Planning air travel with little ones can be a challenge. Airline policies vary regarding the fare charged for infants and children, and there is a wide disparity in the amenities provided to keep babies and children fed and happy onboard. Some airlines don’t offer family-specific services while others go out of their way to accommodate their youngest flyers.
Here is our roundup of the best major airlines for family travel.
Airlines that go above and beyond to accommodate families
1: Air Canada
Air Canada makes the list for not only offering reduced fares and onboard amenities, but also providing dedicated family check-in areas at select airports. Lap infants under the age of two years fly free on domestic flights, and only the ticket taxes apply for flights between Canada and the United States.
For international flights, infant tickets are 10% of the adult fare. Children over two years are ticketed at the adult fare on domestic flights or on flights between Canada and the United States. Children between two and 12 years fly at a reduced child’s fare on international flights not in the United States.
Bassinets are available and assigned by advance request on a first-come, first-served basis on certain aircraft. Air Canada does not charge a fee for seating adults and children under 14 years of age together. Children also receive a special luggage tag and activity books for the journey.
ANA offers special fares for children. Photo: ANA Airways
ANA Airlines offers a reduced child’s fare and several additional amenities for the youngest travelers. The Japanese carrier allows lap infants under two years of age to fly at 10% of the adult fare, and infants can fly at 75% of the adult fare if occupying a seat. Children aged two up to 11 years are ticketed at the child’s fare, which is 75% of the adult fare.
Bassinets are provided by advance request on certain aircraft on international flights, though not in the first class cabin. Meals designed specifically for babies and children are available by advance request, and the airline also carries a limited amount of paper diapers on board. Children are also provided with original ANA toys.
Emirates allows infants under two years of age to ride on an adult passenger’s lap or in a bassinet at a discounted fare. Children aged two to 11 years of age must occupy their own seats but receive a discounted fare unspecified on the carrier’s website. The airline offers complimentary strollers for use at the airport near their check-in desks at the Abu Dhabi airport. Onboard amenities for babies include milk formula and bottles, as well as Ella’s Kitchen organic baby food. For kids, there are special meal options to accommodate dietary restrictions.
Etihad provides baby food on advance request. Photo: Thomas Boon | Simple Flying
Next on our list is Etihad Airways, also based in the United Arab Emirates. The carrier offers an infant fare for little ones under two years of age traveling on an adult passenger’s lap or in a bassinet. Children aged two to 11 years are ticketed at the child’s fare, which is not specified on the airline’s website. Baby food is available by advance request.
Etihad has a partnership with Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi for themed goodies and entertainment for kids. Children aged three to eight years old receive a fleece blanket, and nine- to 13-year-olds receive a Scooby-Doo backpack and passport holder. There are also Warner Bros. cartoons and movies available to keep children entertained during the flight.
5: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines allows lap infants to fly at 10% of the adult fare, and children aged two to 11 years fly at 75% of the adult fare. Hot water is available onboard for cleaning baby bottles, as are baby blankets. The carrier provides JAL-branded original toys to child passengers and offers a variety of kid-appropriate entertainment options via its WiFi video service.
The German flag carrier charges 10% of an adult ticket for lap infants. Photo: Lufthansa
Lufthansa also stands out for its family accommodations. Lap infants fly free within Germany and are ticketed at 10% of the adult fare on all other routes. Children aged two to 11 years fly at 75% of the regular adult fare. Bassinets are available by advance request on all of Lufthansa’s long-haul flight aircraft, though fees may apply depending on booking class. Children receive a logbook on their first flight. Once the logbook is full, they receive a “fantastic pilot’s certificate.” Young travelers can also observe the aircraft up close from the pilot’s viewpoint during take-off and landing via external cameras on certain long-haul aircraft.
Qantas completes our top-tier list for its innovative services for children. The Australian carrier allows lap infants to fly free within Australia and are ticketed at 10 % of the adult fare on international routes. Bassinets are available on certain aircraft and may be requested at check-in. Zones at select Australian lounges boast kids’ furniture and meals, and kids can even play dress-up in mini cabin crew outfits. The airline’s “Joey Club” themed characters appear on kids’ kits that include an aircraft window-shaped etch-a-sketch and an activity booklet.
Additional airlines offering discounts or services for families
Air France offers discounts for young flyers, including 90% off fares for lap infants. Children aged two or older are discounted at 20% on short-haul flights and 33% on medium- and long-haul routes. Bassinets are available only on long-haul flights. Baby kits are provided only for certain fare classes, but organic baby food and kids’ meals are available in the economy cabin.
The world’s largest airline lets lap infants fly free of charge. Photo: American Airlines
American Airlines allows lap infants to fly at no charge. Children two years and older must have their own seats and are ticketed at the adult fare. If passengers do not choose seats at the time of booking, the airline will assign seats within a few days so that youth under 15 years are seated next to at least one adult with whom they are traveling. Bassinets are available on a first-come, first-served basis on certain aircraft, but not in the First or Business Class cabins.
British Airways offers an infant fare for lap infants and a child’s fare for kids flying in their own seat, but the carrier’s website does not provide specifics as to the discount. Kids’ meals are available by advance request and tinned baby food is available on long-haul flights. Notably, British Airways’ Executive Club Household Account allows adults and children in the same household to pool their rewards currency to later redeem for upgrades.
Delta says it strives to seat family members together. Photo: Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines allows lap infants to fly free, and children two years of age and older are subject to discounts that vary by country. The carrier’s website states that it “strives to seat family members together upon request.”
Finally, Virgin Atlantic makes the list for allowing lap infants to fly at 10% of the adult fare and setting special fares for children aged two to 11 years and young adults aged 12 to 16 years. Bassinets and cots may be available upon request. The carrier offers kids’ meals for travelers two to 12 years old, and various entertainment options for youth via seat televisions.
Airline fare discounts and amenities are subject to change and may not be available in all situations, so it is wise to check with the airline directly before booking your next family adventure.