Once a child celebrates their second birthday they are required by law to occupy their own seat.
On full service airlines, child fares can be purchased for 75% of adult airfares. There are some heavily discounted airfares that are sold by airlines that do not have any children discounts attached. This is because the fare is already cheaper than a regular children airfare. On low cost carriers, airfares are generally sold by the seat not by the age of the person sitting in the seat. Many countries do not charge children the same rate in tax on an airline ticket. Some taxes are not charged at all for a children’s ticket.
When the itinerary is being considered and confirmed, if you are travelling with children on long distances, a stopover along the way should be considered so everyone can have a chance to rest. Long transit times in airports should be avoided, unless a transit hotel is available.
What options can I organise prior to departure?
It’s all in the planning!
Full service airlines offer can offer a number of options to help make the flight more comfortable such as children meals, children's inflight entertainment (use parental lock if necessary), and children's inflight pack which contain games, puzzles, book and colour pencils/book.
It is wise if adults pre-book seating together with their child. This is especially important if family members are all travelling on different booking references. Adult passengers are encouraged to book the seats online or contact the airline to pre-arrange. Seat assignments may cost money to pre-book but it may be the best few extra dollars that you have spent to give you peace of mind that the whole family will travel together. With the evolution of paid seat assignments, airlines can no longer guarantee seating altogether if seats are not pre-booked. If passengers choose not to pre-pay for seat assignments, they will be left to be seated in the remaining seats available on the day of departure.
Pre-book a child’s meal with the airline. These are standard meals which normally contain pre-cut food or finger food which makes it easier for a child to manage. The meal will contain either a milk drink or fresh juice. The airline will only provide a standard child meal. If this meal will not be suitable for your child then you will need to carry food with you. The airline cannot pre-heat bottles or food taken on-board due to health and safety requirements. Fresh milk, juice and water can normally be supplied on-board full service airlines for a child to drink.
Talk to your child about what they will be doing and going. Travelling on a flight should be an exciting experience. If you are not a good air traveller and get nervous, try to avoid passing that fear onto your child. Encourage them to talk and ask questions about the upcoming flight and trip.
Extra care items
Extra items such as earplugs and lollies should be packed to help avoid ear problems on the ascent and descent of the flight. Children’s medication for illness should be carried in case of sudden illness. Make sure that you carry any necessary prescription medication with you in your cabin baggage. Carry some hand and face wipes to clean up any messes. Always carry items that are familiar to your child such as a favourite book or toy.
If the airline does not provide inflight entertainment which is the reality on many low cost carriers, then an electronic game or computer tablet pre-loaded with games and movies can be a life saver on a flight. As children can be un-predictable a change of clothes for them and even for you may be appropriate. Adults need to be aware that a child sleeping on the floor of an aircraft is strictly prohibited at all times due to safety reasons. If a plane flies into turbulence and becomes unsteady, an unrestrained passenger can suffer injury from being thrown around.
Organise travel insurance as soon as the travel plans are confirmed. Children and infants can get sick very suddenly and holiday plans may need to be altered to accommodate time to recover.
Travel etiquette for kids
Jane Tara suggests lessons for young flyers.
HELL is someone else's children on a long-haul flight. But don't automatically blame the youngsters. Children who misbehave usually do so because they are allowed to by their parents. (Special thanks to the woman near me on a flight from New York to Frankfurt, who handed out bags of lollies to her three children. She ignored them for the entire flight; no one else could.)
I've travelled extensively with my children, aged 12 and seven, and I admit that I've always boarded with some apprehension and a quiet prayer: "Please, let my kids behave." And they have. I've taught them travel etiquette from a young age. I've made sure they know how to behave. I don't want my children to bother other people and, somewhat selfishly, I don't want them to bother me.
Travelling is my great passion and I've always wanted to share that with my children, not struggle through it with them.
These are some of the things I've taught them.
No kicking. I've had a child kick the back of my seat continuously from Tokyo to Hong Kong and when I politely asked his parents to ask him to stop, they behaved as if I was being unreasonable. They were unreasonable and their son was a monster. Under no circumstances should your child kick the seat in front. I usually remove my children's shoes on long-haul flights, just in case they kick accidentally.
Be prepared. Have your child carry a separate bag, with carefully chosen boredom busters inside. Keep smaller toys and games in Ziploc bags, for easy access. There's nothing more frustrating than searching a backpack for one elusive piece of Lego.
Ensure your child always wears shoes to the toilet. You'd be surprised how many people don't.
Don't let your child run up and down the aisles, ever. They need to learn to be patient, and to sit in their seats. Children who run along the aisles with parents behind, smiling wearily, are irritating for all other passengers.
If your child is restless, take him or her regularly to the back of the plane to stretch and play a few games. Then it's back to the seat.
Don't let your child stand up and peer over the seat at the passengers behind. What might appear cute to you can wear thin on others quickly.
For younger children, break the flight into sections to help pass the time: sleep time, play time, reading time, movie time, meal time, stretching time.
Encourage your child to play or read alone. You shouldn't be expected to provide constant entertainment. A bit of effort in this department when they're younger means you'll have independent little travellers before you know it.
Reinforce the need to be polite, patient and quiet. Children need to know that flight attendants have other people to deal with, and they are not the only ones on the plane. If children know what is expected of them, they will most likely exceed your expectations. Kids are like that.
- Jane Tara is a children's author and director of Itchee Feet, which produces books and games for children who travel.
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