The Ultimate Guide to Airline Baby Bassinets

 Advice on how to book, secure and get the most out of airline baby bassinets

The Ultimate Guide to Airline Baby Bassinets

Back in 2015 we started a review of 30 Leading International Airlines for their family friendliness, looking at everything from pregnancy policies to kid’s entertainment.  By far the most commonly searched topic here on the Globetrotters website though is the issue of airline baby bassinets on board long-haul aircraft.

And I can see why. Information on airline websites can be scarce, and new parents especially are not fully informed by either the airline or their ticketing agents of what to expect when booking an infant ticket; having the wrong expectations when you arrive at an airport can significantly add to the stress of your journey with kids.

We have compiled for you here from both the airlines own websites and our knowledge from over 50 odd international flights travelling with kids what we know about baby bassinets to help you decipher the airline talk and plan what is best for your baby to get you through your long-haul adventures.

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Firstly, what is a baby bassinet?

The ultimate guide to airline baby bassinets | Travel Advice | OurGlobetrotters.NetWhen you book an infant ticket (children under 2 years of age), an infant is required to sit on an adult’s lap, secured by an extra loop seat belt that fits to the adults seat belt.  On longer flights, however, most international airlines will provide a baby bassinet so you can lie your child down flat and secure during the flight. (Also called a Baby Basket, SkyCot, CarryCot)

A baby bassinet is a collapsible basket that can be hung from the walls of the aircraft or placed on a special purpose shelf.  In economy, bassinet seats are located in the bulkhead row (usually with either the toilets, galley or cabin divider in front of you).  In business class, and some first class cabins, many now have special shelves where the bassinet is fitted on a flat surface, so your movement getting in and out of your seat is not restricted by the bassinet – though note some business and first class cabins are not fitted with bassinets at all.

The bassinet is fitted by the flight attendants after the aircraft is airborne and the seat belt sign has been switched off.  The bassinet can be left in place throughout the flight (with some restrictions we’ll mention below). It will be taken down anywhere up to an hour before landing as part of cabin preparations.  The baby is kept secure in the bassinet using a zipper.

The airline will normally provide their own blankets and pillows to line the bassinet, but of course, most babies sleep best in their own familiar clothes, sleeping bags, blankets with any cuddlies or muslin.  Definitely, pack your own bedding items if you think this will maximise the possibility your baby will sleep.

Getting “the bassinet seat” can be the holy mecca of airline travel for parents as it allows both you and baby to get better sleep on a long flight and of course free’s up your hands – a commodity you don’t realise the value of until you’re trapped at 38,000 feet!

Treats for your little travelers.

Restrictions on baby bassinet use

The Ultimate Guide to Airline Baby Bassinets | Travel Advice | OurGlobetrotters.Net
Baby zipped inside an Etihad bassinet
  • You can only use the baby bassinet while your infant still comfortably fits (generally up to 12 months – some pointers on what to do beyond this age below). Each airline and aircraft will have its restrictions, based on either your child’s height or weight. Some place age restrictions too, but in reality, as long as your child can fit, age is irrelevant.
  • During the flight if you experience turbulence the baby must be removed, even if sleeping, and held in your lap with the infant seat belt you use for take off. The zipper on the bassinet holds the baby very securely (more so that a parents arms I would have thought) but almost all airlines enforce this rule.
  • Note, not all international airlines or flights will come fitted with a baby bassinet, some even have the fittings on the wall but not frustratingly not the basket.  This is common in flight under say 4 hours, but a premium airline on international routes over 4 hours, you can almost expect as standard.
  • Do your research thoroughly before booking tickets if the bassinet will make or break your experience (trust me, when you’re feeling exhausted and hormonal, it certainly can!). Your particular ticket class may not entitle you to book bulkhead seats or may come at extra cost.

Our Globetrotters complete guide to Flying with Kids

Tips and tricks

      • Look for your aircraft type before booking and use the chart below to determine what you should expect. Not sure on your aircraft? Put your flight number into Seat Guru (you can also find out how many bassinets are installed on the aircraft, therefore your chances of winning the bassinet jackpot!).
      • It’s completely wrong to assume because you have booked an infant ticket that the airline will automatically give you priority over the bulkhead seats. In fact, many unscrupulous airlines work hard to avoid this topic so they can sell the bulkhead seats for more money or the extra leg room; ask, ask again and push until you get it – but please don’t be rude! There are only a limited number on each flight, normally allocated first come, first served and despite best efforts you may just miss out.
      • Beware the codeshare! If the airline operating your flight is different to the one you booked with, or you change flights during the journey, they are the ones responsible for seat allocation – however, as you did not book your ticket with them you may be unable to speak with their reservations desk directly to confirm your booking.
      • Fly Baybee bassinet cover - your ultimate guide to airline baby bassinets | Travel Advice | OurGlobetrotters.Ne
        Fly Babyee bassinet cover in action © Fly Babyee

        Although we’d love to think our bundle of joy is going to sleep securely and serenely once they’re in the bassinet, because of where you’re located on the aircraft you can expect a lot of foot traffic and noise going past.  We recommend the Fly Babyee bassinet cover as a great way to help your baby sleep on board an aircraft, or course not fail proof but certainly helps. Otherwise a large muslin square or nursing cover over the bassinet can help.

      • If you are in a bulkhead row, you will have an arm rest TV screen.  Once the bassinet is up in many aircraft, you will no longer be able to move your screen. Always check this before you ask them to install the bassinet.
      • Flying over peak times like Christmas, it is ultra-busy, especially with families so there’s a high chance you will not get the bassinet.  Airlines tend to prioritise the bassinets based on age so younger babies will get them first (or sometimes loyalty card holders). Try booking early direct with the airline (not codeshare), and arrive early on check in day (some airlines will not give out the bulkheads until they’ve physically seen the baby).
      • You may also find when a flight is busy your group cannot be seated together (i.e. only one adult from your group can sit in the bulkhead) as the whole front row is fully booked with families and infants who equally need the bulkhead seats.   As first-time flyers this may, of course, come as devastating news but is unfortunately a fact to prepare yourself for – and not the end of the world.
      • Ultimately, the airline will make the final choice on how they’re bulkhead seats are allocated, there’s no definitive trick to guarantee your seats.

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Help my baby no longer fits the bassinet!

Once your infant becomes too large to fit the airline bassinet, should you still book a bulkhead seat? This really depends on how many are travelling in your group, there are a few ideas you could try;The ultimate guide to airline baby bassinets - using an empty seat once baby is too big to fit the bassinet | Travel Advice | OurGlobetrotters.Net

      • When we had just one infant, we would still book the bulkhead row if we could as this would allow extra room at your feet, and meant each adult could easily climb in and out on their own – simply much easier for baby handling, but of course means the baby will have to sleep in your arms with arm rests that don’t move.
      • Once we were up to baby’s number two and three, however, and had older children to accommodate as well, we had a preference to then choose seats further towards the back, and play for the empty seat tactic.  Over dozens of flights this has worked on all but one occasion – the idea being that you book a whole row but the adult seats are ticketed for the aisles, leaving empty seats in the middle.  If no one else takes these seats (a middle seat at the back is the least popular choice!) you’ve scored yourself some extra space to lie your infant out flat across the row, and allows you to put the arm rests up for older kids to top and toe (not possible in the bulkhead row), maximizing the chance that everyone in your group can get some sleep.
      • When I fly on my own though, I still try to get the bulkhead seat. It is much easier when you’re the only adult to deal with three children at once when you can stand in front of them and the older ones can walk past without waking the sleeping babe in arms. (I even once got the dream scenario of the bulkhead and a spare seat with hubby taking the older kids 2 rows back, can’t beat that for travelling mum excitement!!)
      • The other alternative is of course to book your infant a child’s seat, which on most airlines can be done once your child is over 6 months.  Some people have a preference to do this from the start so their child can sit securely (and some babies sleep better) in their usual infant seat. Personally, the cost and palaver of trying to drag an infant car seat through the airport along with the multitude of other baby items you need I have not bothered to go down this route, but some swear by it (mostly Americans I think who have terrible international airlines and don’t know the pure joy a baby bassinet can bring!!)

Guide to Baby Bassinets by Airline

So here it is, the information you’ve been searching for, broken down by airline (click on the document to scroll by airline – works best on desktop).

Our-Globetrotters-Guide-to-Baby-Bassinets

Note our review is at January 2016. We have focused on premium international airlines operating long-haul routes. Where information is missing we have contacted the airline and will endeavour to update this document as more information becomes available. Please always call the airline to confirm information before booking. 



Further resources

If you would like to know more about family-friendly facilities by airline, please come and check out our airlines home page. Our detailed guides step you through pregnancy policies, infant luggage allowances, ability to transfer frequent flyer points between family members and much more.

We also have guides to help first-time flying parents, travelling with two+ children and how to handle flights on your own.

This posted is part of the #fearlessfamtrav link up with Wandermust Family

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Flying with a baby? the ultimate guifde to airline baby bassinets

So please tell us your bassinet adventures! Do you have a preferred seating methods with infants? Has any airline ever let you down and failed to deliver? We’d love you to share your stories or ask any questions about baby bassinets on planes.

© Our Globetrotters. The author claims copyright over the information researched published on this page. Should you wish to reproduce any of this information or graphics, please seek permission first from [email protected]

 

34 Comments

    • Great, so glad we can help – it shouldn’t be so hard to get this information but airlines like to mystify it!

  • Wow, I’m 2 years late!! We flew with a direct flight from Italy to NYC and return when our daughrer was 4 months and it was great despite our fears for a such tiny baby! They gave us bassinet, comfort seats and every care starting from priority boarding. Travel with children is fantastic!!

    • Travelling with a tiny baby is so easy!! Had we known and understood it all better we would have flown a lot more with just one – now with three bouncy tots its challenging again, but already my older two can sit still for fairly long periods transfixed by the movies!

  • Fantastic tips Keri, really great article!! We only ever flew in Europe so never got to use the bassinet, but I used to dream of it as I’d usually be travelling alone with a tiny baby. I’d definitely be pinning this 🙂

    • thanks Maria – its why I actually prefer the long hauls to the shorter flights – 3 hours with a baby bouncing on me drives me insane – 10 hours of a baby sleeping in a bassinet – bliss!

    • I have no idea why the airlines are so illusive on this information – especially the premium airlines that don’t sell off the leg room. Glad I can help the next generation though

    • That’s seriously bad luck Kevin! Maybe we are just more pushy, but I think being active on the phone to them before hand, not just relying on an internet/agent booking really helps. We always sign up to air mile programs too which could help in terms of status on their systems. We’re Gold with Etihad who we fly with most often, which makes staff very accommodating to our requests.
      The sitting families separately thing still baffles me, we just fight it and fight it until at least a grown up is with every child – huge family travel problem though that the industry needs to tackle.

  • We only had one experience with this when flying to and from Europe in 2006 with Qantas and KLM. Both supplied the standard bassinet for baby Willow to sleep in. Great article packed with information Keri excellent family travel resource

    • Thanks Mark. It really is the holy grail to score the bulkhead seats and can make an immense amount of difference to a families journey.
      I do hope this can be a valuable resource to parents, let there be no more families holding babies just because they didn’t know the rules (and the airlines were too stingy to explain them)!!!

    • Maybe anyone who suffers from DVT should take a couple of my kids with them on there next flight – I do spend most of a long-haul out of my chair too!!!
      Airline seating strategies have become a hobby for us now, we know it down to individual aircraft and routes, quite sad really… but hey some people are good at cooking, crafts, this is my hobby!

  • This is such a great idea – we only had one flight where we got a bassinet (all the rest were either low-cost or she was suddenly too big) and it was a bit of a minefield finding out whether we were guaranteed one. In the end we did get one, but she was determined not to lie down and the cabin crew insisted she wasn’t allowed to sit up in it!
    Cathy (MummyTravels) recently posted…City Tripping #12My Profile

    • The lack of surety makes it hard to plan but at least with the right information I hope parents will push hard to get what they deserve when they’re travelling with an infant – its the lack of transparency and mystery behind their allocation that makes it so difficult! (and then the little angels go and outgrow them too quick, bless xx)

  • What a great guide and super handy product: I wish I had known about it when my kids were babies! I remember flying alone with my son when he was only a few months old – I was breastfeeding and I totally underestimated how useful a second pair of hands (or a bassinet) would be… I ended up relying on the kindness of strangers and still hold immense gratitude for the gentlemen who lent me his leather jacket when I couldn’t find my baby’s blanket!
    Marta recently posted…Visiting Dublin with children: a mini guide for familiesMy Profile

    • Oh dear! They have a way of ruining best laid plans. I’m intrigued as to how you managed the standing breastfeed, but if needs must – anything to get through that dreaded flight!!!

    • I would say getting in early is crucial – but it really depends! Even if you’ve booked early, many airlines make it clear they can still bump you at the airport if a smaller child books after yo. At least its great to know which policies each airline has – and which will cheekily charge you more for the pleasure!

      • This is an amazing resource Keri. Well done for compiling. Bassinets can make travel so much easier. We ‘vemanaged to get them a couple of times. For our trip to Malaysia our daughter still fit in it at around 18 months (she’s small and v light). Was a bit of a lifesaver on a full flight. #fearlessfamtrav

      • oh well done you for still fitting at 18 months! the only one we got away with this still was our eldest flying BA as they move them to the bouncer chair style when they’re bigger

    • It is a tricky art form but with many years practice under our belt we have only been left completely without a bassinet, or without an empty seat next to us once – pretty good record over 20+ long hauls!

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