Planning a trip with your tots in tow? Be sure to bookmark our list of the best family-friendly airlines and all their top features!
But let’s face it: the stress of flying with kids can almost outweigh the positives of taking them new places. Even when you’ve packed their bags with goodies and loaded up on every fun app, game, and accessory, you still can’t account for tantrums, accidents, colicky babies, unexpected delays, and everything else that can go wrong during a flight. Even if you’re lucky enough to have your helper along, an extra set of hands can only do so much.
BUT…when it comes to flying with kids, all airlines are not created equal, mama. Did you know certain airlines have dedicated family check-in desks? Or allow extra baggage allowance for babies? Or offer “Flying Nannies” onboard?
Check out our gallery of the best family-friendly airlines to see which features best suit your needs…and to know which airlines you just might want to avoid the next time you take a trip!
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We wish Emirates had been around when we were kids! The fam-friendliness starts from the moment you arrive at the airport (or even before); if you’re flying out of their Dubai hub, families can actually check in at home and have their baggage transported to the airport ahead of time. Alternatively, families can skip the queue with their dedicated family check-in desks in Dubai International Airport.
Once in the air, junior passengers can enjoy an award-winning in-flight entertainment system with more than 100 games and hundreds of kids’ shows and movies available in 40 different languages. They can also cuddle up with Emirates’ signature Fly With Me Animals (the newest collection of four creatures was just introduced in August!) and stay busy with puzzles, games and stickers, or, for older kids, Lonely Planet activity kit bags (we covered these when they launched a few years ago – so cool!).
And don’t worry, mama, Emirates didn’t forget about babies: little ones will receive their own vibrating plush toy (they’re even clever enough to ensure it can be attached to a stroller), and parents get a baby amenity kit with essentials like a bib, spoon, baby wipes, changing mat, diaper rash cream, and small diaper bag. So you’ll never have to worry about forgetting something at home again! They also have bottle warmers and baby food if you need it.
Throw in tasty and nutritious meals especially designed for kids 2 to 12, along with extra kids’ snack boxes, and we think kiddos will be pretty stoked!
Flying on Air New Zealand is a bit of a lark from the moment you watch their silly in-flight safety videos. Their approach to making travel fun and accessible for kids and families is just as noteworthy, particularly thanks to their innovative Skycouch, which features three Economy seats that can be converted into a flat, flexible surface ideal for sleeping, stretching out and lounging. There’s even a Skycouch infant harness that allows infants to remain lying down throughout the cruise phase of the flight. So far as we can tell, this is the only Economy Class in the world with a comfy lie-flat option for families. Pretty amazing, huh?
Throw in kid-friendly in-flight entertainment systems with specially curated movies, TV shows, games, and audio books and we think your little critters will be pretty content. Perhaps one of the cutest features on Air New Zealand is the tradition of having children help the flight crew distribute lollies to other passengers!
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If you’re flying to the UK, you can be cheered by the fact that BA has recently introduced a permanent family check-in zone and security lane at its Heathrow Hub. The airline also sits families together for free and provides children with their own free checked luggage allowance (in addition to the free checking of a stroller and car seat). BA also provides babies with free carrycots and baby seats on board flights. On longer trips, kids receive Skyflyer activity packs along with special kids’ meals and children’s entertainment. Recognizing that young tummies can start to rumble sooner (not to mention parents often can’t enjoy their own meal if they’re feeding their kids!), British Airways also brings children their meals before adults with their Feed Kids First programme.
Etihad is known for its “Flying Nanny” service, which was designed to give parents an extra pair of hands (and eyes) to watch over kids and give mom and dad a bit of a break in-flight (sadly they can’t carry kiddos or take them to the loo). Children also receive an “Etihad Explorers” activity pack with engaging entertainment like Origami, games, pompoms, flight certificates, materials for magic tricks, and even face painting (to be done by the Nanny!), and enjoy lots of kid-friendly in-flight entertainment.
Parents can also pre-order special meals for babies and children along with bassinets, and those families lucky enough to be traveling in Premium Class can also look forward to dedicated family lounges on the ground staffed with more Flying Nannies! And whether your arriving, departing, or simply in transit, don’t forget to arrange for Etihad’s complimentary Meet & Greet service to help you sail through the airport with ease, mama!
With the recently launched Oryx Kids Club on board this award-winning airline, kiddos can look forward to specially designed plush toys, activity packs, and special meal boxes with the airline’s own superheroes. The in-flight entertainment system features a huge range of children’s movies, video games and educational programmes. There’s even BabyTV – the world’s leading baby and toddler network – for babies!
Those lucky enough to fly in Qatar’s plush business class, the Qsuite, will discover the first-ever double bed in business class. And movable panels allow family members to transform adjoining seats into a social area where they can all hang out together. Family bonding takes flight!
We Singapore mamas know how lucky we are to have SQ as our national carrier – the airline’s legendary flight attendants are renowned for going out of their way to help care for children, whether that’s carrying a baby around during a flight so mama can eat her food in peace, or ensuring that families can be first to board so they can get nice and settled in. Children are also served meals first, and the crew even knows to space them out so parents don’t have to help two kids with a meal at one time. SQ also offers comfortable baby bassinets (make sure you book ahead, mama!) with cosy comforters you can take home after the flight.
Meanwhile, KrisWorld boasts a huge range of games, hours of children’s TV programming, the most popular kids’ movies, and even Cupcake Digital, a super cool children’s real-aloud book application (available on select A350 and 777 aircraft). Add in the fact that Singapore Airlines has collaborated with Disney since 2014 on children’s in-flight amenities, and you know your kiddos will always be looking forward to their next flight (they’re even considerate enough to change up the items every four months!).
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For families traveling to the U.S., United’s non-stop services to both San Francisco (two flights a day starting this October!) and Los Angeles aim to make long-haul travel as seamless as possible. We particularly love that the second San Fran flight will offer a kid-friendly 10:20pm departure, which will hopefully help little ones catch more zzzzs en route!
United also caters to families with children under the age of 2 by offering pre-boarding, and allows strollers to be checked free of charge. On board, kiddos aged 2 to 12 receive special child meals and enjoy heaps of kid-friendly entertainment. Mamas traveling with babies can book a bassinet and reserve seats free of charge, and the airline is also working to provide nursing mamas with Mamava nursing pods at airports across America.
Talk about convenience: if you’re flying out of Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Air France offers a handy baggage delivery and pick-up option, which certainly makes mamas’ lives a lot easier! The airline also provides a meet and greet service at the main airports throughout France, which helps ensure families in transit can move smoothly, even through security checkpoints. And for those fams lucky enough to be traveling Business Class, the airline provides a number of kids’ play areas within its lounges at CDG (some even stocked with PlayStation consoles!).
On board, Air France draws plaudits for allowing foldable strollers to be carried onboard. Hooray for no gate checking! Do see the website for size specifications, though, mama. In addition, families can book a bassinet in advance, and families traveling in La Première, Business and Premium Economy will also receive baby kits with a bib, diapers and Nivea baby wipes. Throw in organic infant and toddler meals and this just might be bebes’ favorite airline. (We mamas also won’t turn our noses up at the airline renowned for serving complimentary Champagne in all classes of travel!).
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