Which Airline is the Most Family-Friendly?

family-friendly airlinesI previously shared my grand idea about how some billionaire out there should create An Airline for Families. I am 100% convinced that an airline like that would be raking in the dough in absolutely no time. Unfortunately, that airline doesn't exist...yet.

As such, what you probably want to know is which of the current airline options has the best and boldest family-friendly policies. You likely want to know which airline's personnel will smile at your baby, give snacks to your toddler, and/or provide a kind word of encouragement in a dire moment.

I wish I could give you great news that there are plenty of airlines that fit that description, but the truth is that most airlines aren't very kid-friendly at all. Most airlines have a scanty section on their website about child fares, identification, and baggage - and that's about it! There are no travel tips, no amenities mentioned, no "babies are welcome" stickers, and no photos of happy families.

The "lack" actually makes my heart a little sad because the implication is that families really aren't valued in the travel industry.

{Side Note: I couldn't help but notice that Continental Airlines has a direct link in a drop-down menu under "Travel Information" on their home page about Traveling with Animals, but only a tiny section about Traveling with Infants (and it's quite hidden too)! Such a pity.}

I spent a good deal of time on US airline websites tonight and there are only three that appear to offer anything for families:

  • American Airlines offers changing tables in select aircraft lavatories.
  • Southwest offers Infant Fares for babies under age two, peanuts/drinks on every flight, and changing tables in select aircraft lavatories.
  • JetBlue, which is probably the best option that is currently available, offers a variety of FREE snacks on all flights and has changing tables in ALL aircraft lavatories.

My suggestions for airlines?

  1. DO hire a parent as a consultant/writer to create content for a highly-visible section of your website that is specifically geared to those traveling with young children.
  2. DO consider parents as you prepare your marketing plan for 2010 and beyond. If you're looking for creative and fun ways to make your airline more appealing to families, check out this post.

My suggestions for parents?

  1. DO express gratitude when an airline or employee goes out of their way to make your flight more enjoyable.
  2. DO choose airlines that make an effort to provide amenities for families.

YOUR TURN: If you were casting a vote today for the "Most Family-Friendly Airline," who would get your vote?

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19 comments on “Which Airline is the Most Family-Friendly?”

  1. The most family-friendly experience I've ever had on an airplane was with Frontier Airlines. I was flying (home) from IND to SLC (with a stop in DEN) with my then-3 year old daughter and then-10 month old daughter. (I was without another adult during this trip.) My older daughter spilled cocoa all over herself and her seat during one of the flights. I rang for the flight attendant to ask her for some paper towels (anything, really) to clean up the mess. Immediately, she said, "Why don't I hold your baby while you take her to the restroom to get cleaned up?" The flight attendant was so friendly and clearly eager and happy to hold my baby, so I took her up on it and took my daughter to the restroom, wash up, and change her clothes. By the time we got back, the cocoa-drenched seat cushion had been switched out, and waiting for my daughter was a blanket, a pillow, and a fresh cup of cocoa WITH A LID. My baby was happy in the arms of a helpful and happy flight attendant. I was so overcome with gratitude (the purpose of this trip was a funeral for my cousin's infant daughter, so emotions were already running high) that I wasn't successful in holding back tears as I thanked them for their help. Their sincere response was that it was their PLEASURE to help.

    Upon my return I sent a letter to Frontier Airlines' corporate office detailing this experience, and heard back from them in a timely manner - they thanked me for taking the time to write and let me know that my letter would be used in future training sessions for flight attendants.

  2. I have to agree that Jet Blue is the most family friendly that I have flown. They have satellite TVs in every headrest so you can turn on something for the little ones to watch. They also have a good variety of snacks and let you have as many as you want. I was impressed that they had changing tables. I had not seen that on other planes and I used to travel a LOT.

  3. It really is crazy that one of the airlines hasn't thought of this yet. It would be so simple to implement. They could even higher some of us (bloggers) to help them with tips and ideas and then spread the word about it.

  4. No contest. Aer Lingus. Too bad I don't go to Ireland too often. They bend over backwards to families with small children.

  5. I haven't been on a plane since having Levi, but before he came along I traveled quite a bit. I can't imagine any of the airlines I've used being classified as really family friendly. Some are worse than others, but so many of them are just plain rotten when it comes to service...unless of course there's been some dramatic changes in the past couple of years.

  6. ooh I love that "DO express gratitude when an airline or employee goes out of their way to make your flight more enjoyable."

    Oh look an email popped through from a comment from you on my site we are on eachother's sites at the same time! :)

  7. I haven't flown with the kids yet but Jet Blue hasgiven me my best flying experiences to date so they are who I would be looking to if I had to plan to fly with the kids anytime soon!

  8. So far, the best experience I have had flying with kids has been on Jet Blue. They are always so friendly, have changing tables in the bathrooms, every seat has a video screen on it, which can help buy some time with a toddler if the 'bag of tricks' gets old. We had one flight from San Jose to Boston and my daughter was miserable...the flight attendants were SO gracious...let me stand in the back with her as much as I needed to. On our flight back from Boston to San Jose, they let her walk in the back (she didn't want to sit much at all), they showed her where they kept the food, they played with her and talked to her...it really was such a great experience!! If possible, we try to fly Jet Blue!!

  9. I used to work for American Airlines Headquarters in Fort Worth. This was before 2001 so things were a bit different then. AA had just introduced their more room through coach thing which took seats out for an added 3 inches of leg room (that's a big deal). They were gearing up to be a more business friendly Airline with more perks for AAdvantage and everything. Unfortunately they got hammered and haven't really recovered. I remember a discussion at the time about family friendly airlines and I remember the bottom line was that nobody thought it was a good idea because even parents don't want to be around other kids. An airplane full of families is a nightmare, essentially turning that airline into a niche product that is too inflexible to deal with market fluctuations (airlines, at their max, only make 3% profit). AA, with their more legroom deal, almost got killed -- and that was just a little change. I have to say, while I'd like to think an airline could at least try to pull it off, I probably wouldn't fly on it. I hate to say it, but other kids drive me pretty much batty usually :-)

  10. I flew American Airlines a few months ago and it was a nightmare. Missed connecting flights to and from Hawaii. Yeah it made our first family vacation a little less fun. The changing tables in the bathroom was sooo small, my 9 months old son couldn't even lay down. I ended up changing him while sitting on the toilet with him sitting on my lap. It also took forever to get our stroller that we gate-checked. That was the reason we missed the connecting flight home...we had to wait for it!

  11. I've only flown Southwest with the family...and that's the airline my in-laws fly too. I'm going to keep this article in mind though when we travel to Disneyland in 2011...I'll make sure and do some checking!

  12. I LOVE Southwest Airlines.... we flew with them recently with our 9 month old at the time and it was great. They did have a page on their website for suggestions on flying with an infant or small child. The flight attendants were awesome and more than willing to help and they were great about making sure our stroller was set to go when we exited the plane. Not to mention, their prices are usually the best.

  13. I do not have a family friendly airline to mention. Since we live in a small town and United is just about the only airline that flies in and out of here we are very limited. During the ski season American and Delta fly in but their prices are too high since they cateer to the families on ski vacations. Are other option is Montrose 60 miles away but same - United only) or Denver or Colorado Springs for a bigger airline but with added costs and headaches of driving 4-5 hours plus parking we find it better to just suck up the difference and fly out of Gunnison for now. Ok - back to the main point I believe Quantas out of Australia offers bassets.

  14. I can't say that any of the airlines are particularly family friendly. We have probably flown with kids and babies more than the average family, to visit out-of-state relatives and for the adoption of our second child. We'd have a good experience on a particular flight, only to be totally frustrated the next time we flew with that carrier. I think your experience almost completely depends on your own preparedness and whether you get lucky in the flight attendants and gate agents you deal with.

  15. US Air. They don't have changing tables in all of their aircraft, but the flight attendants and crew are AMAZING. There are more than enough of them on each flight, they always talk directly to the kids, and I even had one flight attendant take my fussy 7 month-old for a 20 minute walk up and down the isles to give me a much needed break.

    Every time I gate-checked a stroller, it was one of the first items unloaded, and it was always waiting for me unfolded at the bottom of the ramp.

    I always try to fly with them first!

  16. We love Korean Air- the stewardresses are wonderful- heated water for bottles any time! Would give us a break and hold babies - tiny changing tables in the bathroom as well. Cant say enough about them!

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