How to fly stress-free with kids
Your holiday need not start with a headache
Go armed with our tips and you’ll find flying with kids is as easy as A, B, C.
Forewarned is forearmed, so whether you’re flying locally with a budget airline or long-haul on a fancy one, we’ve got you covered. Planning ahead can mean the difference between skipping off the plane or arriving at your destination worn out, shunned by fellow passengers and not on speaking terms with your family.
Children two to 11 pay a child’s fare, while those under two are classified as infants and are not given their own seat. Coral Economy and Pearl Business flyers can arrange a bassinet, or cradle, for a baby under 10 months and less than 10kg which are available on a first-come, first-served basis – so book ahead. You’ll need to book child-friendly meals 24 hours ahead, too.
Families with young children board first, giving you time to settle. Food and milk for infants can be carried on board, although security staff are required to check the contents so factor in time for this. You might be asked to taste them. On board, children are fed first so your little ones are satisfied by the time your meal arrives. Hipp Organic organic baby food is available on request.
Travellers in first or business class departing or transiting through Abu Dhabi can enjoy a family room with books, toys, a TV and children’s menu, while qualified nannies will watch your little ones.
On long-haul flights you might be greeted at the gate by a Flying Nanny who’s on hand to provide an extra pair of hands. Flying Nannies have been approved by Norland, a British childcare training college for early years professionals, and come equipped with a goody bag of kids’ activities, so your child might make hand puppets, origami, learn magic or join other kids in a drawing competition. Etihad’s in-flight entertainment system includes kids’ film and animated characters Kundai, Boo, Zoe and Jamool, which appeal to pre-schoolers, while teenagers can watch action titles, play 30-60 games and listen to teen-idols such as Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. The system has a parental lock feature, which allows you to block unsuitable content.
Infants under two can be carried on your lap but all children over two need their own seat and must be strapped in when the seatbelt signs are on. Kids between six and 36 months may use approved car-type seats – check the website to see if yours is suitable.
Children under five are not allowed to travel alone, but kids between five and 12 can, and are treated as unaccompanied minors. Children 12-16 travelling alone are also entitled to this service if you request it. You must escort your child to the airport and check them in two hours before departure. After check-in, a ground host will guide them through passport control and security checks until they board, then cabin crew will take over. Transit time must be limited to four hours. On arrival, your child will be met by a ground host and escorted through immigration, baggage claim and customs before you’re reunited in arrivals. www.etihad.com (Global 24-hour service 02 599 0000).
Complimentary pushchairs are available at Dubai International Airport on arrival and for transit passengers.
Families with young children are given priority boarding. Infants (under two) held in your lap should be restrained with a seat belt extension. You can also use infant car seats – check the website to ensure yours is an approved style. Bassinets for babies under 11kg are available on a first come, first serve basis and must be booked in advance, along with children’s meals. Milk and meals you bring on board will be warmed by cabin crew and there are changing tables in the toilets.
Pre-schoolers can meet cuddly monsters Jimbob, Tezz, Camus and Wagga – blanket buddies wrapped in soft fleece blankets, critters worn on a seat belt to promote safety or magnetic sketchers to keep your kids entertained. Young flyers will enjoy colourful headsets for children’s radio, films, programmes and games, podcasts and CDs, crayons and magazines – they can also follow the aircraft’s progress and see a pilot’s-eye view of takeoff and landing. They get a complimentary birthday cake when travelling on their big day, too. Older children will enjoy Quiksilver goodies such as surfer-style Velcro wallets and fun-fact game cards, a Dr Seuss story book and eye masks for flights over five hours. Children who join the Skywards Skysurfers programme can exchange air miles for free flights, toys, books and free trips to Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai. They will also benefit from preferred seating, a website just for Skysurfers with fun activities, private suites, shower spas and flat-bed seats.
Under fives aren’t allowed to fly alone. The airline’s unaccompanied minors service is designed for children aged five-12 travelling alone, as long as they have paid for an adult ticket. Young passengers aged 12-16 are entitled to the unaccompanied minors service on request. Kids under eight travelling in a different cabin class to their parents are considered unaccompanied minors, so they also pay adult prices.
If your child is travelling without you, check them in two hours before departure. They can board before other passengers. Emirates staff will accompany them to the aeroplane door and hand them to a guardian. Transit times must be less than four hours (eight hours in Dubai). You must stay at the airport until the flight has departed, and a parent must provide ID when collecting them. Air Canada does not accept unaccompanied minors from other airlines, while Italian nationals 13 and under travelling alone must provide documents from local police or the Italian embassy or consulate. www.emirates.com (600 555 555).
Every infant – aged between 15 days and 24 months at the time of travel – must be accompanied by an adult. Infants only pay taxes and are not entitled to check in or hand luggage. Children over 24 months pay an adult fare.
Bassinets should be booked in advance and are subject to availability. They are only available for passengers sitting in the front row, so if you require one, remember this when booking your seats. If you’re travelling with a baby, you can use the toilet’s changing tables and emergency nappies.
Children over 12 are allowed to travel alone, while kids under 12 must be accompanied by a passenger who is over 16.
On board, a communal TV shows family-friendly films. Complimentary magazines with colouring in pages are provided for over threes. www.airarabia.com (02 631 5888).
Under 12s are not permitted to travel alone as the airline doesn’t offer an unaccompanied minor programme.
When you book through the website, call centre or flydubai travel agent, infant fares for under twos will be Dhs50 plus taxes per direction, and connection flights will be Dhs100 plus taxes per direction. Infant fares for bookings made by other travel agents will be 20 per cent of an adult fare, as well as taxes.
Once on board, Mia, a character from the popular Freej cartoon series, leads kids through a safety demonstration. Magazines, colouring books and toys are not available but your kids will be entertained by child-friendly films, TV programmes and radio – there is 1,000 hours’ worth to choose from. www.flydubai.com (600 544 445).
For the time being, Rotana Jet has no family policy. www.rotanajet.com (02 444 3366).
Abu Dhabi International Airport
If you need to while away the hours, make a beeline for the play areas, which are designed for toddlers. If you need to change a nappy or feed your baby, toilets are equipped with changing tables. Complimentary pushchairs are available at each terminal. www.adac.ae (02 505 5000).
Dubai International Airport
Most of the children’s facilities, such as play areas and family lounge areas, are in terminal three, from which Emirates and Qantas fly. Elsewhere there are dedicated baby care rooms so you can change and feed your baby in private. If your flight is delayed, take the kids for a swim in the G-Force Health Club in Dubai International Hotel – it’s Dhs55 an hour for the pool, Dhs85 for the pool and Jacuzzi for two hours, and Dhs125 for the pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and gym for four hours – kids under seven go free. Who said flying with kids is a hassle? www.dubaiairports.ae (Airport 04 224 5555; pool 04 224 4000).
Tips to keep you sane
Before you go
• Get enough sleep the night before
• Stick to your child’s usual routine as closely as possible
• Explain what will happen at the airport and on the plane to prepare your kids
What to take
• Wet wipes and spare nappies
• A present, such as a new toy
• Games, books and your child’s favourite blanket or teddy
• Spare clothes in case of accidents, plus layers as the temperature on board varies
• Baby milk, formula or baby food, which are allowed through airport security despite restrictions on liquids in hand baggage
• Sweets to soothe your child’s ears while the air pressure changes during take-off/landing
At the airport
• Travelling with another adult? Then take turns looking after the kids and resting
• Give yourself plenty of time to get to the gate early so you can avoid queues and board ahead of the rush to give you and your kids time to settle
• Reassure your children they will get their precious items back once they’ve gone through the security scanner
On the plane
• Encourage your kids to blow their nose to soothe ear ache during take off and landing
• Try to stay calm – the more relaxed you are, the more your kids will be
• Avoid sugary snacks and drinks, as these stimulate childrens’ energy levelsBy Sarah Riches
Time Out Dubai,