One of the more difficult aspects of vacationing with kids involves air travel. Kids who are used to running free don’t always take kindly to being asked to sit in one place for hours.
During our journeys, we’ve flown with many airlines and had different experiences on each of them. While this list is not exhaustive, it is simply our impressions of the airlines we have taken.
The Best Airlines:
Let’s cut right to the chase, shall we? The best airline for kids we’ve experienced is Air Transat. This Canadian airline caters to vacationers and has entire program dedicated to kids.
The Air Transat Kids Club is offered in Canada, France and the U.K. For kids that sign up, they receive a custom badge with a lanyard along with a small package of items, such as post cards and coupons for treats on board.
When booking your flight, if you choose to pay extra to reserve your seats, the reservation fee for the kids are waived as members of the kids club. This saves loads of dough and is a bit of recognition that most parents prefer to book their seats in advance.
At check-in, there is a dedicated desk for the kids club, and if not, a priority line can be used. It’s nice having an airline recognize that kids don’t do well with long lines!
What’s more, all the checked luggage is tagged as priority luggage so it comes out on the luggage carousel first. Again, such a small gesture but incredibly helpful when juggling kids in an airport.
On board the plane, all the kids receive an activity package with loaded with fun activities. And let’s not forget the most important distraction of all – the TV! Air Transat has either seat monitors or an app that lets you watch shows on your iPad that is loaded with content appropriate for kids of all ages.
Best of all are the flight crew that are friendly and comfortable with having kids on board. Admittedly, we were once one of “those” parents that had two screaming children for an entire flight to Portugal. The flight attendants were incredibly understanding and helpful during a stressful flight.
Other notable mentions include Sunwing, which is another Canadian holiday travel provider that offers a goodie bag for kids on board the plane and identifies family-friendly vacation resorts.
Westjet is another Canadian airline that prides itself on friendly service. Their staff are incredibly practical and accommodating. While most airlines allow parents to check in a stroller and a car seat free-of-charge (with infant travelers), Westjet allows either a playpen, stroller or car seat to be checked in for free. It’s nice to see an airline not sweat the small stuff and allow parents some flexibility!
The Not So Good Airlines:
While no airline we’ve experienced is terrible with children, they certainly could do more to make air travel easier for kids.
Air Canada is a particularly frustrating airline. We often find their staff to be quite indifferent to the needs of their passengers. Our last time flying with them, we were waiting in a long check-in line only to have all but one of the check-in agents disappear from their desks. We waited another ten minutes for their replacements to arrive and get set up. Why wouldn’t they wait for their replacements to arrive before leaving the check-in counter?
We also found Air Canada’s stroller policy annoying. They only allow for a small umbrella stroller to be checked in for free. As we have two kids, we would rather take one larger stroller that can handle both of them, than check-in two umbrella strollers. In the end, they never ended up charging us to check-in our contraband stroller.
Update: Air Canada now that a program for kids, called Skyriders. It gives them a luggage tag, a logbook and surprises on-board their flights. It doesn’t make flying any easier for the parents, but it is a move in the right direction!
After our first child, we spent a month in France. During our flight to Paris, Air France was incredible. They gave us plenty of room and allowed us a seat for our son. The only difficulty was the airline would not allow us to reserve a seat that had a bassinet. We could only be assigned these seats at check-in, which caused us incredible anxiety. Our fears were realized on our return journey when they released all the bassinet seats to passengers without children. We were lucky in being able to sit together, but other families were separated and left with screaming, overtired children.
In summary, some airlines are better to take with children. These are often the airlines that recognize children are people too, not just an inconvenience.
Be absolutely sure to read the airlines’ policies on travelling with children and small infants as each airline is different!
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