Airline Rules for Babies

The prospect of taking baby on a plane for the very first time can be a little daunting. Like with most first-time experiences, that apprehension stems largely from a fear of the unknown. How will baby handle the experience? What can you expect from the airplane staff? What kind of services does the airline have in place for baby? All these questions and more are likely galloping through your head as you prepare for, or contemplate, that first voyage to grandma & grandpa's house. 

The good news is, most parents report being pleasantly surprised by how well their young babies handle being on a plane. For an infant, once the business of taking off is over, flying can be quite soothing. The hum of the engine and the gentle forward motion of the plane is reminiscent of being in a car, and often will lull them right to sleep. So, don't worry so much about baby!  

As for your other concerns regarding facilities and airline policies for infants, the best way to deal with those niggling worries is to get your facts straight pre-travel. At FlyBaby, we're all about helping a traveling mama out which is why we've compiled infant travel guidelines from three popular airlines, so you can fly with baby—with confidence.  

United Airlines 

Q: Does my baby fly for free? Do I need to purchase a seat/ticket for baby?  

A: If baby is under 2 years old, and you are traveling within the U.S., Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, then baby travels free! If you are traveling internationally, which includes Canada, Guam and Mexico, then you need to purchase a ticket for baby—though you will pay infant fare and taxes. United recommends that you always indicate you are traveling with an infant when making a reservation, regardless of your destination. Note that infants under 7 days old are not permitted to fly with United. 

Q: Does the airline provide bassinets? How do I request one?  

A: United offers a limited number of complimentary bassinets if you are travelling internationally. Bassinets can't be used during taxi, take-off, landing or when the seatbelt sign is on. To check availability and to request a bassinet, call the United Customer Contact Center at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331) in the U.S. or the appropriate Worldwide Contact Center. Make sure you do this well ahead of time, as bassinets are limited and the airline can't guarantee having one on hand!  

Q: Are car seats allowed onboard the plane? Does the airline provide safety seats for children? 

A: Car seats manufactured after February 1985 are approved for use aboard United aircrafts, and you may use one if you have purchased a seat for your child. These seats can only be used in window or middle seats and can't be placed in an aisle seat or in the exit row. United doesn't provide child safety seats or restraint systems and prohibits the use of Booster seats, belly belts attached to adult seat belts, and vests or harnesses that hold an infant to an adult’s chest, so make sure you have what you need prior to travel.  

Delta 

Q: Does my baby fly for free? Do I need to purchase a seat/ticket for baby?  

A: Delta allows you travel with 1 infant under the age of 2 for free within the U.S. If you have a second child in addition to the one traveling in your lap, then they will need a ticket regardless of how old they are. If your child turns 2 during the trip, then you will need to purchase a ticket for them. If you are travelling internationally or would prefer for your child to sit in a child safe seat, then you will also need to purchase a ticket for them! Delta does not offer discounted child fare for travel within the U.S. but does offer reduced fare for certain international flights. If your child is under 7 days of age, you will need to provide a letter of approval from a physician.  

Q: Does the airline provide bassinets? How do I request one?  

A: Bassinets, which Delta refers to as SkyCots, are available for free on some international flights. They can be requested by contacting reservations prior to arriving at the airport and talking to the agent at the boarding gate. However, Delta cannot guarantee availability as there is a limit of two SkyCots per plane due to weight restrictions. Babies must be held during takeoff and landing for safety reasons. 

Q: Are car seats allowed onboard the plane? Does the airline provide safety seats for children? 

A: You may bring a child safety seat for use aboard a Delta plane, provided it meets recognized safety standards. You may not place a car seat in an aisle, one row before or behind the emergency exit row, or in the exit row itself. The safety seat must have been manufactured after February of 1985 or have a label indicating it conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle standards. Delta does not provide child safety seats for children, and also does not permit booster seats, vests, and harness-type child restraint devices other than the FAA approved CARES restraint device, so be prepared! 

Southwest 

Q: Does my baby fly for free? Do I need to purchase a seat/ticket for baby?  

A: With Southwest, you can travel for free with a child under 2 years of age and over 14 days of age. For infants younger than 14 days, a medical release will be required. This rule applies to both domestic and International flights, with the caveat that on International flights you pay taxes and fees associated with that part of the journey. If you wish to use a child safety seat on a flight, you will need to purchase a ticket for your child regardless of their age. Southwest offers discounted infant and child fares, but make sure you bring your child's birth certificate as this will be required for boarding! 

Q: Does the airline provide bassinets? How do I request one?  

A: Bassinet availability varies by aircraft when flying Southwest. There is no hard and fast rule to determine which planes will have bassinets. Your best bet is simply to inquire before making your reservation. If the aircraft does have bassinets, then they are free to use, you will just need to make sure you reserve yours early. Picking a bulkhead seat can also help to ensure you have access to a bassinet. To request a bassinet for a flight, you can call Southwest's 24/7 customer service at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).  

Q: Are car seats allowed onboard the plane? Does the airline provide safety seats for children? 

A: Southwest approves of, and in fact encourages, the use of child safety seats aboard its aircrafts. Your car seat must meet certain safety standards, and if it was manufactured prior to February 1985, then it must have labels indicating it is FAA approved. Child safety seats can be placed in window or middle aisle seats provided they aren't blocking any passengers exit, and can't be placed before, after or in exit rows. The airline does not provide child restraint devices itself, so make sure you have yours lined up before traveling. Also note that Southwest doesn't allow certain child restraint devices that might be harmful to a child in an emergency including backless booster seats, and any device that ties a child to another person. 

We hope you feel ready to take on that first flight with baby now!  

FlyBaby can help make your trip even easier, by cutting your luggage in half. Rent everything you need to make baby feel comfortable, and have it delivered to your destination!
Click here to find out how.  

 

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