Flying With A Baby On United – LAX to NYC

Our intrepid New Zealand correspondent Rhiannon is off to spend a month in New York with her 5 month old Madeleine in tow.  To get to NYC from Wellington she had the joy of a United flight from LAX to NYC and shares her review and tips here:


UA 1489 LAX to NYC (Newark), 12.36pm to 8.59pm,

Flight booked via Air NZ call centre as part of a round the world flight.

Did you reserve a bassinet?

Despite the flight being over 5 hours, as a domestic flight, there are no bassinets available.

Did you prebook your children’s meal?

No – Madeleine is just on milk and a tiny bit of solids which I took in pouch. However, everyone had to buy their own meals – no meal service included.

Do you belong to your airline’s loyalty scheme and did this give you any extra benefits?

As Star Alliance gold members, we are supposed to get extra baggage but despite checking in in the premium area at LAX there seemed to be no way to do this at the self check in desks.


How was check in?

Not great although not awful either. Self check in despite travelling with a baby including car seat and buggy. We asked for help several times and a little was provided. Luckily we kept the bags from our previous Air NZ flight a few days earlier to protect the car seat and buggy.

Did you check in your buggy or take it to the gate?

Checked it in and used a baby carrier.

How was security? Did they make you taste the milk/water/baby food?

Security wasn’t too bad – not too busy. No tastings – I just had to take them out of the bag separately and then the milk went into a strange machine presumably to check it was water/milk and not anything else.

We went straight from the United lounge to the gate.

Did you get priority boarding?

We were in group 2 of 5 – not sure that is priority boarding.



What did you think of the seat?

It’s a 3×3 plane and it’s fairly cramped.

Did you feed on take off and landing?

She was asleep for take off and was I ready to feed her for landing but she just chewed on Sophie the Giraffe and was fine.

Did your baby sleep well on the plane and behave?

She was pretty good given the cramped space and she had to sleep on me which she isn’t so used to doing these days. She’s quite wriggly these days which was a little challenging but not a disaster across two adult seats.

Had you taken a baby carrier e.g. Bjorn or Ergo and was this useful?

Yes, given we checked in the buggy.

How were the staff?

They were friendly but didn’t really offer anything extra.

How was the in flight entertainment?

You could pay for film and tv entertainment and they advertised good family viewing but we didn’t use it.

What are your top tips for flying with a baby?

This flight is known as being pretty miserable – average planes, no bassinets, pretty long. We just ground it out really.

One thing we found really odd, and perhaps this is normal on domestic American flights, is that they do not provide an infant seat belt. So for take off and landing, Madeleine was just sitting on my lap with nothing to hold her in. Even more odd in my view, was that we arrived onto the plane with a baby carrier on, and they told us she could not be in for take off and landing. So the only thing that held her beyond my arms was apparently against FAA rules. Bizarre.

I also noticed that there seems to be an option to book a seat an infant and then take them on board in an infant capsule seat. They almost seemed surprised at check in when I checked on the seat. Given that there are basically no other safety features provided for infants, I can see why people take this option! It makes it a lot easier for them to doze off to sleep too – at least in the case of Madeleine who sleeps relatively well in her capsule but is no longer used to falling asleep in people’s arms.



Where did you pick up the stroller?

Since we checked it in, at baggage reclaim.

When we got to our apartment, I opened up our bags and found that in two bags, the stroller bag and Madeleine’s main bag, that there was a notice that said that these bags had been opened and checked for drugs etc. But they hadn’t done up Madeleine’s bag again properly and as a result (I think, because I won’t blame my own packing), her formula tin had been bashed around and the lid had come open spilling milk powder throughout the entire bag! Just a nightmare to deal with after a long flight – and you can’t use water to clean it out as then it will turn to milk and be really awful. So a lot of vaccuuming as we got it out of her portacot, her portable high chair etc etc. And they had cut the plastic stroller bag right open in the middle and then taped it back up. Again – thanks a lot!!

Madeleine hits the Big Apple!

Madeleine hits the Big Apple!

1 comment

  1. tripswithtykes

    Welcome to flying US domestic airlines! This is why we Americans try our hardest to fly international carriers whenever we can. 😉 I’ve never seen a bassinet on a US domestic flight and I often travel coast-to-coast (5-6 hours). I try to explain this to traveling parents from the rest of the world and they never get it – if a flight is more than a few hours, they are used to having bassinets available on the airlines they know. Sadly, that is just not par for the course here and it is just miserable to have a true lap child that long, particularly for older infants who are starting to be mobile. For this very reason, I usually book a seat for my baby on longer domestic flights so we can bring the bucket car seat aboard. It makes the flight 1) safer because you have a real restraint and 2) more comfortable because baby can use the car seat as a napping spot. Of course, most US airlines do not offer infant or child discounts any more, so this option gets quite expensive if you travel often.

    One other note – I’m pretty sure the infant safety belts that you are used to in the rest of the world are against FAA regulations in the US. So, we don’t have them. There is a real debate about lap children generally among the US travel community – whether it is too risky to allow lap children (who are often injured more easily in severe turbulence situations because they aren’t strapped in).

    Great review! Hope you don’t have to fly United domestically again. I avoid them like the plague when I can. Give Virgin America or JetBlue a try. Nicer US domestic airlines.

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