Travelling with small children - Part V - the flight

As you may imagine, travelling with one or more small children on an international flight takes some planning.  The first question you may have is how many seats to book.  The following are my suggestions based on taking an 11 month old to Italy and a 10 month old and 22 month old to Singapore.

- If you have one child and he/she is under one year old, you do not need a seat - just prebook a basinet.

- If you have a child over two years old, you have to book a seat for him/her per airline regulations.

- If you have two children under two years of age, book one seat

Now to the magic or arranging for a basinet.  It is a little known secret that all airlines offer basinets on international flights. Unfortunately all airlines also appear to be very uncoordinated when it comes to obtaining one.  Here is the problem most individuals have.

When you arrive at the airport and ask for a basinet, they will tell you that you must prebook one.

When you call to prebook a basinet, they tell you that you do not need to prebook, just ask for it upon arriving at the airport.

The following procedure has worked for my wife and I.

1) Call some time in advance of your flight and ask to prebook a basinet. You may come across someone who is clueless about this.  If you reach someone clueless, ask for someone who isn't.  Here is the important point - you can only use a basinet from certain seats in the aircraft.  Therefore the contradiction above is actually true - you cannot prebook a basinet but you can book your seats so you can use a basinet.  Where you can sit depends on the aircraft. There are also two types of basinets - one that fits onto the wall and another that sits on the floor.  My wife and I had a much easier time with the type that fits on the wall but generally you will have no choice here.  Each aircraft can only take one or the other.  So you will need talk to someone familiar with the aircraft you are taking and book your seats somewhere where a basinet can fit.  You can also ask to prebook a basinet.  For United they put a note on file that we need a basinet, which was lost when we got to the airport.

2) Upon arriving at the airport, mention that you have prebooked a basinet. See if they can note this anywhere or put something on your ticket.  There is another key here - each row in the plane can only have one basinet.  Therefore if someone else in your row gets the basinet you will not be able to use one.  The basinet is on a first come first served policy so you need to get a claim on it as soon as possible.

3) When you arrive at the gate, mention again that you have reserved a basinet.  They will tell you to ask the airline personnel but again you are staking a claim.  Besides, you will need to speak with the gate personnel anyways to obtain a tag for your stroller, which you will need to leave by the gate.  Note that I have never had a conflict with the basinet - generally the airlines make it difficult enough to obtain one that no one figures it out.  Another reason to talk to the gate personnel is sometimes the plane does not have a basinet aboard but they can make sure to get one.

4) When you board the plane, immediately ask one of the stewardesses for a basinet.  They will tell you that you will receive one after take off.  Thank them and take a seat.  Once your are airborn you may need to remind the stewardess but you shouldn't have a problem receiving the basinet.