Children and Toddlers

What you should know to help prepare for the flight Children and Toddlers


Children and Toddlers

Travelling with children can be stressful or simple, depending on many variables, such as the preparedness of the parents, the temperament of the child, and luck. Flights with a young baby are easiest, as the baby is likely to sleep through the flight, but an older baby or child will need to be entertained and made comfortable. On a long-haul flight, this can be a challenge. However, airlines have in-flight entertainment that will hold the attention of an older child. These include children’s programming, films, and games.

In addition to keeping children occupied in a small space for what can be long periods, concerns abound on issues such as safety, transportation around the airport, and arranging the flight itself. Babies get special allowances with most carriers, and airlines have special services for looking after a child who is travelling alone. Parents may not be familiar with airport and airline policies where children are concerned, so research is essential. It is also common for noisy or misbehaving children to make a flight unpleasant. In this case, it helps for the parents to be as prepared as possible, so the children are comfortable and occupied to avoid disturbing others.

Family Flying

Flying with a child requires preparation, though organisation is easier if it is an older child. Parents of a baby will need many items to hand, and it helps to pack carry-on luggage in a way that makes the most needed items readily accessible. Baby bottles, formula, wipes, nappies, food, juice, and favourite toys are just a few of the things that may need a place in the carry-on bag. Toddlers and older children will need toys and books to occupy them during the flight. It helps to bring familiar toys and blankets as a comfort to a child, as well as something new to interest them.

Children’s Fares

Children, babies, and toddlers may fly at lower fares than those of adults, though some airlines charge full price, regardless of the passenger’s age. Up to age 2, children can sit on an adult’s lap free or for a fraction of the adult fare – usually 10 per cent. Some airlines give a lap child a small baggage allowance. However, a baby is safer strapped into a car seat in his or her own airline seat.

Children Flying Alone

Children are typically eligible for an airline’s unaccompanied minor services between the ages of 5 and 12. Under these services, the airline staff look after a child who is travelling alone. This service must be requested in advance, and will cost a fee on top of the standard adult fare. An adult must accompany the child and remain in the terminal until the flight has departed, and the child will only be released to a designated adult at the other end. Airlines have different rules for unaccompanied minors, so it is important to check with the individual carrier. Teenagers can usually fly on their own without being considered unaccompanied minors, though some airlines still allow them to use the services. However, nationals of some countries, such as Portugal, Spain, and France, are still considered minors up to age 18, and require parental consent. Italian children must carry special documentation to fly alone, up to age 14. Check-in times for unaccompanied minors vary by airline, from one to several hours. The parents will have to fill out a form and designate an adult to collect the child at the other end, who will need to present identification before the airline will release the child to them.

Special Services

Most airlines offer special services to families, particularly those with babies. Families are usually allowed to pre-board, so they can situate themselves before the plane fills with passengers. Basinets for the bulkhead seats may be available for small babies. These sometimes must be reserved; other times they are first come, first serve. Some carriers check buggies and car seats free of charge, and many will check buggies at the gate, so parents can still use them to transport small children around the airport. The plane may have formula, baby food, wipes, and nappies on board, for parents who come up short. Airline staff can boil water for formula and warm baby food. Carriers may even have family lounges, or allow families to use the express check-in queue.

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