United Airlines has introduced a new seating policy designed to help families travelling with children find seats together on flights for free.
On flights where side-by-side seats are not available, United passengers will be able to switch to another flight to the same destination. There will be no service charge or fare difference applicable for travellers that switch flights due to a lack of adjacent seats on the original service.
“We’re focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat,” said Linda Jojo, chief customer officer for United.
Adjacent seat options will be available on United Airlines immediately, with the complete policy change planned to go into effect in early March.
The move is designed to make travelling with children easier and will be welcomed by parents who will know that when you’re flying with little ones, every little gesture helps.
Child-friendly offerings on international airlines can range from generous to non-existent. Whether it’s being able to make free seat reservations, enjoy priority boarding or access child-friendly in-flight entertainment, airlines have many ways to make air travel easier for families.
The National compared family services on several international carriers to round up the best airlines for family-friendly travel.
Search the chart below to find details of the family perks that airlines offer.
Known for its luxury offerings, Emirates also offers plenty of travel perks for families.
This includes complimentary prams at Dubai International Airport and family check-in desks. There are also dedicated ground staff and cabin crew, trained to assist families when travelling. On board, there’s plenty to keep children entertained including animal-themed soft toys, more than 100 kids channels on the in-flight entertainment system and travel-themed activity packs and magazines created by Emirates and Lonely Planet Kids.
Families travelling with babies will also get a handy infant kit containing essentials such as nappies, bibs and wipes, and there are organic baby meals available. The airline says it “aims to seat families together” but if you want to guarantee that everyone will be next to each other, you have to pay for seat reservations.
The UAE’s national airline is a family-friendly option with a host of perks for those travelling with children.
Last year, Etihad introduced its Little VIP campaign, as part of which families are offered dedicated check-in desks and priority boarding, plus a host of in-flight amenities all themed around Warner Bros. These include Tweety blankets for infants, Scooby-Doo activity kits, plus fun lunch boxes and a variety of snacks for children.
For passengers travelling with infants, as well as complimentary bassinet seats available on request, there’s also an additional baggage allowance that includes a 10kg checked bag and a 5kg cabin bag.
The world’s best airline in 2022 according to Skytrax is also noted for its family-friendly offerings and Qatar Airways’ home airport has five children’s activity centres for young flyers to expel any preflight energy.
Children flying with Qatar Airways are welcomed into the Oryx Kids Club, a service filled with touches designed to make journeys more fun. Cabin crew distribute activity packs filled with soft toys, colouring books and more, and children’s meals are served in colourful reusable lunch boxes that kids can take with them after the flight.
Infants are also looked after with free bassinet seats for parents and special kits handed out that contain nappies and baby food. There’s also an additional 10kg of luggage for parents travelling with infants.
All Nippon Airways, or ANA as it is better known, ticks several boxes for family-friendly flying.
The Japanese airline makes sure that families can opt to sit together on flights by offering free seat reservations. Parents travelling solo with children under three can also request the airline’s special airport assistance, which provides an escort from the check-in counter to the boarding gate, and again on arrival at the destination.
Loaner strollers are available to use right up until travellers board the plane, or passengers can opt to bring their own strollers on-board, so long as they fit within cabin baggage size restrictions, however, no additional pieces of cabin baggage can be carried alongside strollers.
Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa scores points for some of its family-friendly travel policies, including allowing infants (or more likely their guardians) a generous additional 23kg of checked luggage.
The airline also offers free bassinet seats for those flying with infants and has special children’s meals, plus a limited quantity of baby meals available on flights. Families travelling with children under the age of five are welcome to pre-board flights and those booked to fly in premium cabins can let children enjoy the dedicated kids area in the Lufthansa business lounge at Frankfurt Airport.
Given it has a giant kangaroo as its mascot, it’s no surprise that the national airline of Australia offers some family perks. Children flying Qantas are given Joey Club kits containing activity books, Etch A Sketches and cosy kangaroo socks on international flights. Special children’s meals are also available.
Parents travelling with infants might not find the airline quite as family-friendly, as those flying with children under the age of two have to bring their own baby food, and will have to pay to secure a bassinet seat. Qantas does have some nappies and wipes on board for infants, although the airline notes that the supply is limited.
One of the friendliest airlines for family travel, Air Canada offers a host of features designed to make flying with kids easier. As well as free seat reservations for families and preboarding for those travelling with children up to the age of six, Canada’s largest airline has dedicated family check-in desks at major airports, meaning families don’t need to wait in long queues.
Children each get their own colourful luggage tag as a souvenir of their flight and special meals for infants and children are available on all Air Canada flights.
The national airline of Saudi Arabia offers a few family services for travellers.
Free bassinet seats for infants can be booked before travel and children will be offered special meals, plus given kits containing colouring books and crayons. To sit together, passengers must pay to guarantee the service and while preboarding is available to those with small children, passengers must request the service from a member of Saudia’s ground staff.
Parents can bring one piece of baby equipment — such as a stroller or car seat on board — but there is no additional luggage allowance for infants.
A new policy that allows passengers travelling with children to pre-book seats together free of charge makes things easier for family travel on United Airlines.
The US carrier also offers travellers the chance to change to another flight if adjacent seats are not available, and won’t charge any fees or fare difference to do so. That is coupled with free bassinet seats and priority boarding for those travelling with infants, although additional luggage allowance for infants is capped at one small nappy bag, so parents will need to pack only baby’s essentials.
In an effort to make travel easier for families, British Airways offers several perks for those travelling with children.
Seat selection is free of charge for any passengers flying with an infant, and bassinet seat — or carry cots as BA refers to them — are also available free of charge. Travellers flying from London Heathrow can take advantage of family check-in desks so that there are no lengthy queues to wait in and the airline offers a generous additional luggage allowance for little ones with one free checked bag, an extra cabin bag and two pieces of baby gear allowed.
The flag carrier of Singapore is often lauded for its family-friendly travel offerings.
Singapore Airlines allows travellers to guarantee that everyone sits together on flights by offering free advance seat reservations for families. And preboarding is open to those flying with infants or toddlers, giving families the chance to get settled on flights before other passengers board. The airline also offers baby and infant meals and either soft toys or activity packs depending on the children’s ages.
Gulf Air’s services can make travel easier for family holidays. In addition to priority check-in lanes for families at Bahrain International Airport, the airline has a team of sky nannies whose main responsibility is to be an extra pair of hands for those flying with children — invaluable for parents travelling solo with a child.
There’s also a generous additional baggage allowance for infants which includes 15kg of luggage, plus two items of baby equipment. Passengers hoping to secure seats for the family together on Gulf Air flights can make preflight seat reservations, but should note there is a fee for this service.
Updated: February 24, 2023, 1:05 PM