5 of the most kid-friendly airlines in the world

 

Have you ever felt all eyes on you – and your children – while waiting to board at the gate? The truth is your anxiety is likely warranted. As a parent, the possibility of things “going sour” during a flight are endless: delays causing snacks to run out, ear pain caused by cabin pressure, and of course, a toddler’s boredom resulting in cries and tantrums. The looks from other passengers can get intimidating and even worse, unsympathetic flight staff can make one feel as if no one is on your side.

It certainly doesn’t need to be this way. Some airlines are known to be extremely family friendly, sometimes going above and beyond one’s expectations. The five airline carriers below are equipped with compassionate staff and unique amenities giving “flying the friendly skies” a whole new meaning. It’s always wise to confirm amenities and offerings with the airline prior to booking.

Air Tahiti Nui

While French Polynesia may be more of a honeymooner’s paradise, Air Tahiti Nui makes sure that old and young alike are treated like royalty no matter their destination, whether it’s Tahiti or Paris. No matter if you’re flying economy or business class, Air Tahiti Nui gives their younger travelers activity backpacks to keep them entertained for the long haul. The activity packs for children include a great backpack, magnetic puzzles, regular puzzles, coloring books, crayons and a bandana. The flight crew also checks in regularly with their little passengers. For infants, a large bottle of water for making formula, a bib, a changing pad, wipes, a diaper, alcohol wipes and a rattle are provided. Even with all this, parents don’t need to worry about snacks and in-flight meals as there is always something agreeable to a child’s palate on Air Tahiti Nui.

Emirates

The kid amenities start on the ground with Emirates. During check-in, parents are provided with Emirates strollers to wheel their tots through the airport. If you’re flying business or first class, there are special play areas in the airport lounges to wheel them to! Once you’re on board, the entertainment system, called ICE, has hundreds of channels, which includes new release family movies, Disney classics, audio stories and interactive games (ability to play against other passengers). This, in itself, can keep children occupied for hours on end. For infants, there are bassinets available and baby formula on board, as well as toys. The Emirates Skysurfer program enables kids ages 2-16 years old to start racking up miles, if they are frequent travelers. These miles can go towards anything from future flights to bookstore gift certificates to Wild Wadi Water Park tickets in Dubai.

British Airways

On British Airways, a “Feed Kids First” policy exists. This is certainly a policy that cannot be beat. Little jetsetters receive nutritious meals plated with healthy fruits and vegetables before adults, which means it buys parents some quiet time and perhaps peace during their own meals! BA is another one that provides activity packs, designed to look like Paddington Bear’s well-traveled suitcase for 3-5 year olds. While most airlines allow children under the age of 2 to fly for free on your lap, British Airways takes it to the next level and gives you a free seat, as long as you bring a Britax car seat and call in advance to make this arrangement.

Virgin Atlantic

It seems like the airlines are catching on. Children on Virgin Atlantic also receive an activity backpack, which includes a baseball cap, coloring books, sunglasses, toys, games and a digital watch. Tot meals are served on child-size plates and silverware and the palatable menu of chicken fingers, pizza, chocolate, string cheese, yogurt, fruit and veggies will only leave kids wanting more. Rest-assured, Virgin Atlantic also offers cots for babies and has complimentary diapers, bottles, baby foods and changing facilities on all flights.

Gulf Air

Gulf Air takes the cake on their family offering. There is a Sky Nanny program… a what? Yes, a Sky Nanny program where someone is available to help you as soon as you step on the plane, from setting up a bassinet to playing games with the children, allowing parents to get settled in. If you fancy a quiet meal or the luxury of watching a flick without being interrupted, Gulf Air’s Sky Nanny can occupy your children. Needless to say, if you’ve forgotten anything, they will be there with complimentary diapers, coloring books, baby food and whatever you may need on board.

Comments (18)

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  1. Maryam Ardekani says:

    Great article! Had no idea there are so many kid friendly options out there for parents when it comes to air travel!

  2. Christine says:

    I wish one of those flew directly to Frankfurt from Vancouver – your article will help me to make a wise choice with regard to our travel plans via Europe next Spring – thanks!

  3. Anna Cohen says:

    Yes I wish those airlines flew where I flew and particularly if there was a more budget friendly airline that offered such services… Great article!

  4. Shadrack Osewe says:

    Brilliant article and very timely for me. I have an upcoming 20 hour flight with a three year old in a fortnight, luckily with one of the airlines mentioned (British Airways) I hope other airlines get to read this article and become more accommodating!

  5. Moises says:

    Great article! Very informative, I’ll be sure to look into these airlines on my next family vacation.

  6. Joanne says:

    Great information, thank you. I had no idea about British Airways and the Britax car seat, good to know!

  7. Michelle says:

    Wow, I learned a lot! Thanks for the great article! We may have to plan our next family vacation around the destinations these airlines fly to.

  8. Malin says:

    Brilliant article, I would also recommend flying SAS with kids since they are very child friendly and give a little word of warning for Lufthansa, LH are great with kids as long as you fly business, been doing both longer and shorter trips but a bit of a pain in economy.

  9. Thank you for the article! I am glad to see Emirates there as they have been our preferred choice for travelling ever since we had our first child. We travel a lot, but I mostly travel on my own with kids! They have a policy of “families first” after their first and business class are loaded.

    Kids love it, it is certainly their favourite! As soon as they get on board they are given some toys, colouring books and usually small bags – this means that I do not have to carry any toys in my hand luggage. Kids are always fed first, meals are tasty, packaging is attractive and small snaks are there as well as a main meal. Crew are very attentive to kids and mine always manage to charm them into giving them extra chocolates! Entertainment system is great and I do not see or hear them throughout the flights.

    Strollers at Dubai were a life saver when kids were small, Dubai airport is perfect to transit with kids – there is an aquarium near one of the duty free shops, cars on display, lots of small places to have juice or a light snack. Strollers are available only in Dubai but it is understandable as it is impossible to control it in other airports.

    I must add a few words about Qatar as we had to use them a couple of months ago. Also very child friendly: families were loaded first after first & business class passengers, gifts on board were given straight away and were great, meals were served first as well. Doha is much smaller and no strollers though, but my kids do not need those anymore! They have a nice play area too. I would fly Qatar with kids anytime again!

  10. Marcus says:

    We have been impressed recently by Brussels Airlines. They also have a “kids-eat-first” policy as well as some fun toys, like a puzzle and coloring pencils. And this is on their BRU – BKO – OUA – BRU route!

  11. Peri says:

    Keep in mind…none of these are “budget” airlines. You are paying for this service.

    I remember, as a kid, getting playing cards, nice pilot or stewardess wings, and things like crayons when I flew. When airlines had to cut the cost of flights to compete, there went the freebies :(

  12. Aleney says:

    I have to say I’m a huge Emirates fan, they are amazing to families, but I find Singapore Airlines is pretty good to kids and parents too. :-)

  13. Michael says:

    Interesting, but contradicts our experience travelling with 3 children across Europe, Asia, and the US. We vowed never to use Emirates again after they moved our 4 year old son to sit 3 rows behind us, even after having reserved our seats. Virgin goodie bags are good, but on a long-haul flight the seat-back TVs are extremely handy, but those on Virgin flights are too unreliable. With little ones, it’s useful to be able to take strollers to the door of the plane, this is unconsistently applied, Emirates wouldn’t let us but British Airways always does. My recommendations are British Airways for long haul for the reasons above but also…. It works; and within Europe, Easyjet, who allow free advance boarding and strollers to the airplane door… And again are reliable.

  14. Paul Johnson says:

    Thanks, Michael… that sounds shocking re: Emirates! What happened exactly? And did you take the matter up with them directly afterwards?

  15. Michael says:

    With the Emirates situation our youngest was in a bassinet (fold-down shelf with a kind of cot) at the front of the cabin. We swapped our 4 yr old with my wife so she sat a few rows back and I sat with the 2 little ones and the priority passenger who had trumped us. It was only a problem on the way out, on the way back the priority passenger took one look at us and decided he’d be better sitting elsewhere so swapped with my wife. Emirates told us that seat reservations are never requested rather than guaranteed, and that they couldn’t ensure families would sit together. I should add that we were (as usual) in economy class, and this was several years ago so they may have improved. Also I am not sure if the inability to take the stroller to the plane was an airport or airline issue, but its never been a problem with BA or Easyjet.

  16. Wow ! thanks for the tips…I travel all the time with my 3 little girls and I do my best to choose a kid’s friendly airline :)

  17. DohaDoha says:

    EMIRATES are you joking, obviously you have not looked past their marketing campaign. Their baggage policy for kids sux. You are allowed 30 kg but if you want to take a car seat, stroller etc then this MUST BE PART OF THEIR 30kg. On most normal airlines these items are free of charge and not included in baggage allowance. Emirates needs to realise that in all western countries it is a requirement that children be appropriately restrained whilst travelling in vehicles, this means that they should not be hanging out of cars, being held by nannies, sitting on top of the car or bouncing around the back as is the norm in the ME

  18. maciej wasil says:

    Couldn’t disagree more that BA are child friendly. They sent us confirmation we had the bassinet seat yet when we arrived they have us a lap seat. We had splurged on premium economy thinking it was better but since it was lap or bassinet in economy, we chose the latter. On their website and according to the staff at the time, if they don’t give you a reserved seat and move you, you are entitled to the fare difference. Amazingly, they refuse to honour that, on the grounds that their system did not have the reservation, even though the email they sent us said that we had it. Their customer service has a reputation for being poor, and unfortunately we experienced it first hand.

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