Comfort and Safety for Infants and Toddlers While Flying


When our son was five-months-old, we took him to England, to meet his Great Grandma.  There was so much we didn’t know about travelling with an infant.

We had high hopes that the baby would sleep for much of the overnight flight but we were so inexperienced, we didn’t realise we could have requested a bassinet.  Instead, we swaddled him and laid him across the tray-tables to sleep.

If only we’d known, many airlines offer bassinets to parents traveling with children, particularly on long haul flights.  The style, size and weight restrictions of bassinets vary from air carrier to air carrier.  They typically attach to bulkheads and can only be used with certain seats in certain rows.  Airlines have limited quantities so, if you want a bassinet, it is important to request it, when you book the flight.

Be sure to enquire about the size and weight restrictions of the model the airline is supplying.  Bassinets are suitable for infants under six-months, but some can accommodate children beyond one-year.  Be aware that your seat assignment will be dictated by the bassinet’s compatibility with the seat configuration on the airplane.

Parents, with the savvy to request a bassinet, seem to find them very helpful and the baby is probably far more comfortable than he would be stretched across the fold-down trays.

Whether your infant is going to spend the flight snoozing in a bassinet or sitting on your lap, she will have to be secured during takeoff and landing.  This is done with the use of a belt extension.  An adult’s safety belt goes through a loop on the belt extension, which is clipped, securely, around the baby.  Flight attendants will show you how to do this correctly.  Be sure to ask for assistance if you’re encountering any difficulties.

Beyond their second birthday, children are required to have their own seat.  Kiss the days of three people flying for the price of two, goodbye.  Many parents, ourselves included, bring their child’s car seat, for use on the plane.  It’s a comfortable way for the child to fly and it saves you from the hassles of checking the car seat into the baggage hold, for use at your destination.

Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Infant car seats don’t always fit properly in an airline seat.  Also, be aware that the seat must be approved by the FAA.  If the seat doesn’t specifically say that it is approved for use on an airplane, it may end up spending the flight in the overhead compartment, or being gate-checked, while your child swims in the gigantic airplane seat, unaided.

There are harness-type restraint systems that can be purchased for air travel.  They are approved for aircraft but not automobiles.  These systems are designed for use with children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds and improve a child’s safety and comfort in flight.

It is important to realise that, while a child seat isn’t required on an airplane, it is safer for your child if you use one.

The best advice for parents planning to fly with an infant or toddler is, make inquiries when you book.  Don’t save your questions for the check-in counter at the airport.  By then, it may be too late.

Ask if bassinets available?  What seats on the plane can use them?  Which seats on the plane will be off limits to you with a child on your lap? (NB adults traveling with a child on their lap are not permitted to sit in an exit row.)  Asking lots of questions and making your requests right up front, vastly improves your chances of having pleasant, problem free flight. – Jen R, Staff Writer

A few airlines that offer bassinets or Carrycots on some of their aircrafts are:

Bassinet photo Via Erie Aviation