At least one bathroom on a JetBlue plane has a diaper-changing table which makes changes a lot easier.
On JetBlue’s Blue, Blue Plus, and Blue Extra fares, you can choose your seats in advance for free. They offer pre-boarding for families with kids under the age of two, which is thoughtful.
JetBlue has some good choices in terms of kids’ entertainment, so older babies can enjoy some TV to keep them happy. They have nut-free snacks on board, again, ideal for older babies and toddlers without worrying about allergies. The drinks and snacks are free, too.
Lap infants can bring a stroller, a car seat, and a diaper bag free of charge but won’t qualify for any other luggage. The JetBlue Terminal at JFK is fabulous, as a side note. They’ll enjoy the play areas here if you have a toddler or older kids too.
The downside is there are small hidden charges here too. For example, if you want to snuggle under a blanket with your baby, you’ll have to pay for that. So although the ticket prices are reasonable, you need to go into it with your eyes open and be prepared for small extra charges.
- Decent amount of legroom
- Diaper-changing tables on every plane
- Pre-boarding for families with kids under the age of 2
- Nut-free snacks on the plane for older kids (which are free, along with drinks)
- A great terminal at JFK for older kids to enjoy
- Small hidden charges may apply
Delta is another good choice, in my opinion. Breastfeeding can be difficult on the go, but Delta’s policy is to ensure that mothers feel comfortable enough to breastfeed on board, and you can bring breast pumps, too. Delta’s staff are happy to point you in the direction of a private lactation room at the airport if you need one. I like this attitude, as it’s so important for mothers to feel comfortable enough to feed their babies wherever they are.
Delta offers bassinets for babies weighing up to 20lbs (9kg) and up to 26in (66cm) long. They’re free of charge, but you’ll need to organize using them in advance by calling the airline before your flight.
The entertainment situation is pretty good here, with some great children’s TV if your older baby needs a distraction. Families with infants using a car seat or stroller get priority boarding, which is great. Plus, Delta has good customer service. I like that they are chatty and helpful and very welcoming to young children.
There are a couple of downsides, though. The leg room isn’t that good for lower-priced seats, which is to be expected, but a bit of a pain if you have a baby stretched out on you for the whole flight! Plus, the ticket prices can be a bit confusing.
- Can bring breast pumps on board
- Good entertainment for kids
- Priority boarding for families with young kids
- Great customer service
- Not much leg room on the cheaper seats
- Ticket prices can be confusing
Alaska Airlines aims to seat families together. They have a boarding system that prioritizes people with disabilities, families with children under the age of two, and active members of the military. So if you’re boarding with a baby, you’ll go first.
You can bring your stroller and car seat onto the plane for free, but your lap infant won’t qualify for a free diaper bag. You’ll have to count the diaper bag as your carry-on bag.
They don’t have in-seat TVs, which is a drawback, but you can use your phone or tablet to connect to Alaska’s in-flight entertainment catalog. This includes some kid-friendly shows. Plus, they have some snacks that may be appropriate for older babies (like apple sauce squeeze pouches).
The legroom situation is pretty decent, which is useful if you’re trying to stretch out a little with a baby. They don’t offer free bassinets to use on the flight, though, which is a shame.
- Priority boarding for families with children under two
- Stroller and car seat go free
- Good entertainment catalog
- Some snacks that may suit older babies
- Decent amount of legroom
- No carry-on bag for lap infants
- No in-seat TVs
- No free bassinets to use on the flight
Lastly, I want to talk about United Airlines. Flying United is a pretty good experience for families. They have priority boarding for families with children under two years old, and they offer bassinets for use on their flights, free of charge, but only on international flights. You can bring a stroller or a folding wagon for free, too.
I like United’s breastfeeding policy. Mothers can breastfeed or pump on the plane and in United’s lounges, and they often have nursing spaces, nursing mother rooms, and nursing pods. You can check if the airport you’re visiting has a nursing space by using United’s app. If you do need to pump on the plane, the staff can provide ice to keep it cool. Although, they can’t store it for you.
They have snack boxes for older kids. They can’t warm bottled milk for you, but they can provide hot water for you to warm it yourself if you can bring along a large flask or container to heat it. The seatback entertainment is good for little ones.
The downside of United Airlines is that they have some pretty strict cancellation policies. If you or your baby happen to get sick, or something crops up that means you have to cancel your flight, that may be a problem.
- Good breastfeeding policy
- Priority boarding for families with infants under 2
- Staff can provide ice for pumped milk/warm water to heat milk
- Snack boxes for older kids
- Only offers bassinets on international flights
- Very strict cancellation policy
It can feel daunting if you’ve never flown with a baby before. Here are some questions you may have about keeping babies happy on a flight!
Answer: Long flights with active babies can be a challenge. Once your baby is at the grabbing and crawling stage, you’ll have more difficulties keeping them occupied.
I’d recommend bringing a selection of new toys. I’ve done this for my babies, and it works well. Bring them out one at a time, and that should help to keep them happy. I’d also recommend new board books, as well as familiar favorites from home.
The other thing to do is to walk them up and down the aisle if they start to get fussy. This will give them a change of scene for a while! Ideally, try to keep your baby awake at the airport. A well-timed nap on a long flight can avoid a lot of issues!
Answer: Sometimes that air-pressure ‘popping’ feeling can be uncomfortable. You can prevent some discomfort by feeding your baby during takeoff or encouraging them to suck on a pacifier.
Answer: That depends on the airline. Some airlines will bring your stroller to you after you leave the flight, and others will require you to wait at the baggage area to get your stroller.
Answer: Yes, baby milk is exempt from the TSA’s liquid rules. They will need to be screened separately. You can bring tins of powder formula or pre-made formula in your checked luggage, too.
To Sum Up
I hope this has helped you to find the best airline for your needs. Flying with a baby is challenging but not impossible. Picking an airline with family-friendly policies can help make the whole thing run smoothly! For domestic flights, JetBlue is a solid choice. For international flights, I love flying with British Airways. Any of the airlines on this list will be a good pick if you need to fly with a baby!
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