Flying with an Infant: 6 Airlines, 6 Reviews
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.
what an adorable baby jet setter you have here!
Haha thanks! She certainly loves getting on those flights! 🙂
i bit your baby already had the decision – to be an airline crew someday…
Haha perhaps… 🙂
At least Qatar and Korean Air still made it into your good books. Generally, my favourite airline is Korean Air. I like them because if you chose the Korean food option, the meal is usually good. I also like Emirates, and had quite a different experience from you. I was pretty impressed with the meal selections, the multinational staff, and the staff on my flight were pretty professional. Btw, I’m surprised your little one has traveled so much already! She’s done more than I have in 15 months!
I’m guessing I’d see Emirates completely differently, if I was traveling without an infant…but I still can’t get over that policy of leaving a huge bright screen on overnight on a red-eye! At least they turned it off when requested! We’ve just booked our next flight to Vienna on Korean Air, and it makes the prospect of flying long-distance with a little one just that much more relaxing.
Travel with Karla
I enjoyed reading your post. Your lovely daughter is so blessed to have you as her parents. Traveler in the making! Your post will really be helpful for people planning to travel with an infant. Keep the posts coming!
Thanks Karla…yes, she’s extremely privileged! She’s already been to 9 countries and she’s not even 2 years old. We just have to make sure she understands how lucky she is in the future, and doesn’t take it for granted. 🙂
The Soul of Seoul
Flying with a baby is NEVER something I looked forward to. I actually HATED the bassinet seats. They just didn’t work for us and were more hassle than comfort. We had great times on Delta though. The international staff was always great… domestic in the States in general they just seem to hate everyone and their mother.
Everytime I read about what flights are like in the States and the new policies that airlines are coming up with, I VOW to never fly an American Airline. That said, I did take Delta from Seoul to Florida once (pre-Naia) and the flight was just fine. I guess they have to adapt somewhat in terms of service levels to please koreans, otherwise they’d do NO business out of the country. Domestic….I just can’t even imagine… 🙁
Wow, your baby is already a bona fide globetrotter!! This post is great because it’ll help so many traveling parents decide on some decent airlines. Kudos to you and your husband though, for continuing the travel lifestyle with your little one! I can only imagine the extra planning and organizing this entails. Props!
Haha, yeah she loves going to the airport, and knows how to give the immigration agent her passport. They *usually* smile. 😉 I can’t imagine NOT traveling so I’m glad that she enjoys it!
Soooo, my parents used to travel with me and my two sisters quite a lot as children and I never once thought how much more different their traveling experience was with a baby. OMG Naia and the stroopwafels is the CUTEST thing I’ve ever seen! They’re my favorite cookie in the world and she has two of them, what a beast! I’m so sorry to hear your Emirates flight was so crap 🙁 I’m really disappointed to hear they were so uncourteous. LOL, yes Alitalia is frankly the worst! I love that Naia’s suitcaise is basically a lunchbox 😛
Stroopwafels are delicious aren’t they? Naia is a beast! Inherited her sweet tooth from her daddy I’m afraid. Honestly, I was so surprised by how bad the Emirates flight was…they have such an amazing reputation, and they’ve won so many awards for customer service. I really don’t understand that policy of leaving a huge screen on ALL NIGHT LONG. Grr…I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it. 😉
This is super interesting! I jsed to only ever fly with Ryanair etc when I lived back home in Scotland and would feel posh everytime I took a flight and got free food and drink haha. Now I take a lot more long haul flights and was pretty out my comfort zone when I got back on Easyjet this year. I agree with you about Qatar- they’re amazing! I flew with them in the morning once and they couldn’t send round tea or coffee because of turbulence so they came round with baileys and brandy instead. 5/5 for initiative! Ethiad are also great and I agree that Emirates aren’t amazing. Lots of their staff are actually young British girls haha so maybe that’s why they’re so chatty! Last year, I had to take a last minute flight home when my gran died and British Airways got me there the quickest. It was expensive but the service was amazing. We got fed sooooo many times! Ice cream, crisps, chocolate, tea and biscuits and a few meals. I’d like to fly with them again actually! The waiting staff were sooo polite too!
Before we had our little one, I happily flew all kinds of budget airlines. I was a serious regular on Air Asia for a time! But since Naia, I just can’t deal…it always ends up being not that much cheaper, and it’s just not worth the hassle. It’s hard enough flying long-distance with an infant. Etihad is great! Though I haven’t flown them yet with Naia. I’d also love to give Singapore Air a try with her…. best airline I’ve been on so far for sure!
I love your little traveller! And that first photo with a suitcase is just the loveliest! Sad to know about your Emirates experience. I’m glad I’m done with travelling with infants, hahaha. We had a bad experience with China Airlines from Narita to Seoul. It was just a short flight but my son was crying and the the flight attendant kept on going back to me to let my baby stop crying because his cries disturb the other passengers. Of course, the crying disturbs the other passengers but what can I mother really do? A little amount of empathy would have been a source of comfort from an already stressed-out mom like me.
Honestly I cannot wait till she’s old enough to have her own seat and watch movies for a whole flight (despite the extra cost). It is super exhausting isn’t it? I’ve never flown a Chinese airlines with Naia, and I’m pretty sure I probably won’t ever…but your experience sounds just horrible. Honestly they need better training. Mothers are not magicians able to stop a baby from crying on command. They should’ve had more compassion for sure. On Korean Air, when Naia cried for 40 minutes, they never once stressed me out about it, but instead did everything they could to help me out. That’s why I love flying with them so much!
Brian Keith Dye
Oh my god your baby is so adorable! I love the mini Angelina Jolie Mr and Mrs Smith look! Or is it a Rhianna Umbrella look? I’m not sure but I love it! This piece is so far from my realm of experience. My only interactions with babies on flights is to put in ear plugs. I’m glad that at least some of the airlines had facilities and crew who could help you out and make things comfortable. You’d think with babies being everywhere that most places would be equipped to do this.
Haha thanks! She’s 007/secret agent. ?That used to be my only experience with kids too and in fact, I really don’t like children much at all and never wanted my own. But it was a dealbreaker with my hubby so c’est la vie right? I was secretly hoping my advanced age would prevent me from getting pregnant at all!! ?
This is incredibly handy and shows that airline only have to get very simple things right to keep travelling families happy. But it’s those simple things that make it soooo much easier for parents! Thanks for sharing this on #MondayEscapes
It’s true! It’s not very complicated really. I still can’t get over Emirates policy of leaving a giant screen on overnight. Makes NO sense at all. But I’ve just happily booked our next flight to Vienna on Korean Air and as usual, they’ve already blocked out the whole row for us! 🙂
heard lots of good things about Qatar Airways and not surprised. A little surprised with Emirates as they continue to rate so well.
I was super surprised and disappointed by Emirates too. 🙁 I just don’t understand that policy of keeping a huge screen on overnight playing the same loop over and over again. Sure, it’s a captive audience, but it’s a pissed-off captive audience, so makes absolutely no sense from an advertising point of view. Anyway will never fly them again…at least as long as Naia is young!
whats going on with your husband.lol
Haha what do you mean? Which pic is funny?
what great photos! especially the first one and the tirania airport one!
brings back memories of when my daughter was young – not fun on planes but worth it in the long run! great post.
Those are my 2 favourites too! 🙂 It made me laugh so hard when she picked up that suitcase and headed out the door all by herself. Haha – I guess she knows that we like traveling already, and she’s always ready to go. Yes, def wouldn’t call it “fun” on planes, but you’re right. Totally worth it! 🙂
Mostly flew with Finnair and it was alright but nothing really special, always depends on the staff I guess.
The flights within China were horrible though, sadly I dont remember the airlines we used but it was always very stressful with our son and there were no “extras” for people with little kids
We flew Finnair Seoul to surprise surprise Helsinki – and the flight was just fine. I haven’t flown them with Naia yet, but I guess it would be ok. Sadly, I’m not surprised that your flights in China were horrible. Have you ever flown the Taiwanese airlines? They are (mostly) amazing…
Never had a Taiwanese airline but then again they might be even banned in mainland China.
That’s true…that thought never even occurred to me!
Never thought about it myself till you mentioned the Taiwanese airline. China is absurdly strict with these things buy on the other hand there are tons of actors and singers from Taiwan active in mainland China
We’ve had some great flights with kids (Qantas, Swiss Air) and some horrendous ones (Iberia, Lufthansa), but with or without children, it’s just a crapshoot these days although there are a few airlines (like your Korean Air experiences) that always manage things well. I’ve had good luck with Etihad and Austrian recently, but I always brace for the worst!
P.S. I’ve read some really bad stuff about Emirates lately; I think their service has really dipped. In contrast, both Etihad and Qatar get good marks, and we have chosen both over Emirates for that reason lately.
I’ve enjoyed my flights with Etihad so far, but haven’t flown with Naia on them yet, so who knows? I was so surprised by Emirates, and so disappointed. I really couldn’t understand how they got such a great reputation. I will check out Qantas and Swiss Air in the future, if we ever have a chance to fly them somewhere… although Naia is quickly entering into her own seat category (something I’m both dreading cuz of the cost, and looking forward to cuz of the extra space). 🙂
Oh my, she is so adorable! She can have her own travel blog!! Love those images especially and thanks for the review, I will forward it to my friends who have toddlers 🙂
Haha maybe one day she will. 😉 But she seems to have taken her daddy’s character more than her mommy’s, so it’s more likely she’ll be kicking a soccer ball around than sitting in front of a computer writing. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Such a fun post on airlines and flying with an infant. SO surprised to hear that about Emirates, and such a reputable airline too. It does sound like the flight crew wanted to entertain themselves more rather than looking out for passengers D: I’ve never flew them, so if I ever fly with them I hope I don’t get such an annoying time with them. Love Agri’s face in front of the bears. Naia doesn’t look amused at all 😀
I flew Singapore airlines a lot in the pass. Never had an issue with them and they always come prepared with snacks all the time. The crew were always eager to serve me ice-cream even before I finished my dinner. The odd thing was the ice-creams were always rock hard and were literally hard to eat 😀 They also had free snacks like chips at bay, and if you wanted them all you had to do was ask. One time my brother even managed to get a starfish stuffed toy from the plane 😀
I was super surprised about Emirates too and so disappointed. The crew was kind of annoying, but really the worst part was the screen that they left on all night long. I really don’t understand that policy, because it can only be irritating to the passengers. During the day, fine…but on a red-eye? It doesn’t make any sense.
I also love Singapore Air, but haven’t had a chance to fly them with Naia yet. I’m sure they would be really amazing, since every other flight I’ve taken with them has been fantastic. 🙂