Kids under 2 years of age can usually fly for free if seated on your lap. This is no fun longhaul, so where else can we seat them? Well some lovely airlines will provide a bassinet for you.
Once the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, the air steward will pull a table down from the wall and attach the bassinet for you.
Through travelling with young kids over the years, I have found there is no consistency in ensuring you get that bassinet seat. Flying longhaul with young kids can be troublesome enough without this extra worry to your journey. Here is my step by step guide on how to book it!
NB – Even if you don’t think your baby will sleep in a bassinet, it is also worth requesting for the extra storage space or somewhere for them to play.
Every airline offers a different kind of bassinet which can also vary by aircraft model. Some offer both a moses basket and car seat style (for older babies). Check the weight/height of your baby to see if they would be suitable for your chosen airline’s bassinet. For example, I have deliberately picked to fly Virgin over Cathay in the past as my little one was too big for a regular bassinet and they provide car seat style.
There are a few airlines e.g. Air New Zealand that will allow you to pay extra money to guarantee the bassinet on your flight. Well worth the extra money in my book.
If you book flights using a travel agent (I do this in Hong Kong) then have your travel agent try to book the bulkhead bassinet seat for you.
If you are trying to book flights online, I would advise you to phone the airline instead. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a real person who is looking at the aircraft seating map and can advise you what is available.
Again, know the weight/height of your baby as you might get asked this to see if they will fit.
Phone your airline a week in advance to check that you have your bassinet seats confirmed. Also, please remember that even though you might have the bulkhead seat booked, the aircraft have limited bassinet/car seats available and they are often assigned on the flight with the youngest infants getting priority.
Leave yourself at least 2 hours to check-in at the airport. At check-in, reconfirm your bassinet seat. This still doesn’t mean the uphill battle is over, I have had a check in assistant reassure me that we have the bulkhead bassinet seat, only to find onboard that we didn’t! Ask how many babies will be on the plane and how many bassinets will be available.
It doesn’t hurt to keep asking! When you get to the Gate, reconfirm whether there will be a bassinet available.
When you are sitting down, tell a passing air steward that you would like the bassinet as soon as you are up in the air. After the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, they will fix it for you. Bassinet quality depends on airline. They also vary on the rules as to whether you need to remove your baby when the captain turns the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign on. This brings back memories of finally getting my baby to sleep in the bassinet only to have to remove her again!
Tips for getting baby to sleep in a bassinet:
- Get a travel grobag. It is like a standard grobag except it has an opening in the back for a 5 point harness, very useful for easily transitioning a sleeping baby into and out of a car seat style bassinet.
- Pack a black pashmina/scarf in your hand luggage and washing line clips. On overnight flights from Hong Kong to the UK that depart at midnight, they often don’t dim the lights for the first few hours. I create a drape over the bassinet to darken it to get my baby to sleep. It goes without saying you need to leave enough space for ventilation!
For more information on airline bassinet policies, check out the fantastic kids travel blog Traveling With Kids