We speak to family travel experts from Etihad, Marhaba and Emirates to find out exactly what you’re entitled to when travelling with the brood and what services are in place to help you on your way.
Who: Aubrey Tiedt, Vice President Guest Services at Etihad Airways
Do Etihad Airways provide any special services to families that other airlines do not?
We launched a dedicated in-flight child care assistance program for families last year, led by the introduction of a Flying Nanny onboard our long-haul flights. Identified by bright orange aprons, the Flying Nannies are trained in conjunction with Norland College, the UK’s leading training college for childcare professionals, and provide an extra pair of hands, whether it’s helping to settle children for bed, keeping them entertained or simply offering advice and support to parents.
What is the pricing structure for families? Up to what age do children travel for free?
Guests under two years of age on the date of travel are classified as infants for fare purposes and may be carried on the lap of an adult at 10 per cent of the full fare. Anyone aged between 2-11 years is classified as a child and require their own seat, which is priced at 75 per cent of the full fare.
What is the maximum weight of the bassinet Is there any extra charge for booking one?
The maximum weight for each bassinet is 10kg and they are provided for babies up to 10 months old. The bassinets are available on a first come first serve basis and there is no additional charge for booking one.
What is the luggage allowance generally? Are special luggage provisions made for families?
Etihad Airways offers one of the industry’s most competitive luggage allowances. If you are travelling in Diamond First Class, the allowance is 50kg for checked in luggage and 12kg for carry-on luggage, while Pearl Business Class is 40kg for checked in luggage and 12kg for carry-on luggage. In Coral Economy Class, the allowance is 30kg for checked in luggage and 7kg of carry-on luggage, and for infants in any class of travel, we offer an additional 10kg of checked in luggage and one extra 5kg of carry-on luggage.
Is assistance provided for families with small babies from check in to the aircraft?
The popular Etihad Departure Meet & Greet Service at Abu Dhabi International Airport includes a personal welcome by a member of our hospitality team and assistance throughout departure process, including escort from check-in desk to the Etihad Airways Premium Class Lounge. The Etihad Meet & Greet Service is exclusively available for Etihad Airways guests at Abu Dhabi International Airport and must be booked at least 48 hours ahead of travel. In addition, special assistance is available if required and can be requested at the time of reservation.
What other special ground services are provided for families?
For guests travelling in Diamond First or Pearl Business Class, and departing or transiting through Abu Dhabi, our fantastic Family Rooms offer a number of fun ways to keep youngsters entertained, including books, toys, TV and a great children’s menu. What’s more, our qualified nannies will watch over little ones, allowing parents time to relax and enjoy the other lounge facilities.
In addition, we have additional support staff in the airport during peak travel periods, who assist families to check-in desks where they can receive prompt attention without having to queue. Once it’s time to board their flight, families with young children will be called first for pre-boarding, giving them extra time to get settled onboard.
We also offer extended unaccompanied minor services. Children above the age of five and below the age of 12 travelling alone without parents/guardians are treated as Unaccompanied Minors. Young adults from the age of 12 and below the age of 16 travelling alone are also entitled to the UM service if specifically requested by their parent or guardian.
What is the Etihad stroller procedure? Are families allowed to take their stroller to the gate? If yes, will the stroller be available to them as soon as they step off the aircraft at their destination?
During the check-in process, we will place luggage tags on any push chairs or strollers at the request of the parents or guardians. The push chair or stroller can still be used within the airport, and will be placed in the aircraft hold at the departure gate shortly before boarding. On arrival at destination, they will either be returned at the aircraft door or will be collected at the luggage carousel. Guests arriving at Abu Dhabi are welcome to use one of our complimentary strollers, which are available in the terminal, close to the gate.
What arrival services are provided for families travelling with Etihad?
Similar to our departure service, we also offer an Etihad Meet & Greet Service for arrivals and transit whereby guests are accompanied at every stage of the airport process, with unique benefits such as fast-track immigration, assistance with baggage collection, lounge access and guidance to the airport exit, depending on which product is selected and must be booked at least 48 hours ahead of travel.
Who: Louise Emma Clarke, mum of two and seasoned long haul traveller
What is your number one tip when travelling with kids?
Plan! Travelling thousands of miles with kids in tow might seem like an impossible task, but it’s nothing that a bit of planning can’t solve. I start writing a packing list a few weeks before we travel, working out what we need to take with us, what will already be at our destination, and what we can borrow or hire. The suitcases come out at least a week before to start packing into and I make several trips to the mall or supermarket to stock up on entertainment for the flight and essentials for the trip. Left to the last minute, the whole process would be stressful, but I use it as an opportunity to start getting excited about our trip – and in manageable doses, it’s actually quite enjoyable.
Is there a particular airline/company that stands out to you in terms of dealing with families?
We always travel with Emirates as we find them so family friendly. They always promote us to the front of queues, help us on board (once an air steward even took the baby so I could eat my dinner when I was travelling alone), provide you with buggies for the airport, and have a good variety of kid’s entertainment/food/gifts for the kids on board.
Can you share a memorable travel experience with us?
We travelled to Thailand for our family holiday last October. We only had one child then (aged 18 months), but I was heavily pregnant so was worried about running around after a toddler in a place that wasn’t child-friendly. We didn’t need to worry as the company we used for our accommodation – The Villas (www.thevillas-phuket.com) - thought of everything to make our stay stress-free. We had a kid’s menu from the in-house chef that we could order from every day, cots and bedding provided, highchairs in the kitchen, and even a safety gate all the way round the pool so our still-unsteady toddler couldn’t slip in. They even upgraded us to a bigger villa for no extra cost to make our stay more comfortable.
Do you have a system/method you following when packing for the kids? How do you remember to bring everything you need?
I write a list for each child, working through the day from wake-up to bedtime systematically in my mind to make sure we have everything we need. I then write a separate list for myself and for hand baggage. Once I’ve done the thinking, it’s only the physical job of packing I have to worry about, ticking off each thing on the list as I add them to the suitcase. And if I know I have everything I need for the journey in my hand luggage, the stress is removed from that situation too.
What have you learned over the years from travelling with little ones?
Not to stress about it. The first time we flew with our three month old, I lost sleep in the lead-up. But having travelled so many times now, I have realised there is really no point worrying. At the end of the day, it’s only one day of your life – if the baby cries, you’ll never see those people again anyway, so why worry? If you forget something, there will be shops on the way where you can buy it.
What are your essential travel items for keeping the kids occupied in the airport/plane/car?
My rule is to buy one new thing for every hour of the journey – this usually includes sticker books, colouring books, new apps on the ipad, flashcards, and reading books. Every hour, I whip a new one out of my bag, which keeps the toddler happy throughout the journey (or so the theory goes!) I must admit that when we travelled with our toddler on a two day car journey through Europe last summer, we also bought an in-car DVD player and let him watch for a while when he got bored.
Who: Marhaba manager, Jyoti Bhagwani
Marhaba’s Manager, Jyoti Bhagwani, has been helping make the travel experience easier for parents and children for more than 20 years. Here are her helpful hints to make your journey as smooth as possible
1. Free Offers
Many people don’t realise the credit card in their wallet might be one of the best travel tools. Several credit card companies offer free lounge access to cardholders and their families. Airport lounges can help alleviate much of the stress involved when travelling with kids, with food, kid’s areas, easy-access restrooms, and televisions parents and children will be able to relax and wait for the flight.
Try to avoid delayed flights, missed connections, and other scheduling woes by booking the first flight of the day. While you and your kids might hate waking up that early during the holidays, airports are less busy in the morning. Give yourself plenty of time to check-in, go through security, and get to your gate - the last thing you want is to run for your flight with stroller, kids, and nappy bag in tow.
Hunger leads to grumpiness, grumpiness leads to frustration, and frustration leads to a difficult travel day. Make sure the kids are fed, preferably on low-sugar, energy-sustaining food. Pack healthy snacks - granola bars, fruit, raisins - to get you through to the meal service on board. You can bring your baby’s milk through security, just let the staff know you have it in your hand luggage. Remember to order the child’s meal in advance. Kids’ meals usually arrive before adult meals, allowing you to feed your little one before your food arrives.
If you have a tablet, bring it and make sure it’s loaded with kid-friendly apps. Few things will ease the pain of a long layover, or delayed flight like entertainment. A quick Google search will direct you to the many free, educational apps for different ages. These will engage your kids’ minds, while giving you some much needed peace. Don’t forget your charger and travel adapter, to make sure those tablets are ready when needed. If you prefer non-electronic options, bring books, toys and anything else to keep your kids occupied.
5. Health and well-being
Pack essential supplies in your checked luggage. Sun protection, a basic first aid kit, medicines for diarrhea and fever, child-friendly anti-mosquito lotion and details of your travel health insurance will ensure you are prepared for any occurrence, no matter how small. The last thing you want is to be searching for a pharmacy in a foreign town or paying extortionate prices for sunscreen at a hotel.
6. At your destination
Many resorts offer kids clubs and activities for the little ones, while city hotels may offer limited children’s facilities at the property. Most hotels offer a crib or a child’s bed for free - make sure you let them know in advance. Also book road transport that includes the appropriate car seats for your children if you are not planning to take your own. Some countries offer taxis with child seats, but they need to be booked in advance. Car rental companies also offer the add-on option to include infant and child seats.
Emirates Family Services
Special services for children and infants include:
• Priority boarding for families with small children
• Special fares for children aged two to 11
• 10kg free baggage allowance for infants not occupying a seat
• Special brightly-coloured child-sized headsets for a snug fit
• Baby kits, bassinets, nappies and baby change tables
• Baby bottles, milk formula and two types of jar food as well as food/ bottle heating services
• Special ‘stroller’ delivery service for parents with babies in Dubai, provided immediately after disembarking
Unaccompanied Minors Service
Parents whose children are traveling alone can be assured of a smooth and stress-free journey from start to finish with Emirates’ friendly and helpful staff. The unaccompanied minors service is designed for children from five to under 12 years travelling alone, or children under 8 years of age travelling in a different cabin class than their parents. This service has to be booked in advance and includes:
• Separate check-in facilities
• Dedicated staff to accompany the young traveller to the aircraft and throughout the journey
• Dedicated lounge with toys and entertainment for kids
What do Marhaba offer?
marhaba operate in Dubai International airport, Dubai World Central at Al Maktoum International airport and Bahrain International airport
In each airport, marhaba offer several services to make the family travel experience more enjoyable, including Family Meet & Greet service, and lounge access. The Family Meet & Greet service includes:
• Meet and greet on departure at the curbside or on arrival as you enter the terminal
• Accompany and escort you all the way through the airport formalities
• Fast track through immigration and security and help with baggage on arrival
• Baby stroller
• Priority buggy car transfer and hand baggage trolley (on request, and subject to availability)
• In addition, regardless of your airline or class of travel, you have access to marhaba’s exclusive airport lounges. Open 24-hours a day, the lounges are a great place for the whole family to relax, eat and refresh, before or after your flight. With no need to pre-book, free internet access and a range of food and drink (including hot and cold buffet, vegetarian options, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks) parents and kids alike will welcome the break.