Author: Fran Falkin
Tags : Air Travel, Baby, Europe, Kids, Middle East, Pacific
Know of any parents who haven't had a hard time flying with kids? I don't. From fussing to wrigling, crying and whining - we've all been there. Luckily, airlines have stepped up to the plate and are coming up with some carefully thought-out offerings for families. As they roll out the welcome mat to mom, dad and children, FTF presents some of these upgraded programs designed to help families lower the stress, enjoy the airline experience and make time confined on the plane pass quickly.
Lufthansa Says “Willkomen” to Families
"Airline travel has always been an exciting experience for children” says Jurgen Siebenrock, Vice President, Lufthansa The Americas, and adds, "Lufthansa wants to enhance the adventure by making children and families feel especially at home when they fly with us. Our new family-geared offerings are designed to make flying a memorable experience right from the moment they arrive at the airport.”
Features include Lufthansa's Family Check-in Areas which cater to families with children up to age 12 in Cairo and in their Frankfurt and Munich hubs. To make the check-in process fun and easy, families are welcomed by mascots Lu and Cosmo, and kids are invited to an up-close view of the check-in procedure. They receive their own boarding pass along with one for their Best Friend, if a teddy bear or doll is coming on board with them. Armed with their Family Pilot brochure, they are ready to find play areas, baby changing stations, family-friendly restaurants, pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as observation decks located throughout the airport. Lufthansa also offers a multi-lingual airport guide service to help families find their way; free stroller use up to the gate, the ability to reserve seats together and guaranteed priority boarding.
On board there is plenty of entertainment, including the food. “Propeller Meatballs,” “Aeroplanes in Pasta Heaven” and other dishes from on the Planes Disney-themed children’s menu were created by Lufthansa chefs with the goal of providing balanced meals that are appealing and tasty. Kids are also given amenity kits with a toothbrush, ear plugs and non-slip socks, as well as coloring books, puzzles and toys, and there is a wide selection of in-flight entertainment for the kids to choose from.
JetFriends is a free travel club/frequent flyer program for kids ages 2 to 17. Young travel enthusiasts get 2,000 miles just for joining and can explore the website for information about all aspects of aviation. A new app, available for iPhone, iPad and Android offers tips for flying with children and games. Lufthansa didn’t forget about babies, either. Complimentary baby cots are available on long flights and there are baby changing stations on all aircraft.
SWISS Offers Hospitality, and Special Treats
SWISS, part of the Lufthansa group serving 84 destinations in 40 countries, is a small airline focused on customer service. They have recently expanded their inflight entertainment for children on all long-haul service in both Economy and Business Class. Adding to coloring books, puzzles and stickers, there is also an extensive selection of kids’ movies, computer games, TV shows and cartoons, and their own dedicated music channel. SWISS’s new Logbook, developed in collaboration with the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne, the Kiditec Company, and Zurich and Geneva airports, is where young passengers can read information about flying, check out a map showing SWISS’s destinations and highlighting attractions for children, record their flights, and have their logbook signed by the captain.
Kids are also treated with special meals on long-haul flights, adds Patrick Heymann, Senior Director, SWISS Sales and Marketing. Along with their food, 2 through 9-year-olds are offered a goody bag and a sweet surprise. Special meals for tweens (ages 10 through 12) are also available, but need to be pre-ordered when making your reservation, as are those for the tiniest travelers (under age 2) who are served pureed vegetables or fruit. Note that their hub in Zurich has a special Kids Corner where kids can play while awaiting their flight.
All air travelers benefit from SWISS being a certified allergy-free airline because of the special aircraft materials they use. The thoughtful airline also allows travelers to book champagne, a birthday cake, or a giftbox of Swiss chocolates to be delivered in-flight.
Emirates - Chosen Best Airline for Families
US News Travel names Dubai-based Emirates -- whose motto is “Families Come First” -- the best airline for families. Before boarding, families are offered free use of baby strollers, a dedicated play areas for kids in all classes of service, and games consoles for kids and parents flying Business and First Class.
Once on board, families will find basinettes, baby formula, toys, special kids’ meals and treats. Keeping kids entertained during the flight is one of Emirates' concerns, so they offer cartoons and movies. Emirates Skysurfer program lets frequent flying children accumulate miles for future trips, or perks such as waterpark tickets in Dubai.
British Airways - It's "Lovely"
For flights on British Airways, check with a BA representative to see if your departure airport has a Family Lane which speeds families through the security checkpoint. Small strollers can be pushed right to the cabin door and stored on board; larger ones will be stowed with baggage.
Age-appropriate Skyflyer activity packs are given to 3- to 5-year-olds and 6- to 12-year-olds on all four-hour or longer flights. BA also offers family movies and on-screen entertainment from Disney and the Cartoon Network. When tummies start to grumble, British Airway’s “feed kids first” policy ensures that little ones are content before mom and dad are offered their own meals.
Gulf Air Provides Sky Nannies
“To help families traveling with children – and those passengers who aren’t” is the goal of Gulf Air’s free Sky Nanny program. Specially trained nannies provide service in the Bahrain lounge and on-board on long-haul routes. On hand to help parents navigate boarding and disembarkation, they also give parents a hand during the flight, and provide all the supplies you need and may have forgotten to pack: baby food, diapers, wipes, lotions, bibs, etc.
Qantas - The Flying Kangaroo
In most Australian airports, Qantas provides iMac computers, Sony Playstations, toys and books for kids in their Family Zones, as well as loaner strollers that are collected at the gate. Advance seat selection is available so that families can block the seating configuration they want. Once on board, kids are given kits with playing cards, colored pencils, puzzles and action figures to help keep them engaged. Families are offered baby, toddler and children's meals and special on-board family entertainment is provided by Nickelodeon and Disney.
Thomson Airways Plans Special Family Seating
Beyond expanding its fleet in the next few years, Thomson Airways, the largest charter airline in the UK, has big plans for families and couples. Pod-seating will allow couples privacy, peace and quiet, while Family Booths will accommodate 4-6 people facing each other around a table. Other features will include an on-board Kids Club with entertainment for kids; an in-flight channel with bedtime stories for little ones and special programming for teens.
While this won’t be in operation until 2018, by 2015 there will be child-free zones on some routes, for those don’t want to be disturbed by the pitter patter of excited young travelers.
We all know that happy kids make for happy parents. And, with the services outlined above, your family's next vacation need not be a "staycation," but a true adventure for everyone.