When we crossed from mid-range backpackers into the all too stressful family travel category a few years ago, we essentially stopped taking budget flights. It’s challenging enough traversing the world with a little traveler, never mind thinking about minuscule baggage allowances, seats with little to no leg room, and preparing all our meals in advance to take with us.
Unfortunately though, even when you fly national airlines, or those with great reputations, all bets are off when you’re globetrotting with an infant on your lap.
Our little traveler has already taken over 25 flights in her 20 months of life, many of them long-haul. Some have been outstanding, some have been decidedly average, and some surprisingly bad (bet you won’t be able to guess which one).
KLM: Stroopwafels alone are not enough.
We flew KLM from Seoul to Rome with a stopover in Amsterdam. We were fast-tracked through security and immigration in Amsterdam, service on board was courteous and professional, but not outstandingly kind, and the meals were edible (though no separate food was provided for our baby). The best thing about the flight was definitely all the extra stroopwafels we received for Naia (that Agri ate). 😉
The seats felt quite a bit narrower than on other planes I’ve been on, so even though we were assigned the bassinet row, we felt quite crowded in, especially since there were 2 very tall, very broad Northern Europeans seated next to us.
What can I say? The flight was solidly average. I’d fly them again, but only if there were no better options.
Alitalia: Old and Crusty
Is it just me, or does it feel like Italy, and everything related to it, is falling apart?
We flew Alitalia one way from Tirana to Rome. The plane felt like it was from the dawn of aviation and the seats were crammed in so tight that Agri could barely fit a leg in-between them, never mind squeezing a baby in there too.
All I can say, is thank the travel gods, the flight was so short.
Emirates: Never Again
We flew Emirates direct for 10 hours from Seoul to Dubai and back again, and I was pretty stoked about flying with them. After all, they have a pretty impressive reputation. Unfortunately, the reality was anything but impressive and the words I’d use to describe our experience are annoying and exhausting.
When you travel with an infant, you’re often seated right behind the galley, because that’s where the bassinet is. Never mind that we had to ASK for the bassinet on both flights, that wasn’t a huge issue, though not the greatest service for an airline that has such a stellar reputation. No, the larger problem was that the flight crew spent most of the night chatting with each other in the galley, loud enough that we could hear them over the airplane noise. And it could also be why we found the service so lacking.
The worst of it though, was the airline’s policy of keeping the giant screen placed right above our baby ON all night long, in a never-ending loop that flashed a bright white light every time it reset. Granted, they did turn it off when requested (at 3AM), but shouldn’t it be obvious that people on a red-eye might want to try to get some sleep?
The incessant chatter, combined with the blinding white flash of light of the huge screen right in front of us made the flight anything but 5 star. For us, and our little one.
Like I said. Never again.
Qatar Air: In a Heartbeat
We flew Qatar from Dubai to Rome, and back again, with a stopover in Doha airport.
From truly warm and gracious flight attendants, to spot-on service, delicious food and comfortable seats, our experience on Qatar was as enjoyable as a long-haul flight with a 15 month old could possibly be. Doha airport was also a pleasant surprise. Modern, spacious and clean, with playgrounds for kids and free strollers available, it was not a bad place to spend a few hours.
I’d fly Qatar again in a heartbeat.
Blue Panorama: a Passable Budget Airline
We flew from Rome to Tirana on Blu-Express – the low-cost budget arm of Italian operator Blue Panorama. The check-in process at Rome’s Fiumicino was onerous to say the least, with just a few gate agents available to check everyone in.
Once on-board, the experience improved somewhat, with seats that were surprisingly much roomier than Alitalia’s, for the exact same route. As expected on a budget airline, all food and drinks had to be purchased. Fortunately, the flight was so short, that it felt as if we started descending just as we reached flight altitude.
I’d fly Blue Panorama again, but only for short-haul flights. AND I would either check-in super early, or super-late. That check-in process was seriously frustrating, especially with a little one running around in circles.
Korean Air: Just as Good as Always
I’ve waxed poetic about Korean Air before, and our third long-haul flight on a codeshare with KLM from Amsterdam to Seoul was no different.
Highlights this time around included an entire row of seats blocked out for us, and singing flight attendants that tried to calm Naia down when she freaked out 40 minutes for no good reason at all (to no avail).
If I could fly Korean Air for every long-haul I had to take with our little traveler, I would.
Do you have a favourite airline? What makes it so great? Share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
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*This post is part of Monday Escapes.