Exploring the Forbidden City in Beijing – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Back in April, I wrote about taking my nine-month-old on a series of long-haul flights to New Zealand. I concluded that piece with the rather ominous sentence, “Toddlerhood is just around the corner, and I know that won’t be the same experience.” As it turns out, truer words were never spoken.
The genesis of this trip was a Twitter post from one of the airfare alert websites: Denver to Beijing on United Airlines. Cheap. Very Cheap. Heck, the miles alone were worth a substantial portion of the ticket – not to mention this trip would push me up to elite status with United. My wife and I had been considering visiting China to see some friends, but we hadn’t seriously thought about going this year. The availability of cheap tickets over Labor Day made us reconsider. Some quick discussions and a few clicks later it was settled – we were going to China for a week at the end of August. Does anyone else get that pit of the stomach feeling when buying plane tickets for a big trip?
The next decision to be made was whether to bring our fifteen-month-old son with us. Conventional wisdom seems to be that fifteen months is just about the worst possible age to fly – they are too old to sit still, but too young to pacify with electronics. AirlineReporter Associate Editor and fellow father Blaine Nickeson’s exact words were, “It would be AWFUL. I’d strongly recommend against it.” Other friends told me horror stories of their young toddlers on much shorter domestic flights. No one that I talked to had ever even considered taking their children of that age on long-haul international flights. I myself was firmly set against taking my son along. I’m still not sure how she did it, but my wife talked me into taking him with us. Here we go. Again.
Over the past few years, few issues in the aviation industry have been more polarizing than children on commercial airplanes. The need for families to travel from place to place, or even for children to travel alone, often clashes with the desire of frequent fliers to have a peaceful flight. Some airlines have taken drastic measures, like Malaysia Airlines which has banned babies from first class and all children from the upper deck on their fleet of A380s. Other airlines have added child-free cabins as an ancillary amenity that is available for a fee.
As a newly-minted dad, I look froward to taking my son on his first flight (and many more after that). However I realize that sometimes the unfamiliar atmosphere onboard an airliner can disturb a small child. And when the child is disturbed, they may disturb those seated around them. All children could use an experience that is specially tailored to younger fliers in an industry that usually focuses more on high value (adult) frequent fliers. Unfortunately, cost cutting measures at most airlines have eliminated kid-friendly perks such as kids meals and pin-on airplane wings.
Fortunately, this is not the case at every airline, including at Lufthansa. Last year, 2.1 million children aged eleven and under flew on the German carrier, which is a number based on how many childrens’ fares they sold. Yes, Lufthansa still offers discounted fares for children, which are 75% of the adult fare.
3,123 children qualified as “elites” with the airline, having flown a minimum of 35,000 miles in a year. Some children even attain higher status levels: the youngest Senator member (having flown at least 100,000 miles in a year) is just two years old.
Southwest Boeing 737-700 taxing at KPAE
In the summer, my wife and I were planning a Christmas trip to Disneyland with our two toddlers (ages 2 and 4). We were looking to get out of cold Denver for the holidays, and had visited Disneyland in December a few years ago and thought all of the decorations were really cool. We decided to pull the trigger in late summer and I went work booking our travel.
I’m a very loyal United Airlines flyer, being Denver-based, and try to fly them exclusively. However, flights to the Los Angeles-area at Christmas, even months in advance, were ridiculously expensive. I’ve also recently come to grips with the fact that, having a newly-two-year-old daughter, four airline tickets really start to add up. So, I looked at the options on Southwest Airlines (WN) and was shocked – less than $200 round-trip for direct flights between Denver (DEN) and Orange County (SNA), which was less than half the cost of other options. I had never booked myself on WN, but couldn’t pass up the huge cost difference, especially for such a short flight. (Note – since I booked my “first” WN flights, I actually ended up flying on them to the Bahamas on a short-notice trip).
It’s the time of year airline holiday greetings spread across the globe. – Image: All Nippon Airways
We are in the thick of the holiday travel season right now, and with Christmas fast approaching it is going to get even busier. Traveling at this time of year can be a real challenge. Weather, crowds, high prices, and even-higher load factors can make travel a headache.
When you add delays, the stress of getting away for a vacation, or travel to see family (which can be either cherished or dreaded), things can get rough. We at Airline Reporter wanted to share some of our favorite tips and tips from readers who travel quite often.