Thursday, March 17, 2011

More airline resources when traveling with kids

Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines has a lot of services available for infants and children, especially on their international flights. There are various meals you can pre-order for babies and older children, and you can also make reservations for other things such as child seats, bassinets and even diapers! JAL also offers their Family Service to certain travelers, and it sure sounds like a nice ride.

The airline provides detailed information about what child seats you can bring if you don't want to or are unable to reserve one with the airline. There is also some great information about strollers, and they do offer free stroller-service at certain airports:
You may use your baby stroller up to the boarding gate at some airports. Please ask the airport personnel if this is possible when you check-in.
Space on board is limited, so checking-in your stroller is strongly encouraged. Checked  strollers will be returned to you as quickly as possible upon arrival.
Please use the free baby stroller service provided by your departure airport. No reservation  is required. Please note that your request may not always be honored due to supply issues.
<Free baby stroller service> * The number is limited.
This service is available at the following airports in Japan and overseas:
Japan: Narita International, Kansai International, Chubu Centrair International and Komatsu.
Overseas: Frankfurt International (Germany), London Heathrow (UK), Indira Gandhi International (New Delhi, India) and Soekarno Hatta International (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Air France
Air France's site provides a lot of information about meals and services for travel with both infants and children, and they offer some good general information about air-travel with infants and small children. There is also some specific information about bringing strollers and car seats.
Did you reserve a seat for your infant? For his or her comfort, you can bring a car seat as long as:
  • it is authorized for standard automobile use (a non-standard car seat may be refused by personnel upon check-in or boarding),
  • it does not exceed 41 cm / 16 in. in width,
  • you make sure to install the seat on board as indicated by the manufacturer's instructions (front or back facing the seatback),
  • it can be held in place by a seat belt.
 There is also information about bassinets for infants and meals for babies and children:
On flights of 2 ½ hours or more, a special meal, including cookies and jars of baby food, is available for your infant.
You may also request a cradle on medium-haul flights (in the Affaires cabin) and long-haul flights (in the Affaires, Alizé, Premium Voyageur, and Voyageur cabins).*
Please note: these cradles are designed for infants who weigh less than 10 kg and measure less than 70 cm.
Changing tables are also available on long-haul flights.
Qantas offers some really fantastic travel tips for parents traveling with small children, written by Dr Kathleen Warren who works as an Early Childhood Consultant for the popular show "The Wiggles". This whole section is a great and informative read for anyone heading out on a long-haul flight with kids.
Young children are not keen on surprises. They are more comfortable with things they understand and that are familiar to them. Talk to them about the upcoming flight and include them in the preparations - show them the tickets or make having passport photos taken a real adventure. If you are able, make a visit to the airport before you leave.
Talk about what will happen so they know what to expect. Young children love stories. Tell them a story about the flight.
Like most airlines, Qantas also offers a variety of information about their specific policies for baggage, seat reservations, meals, and child seats for those traveling with children. If you do want a kids' meal for your child, they recommend you request it when booking your trip, and that you inform the airline what age your child is at the same time.

Policies on bassinets vary between airlines, and Qantas gives this recommendation:
If you require a bassinet onboard, you must notify Qantas at the time of reservation. Bassinets may be requested for infants up to 18 months of age, but the recommended age limit for bassinet use on international flights is eight months. The weight limit is 11kg (25lbs). The bassinet size is 71cm x 31cm (28in x 12in). The depth is approximately 26cm (10.5in). Infants paying 10% of the adult fare who are too large for bassinets are not entitled to a seat and must be nursed. Alternatively, the payment of a child's fare would ensure a seat. Bassinets are subject to availability.
United Airlines & Continental Airlines
United offers some, though not a lot, of information for passengers traveling with children on their website. A lot of the information is about seating and fares. When it comes to child seats, they refer passengers to, and they recommend parents use the "CARES" restraint system:
The FAA has approved the use of a child safety restraint system for travel. The system, named “CARES”, uses an additional belt and shoulder harness that goes around the back of the seat and attaches to the lap belt. Children weighing between 22 and 44lbs may use this device.
Continental also has a section on their website with information for those traveling with infants. There is information about bassinets, change tables and seating, but there does not really seem to be wealth of information there (at least to me). They do inform travelers that:
If you are traveling with an infant please be sure to bring enough food and supplies with you. Our flights are not equipped to heat baby bottles. You may request hot water or ice from a flight attendant to keep items hot or cold.
Which is good to know if you're traveling with a baby. Their meals page does offer some information about kids' meals.

Finnair has quite an extensive section at their website about traveling with children. They have very specific requirements for child seats to be used on board, so that parents can make sure they're bringing a seat that can be used on board.

Finnair's infant beds are called baby baskets, and the airline's policy is quite restrictive for their use:
The maximum inner length of the baby basket is 70 cm and the infant using the basket may not weigh more than 11 kg or 24 lbs and must not be older than 6 months.
They also offer information about the use of strollers, aka pushchairs:
An umbrella pushchair is not automatically accepted for carriage in the cabin, as storage space is limited, especially when the flight is fully booked. At Helsinki Airport, pushchairs provided by Finavia may be borrowed to push children all the way to the departure gate.
Finnair does not offer any special meals for infants, though their site mentions that on international flights they do carry some jars of baby food in the cabin. Kids' meals are available however.

American Airlines
This airline offers a lot of information about their policies and services for those traveling with children. Like most other airlines, they recommend that you bring an umbrella stroller, if you're bringing a stroller, and such a stroller is allowed in the cabin as long as there's space for it in an overhead compartment.

American also allows FAA-approved child seats on board:
Most restraints that are used in automobiles are acceptable for use in aircraft by an infant or small child. Acceptable restraints manufactured in the United States will bear one or both of the following labels:
  • “This child restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Additionally, the restraint may carry a second label with red lettering which states the following:
  • “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
Restraints manufactured outside the United States may be accepted provided that they bear either a label showing approval of a non-U.S. government OR a label showing that the seat was manufactured under the standards of the United Nations (U.N.).
U.N. approval is designated by a label with a circle surrounding the letter "E" followed by the distinguishing number of the country which has granted approval, plus an indication of the category and mass group of the child restraint which will be affixed.
One thing to note: American does not offer any special kids' meals. I find this surprising, since they do have other types of special meals. However, there is some service available for those traveling with infants:
If you are traveling with an infant, please be sure to bring enough food and supplies with you. American does not provide baby food, bottles and other related items. However, baby bottles can be heated on all flights operated by American Airlines.
American Eagle and AmericanConnection flights are not equipped to heat baby bottles.

All airlines: general ticket-price policies
  • Children under 2 usually fly for a fraction of the price, as long as they don't have their own seat. You can sometimes get a cot/bassinet for them, or they travel on your lap.
  • Many airlines allow car seats on board, if they fulfill certain requirements. If your child has a car seat, you will pay pretty much full price for their ticket because they need a seat.
More airline resources
For more airline resources you can read my other posts with information about these other airlines:

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