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Is air travel safe for an infant?
Typically, air travel is appropriate for most healthy, full-term infants. However, before you fly with your baby, consider:
Your baby's age and health. Your baby's health care provider likely will discourage unnecessary air travel shortly after birth. Newborns have developing immune systems and air travel increases their risk of catching an infectious disease, including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
When compared with older children, babies under age 1 might be at increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19 . If you travel with an infant, take steps to keep yourself and your baby safe. Get all eligible family members, including children, vaccinated to reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 . Also, wear a well-fitted, high-filtration face mask — such as N95 — in the airport and on the airplane, frequently wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, and avoid contact with obviously ill travelers. If your newborn is sick, don't fly unless your child's health care provider says it's OK.
Your baby's ears. Changing cabin pressure during a flight causes temporary changes in middle ear pressure. This can trigger ear pain. To help relieve the discomfort in your baby's ears, offer your baby a breast, bottle or pacifier to suck on during takeoff and the initial descent. It might help to try to time feedings so that your baby is hungry during these times. If your baby has had ear surgery or an ear infection two weeks before your flight date, ask a health care provider if it's safe to fly.
Also, airplane cabin noise levels are loud, especially during takeoff. Consider using cotton balls, noise-canceling headphones or small earplugs to limit your baby's exposure to this noise. This may help make it easier for your baby to sleep.
- Your baby's breathing. During flight, air pressure in an aircraft cabin is lower than air pressure on land. This temporary change in oxygen level doesn't seem to pose problems for otherwise healthy babies. However, if your baby was born prematurely, has chronic heart or lung problems, or has upper or lower respiratory symptoms, talk to your baby's health care provider before flying.
- Your baby's safety seat. Most infant car seats are certified for air travel. Although airlines typically allow infants to ride on a caregiver's lap during flight, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that infants ride in properly secured safety seats. If you choose not to purchase a ticket for your infant, ask about open seats when you board the plane, in case one can be assigned to your infant.
Don't be tempted to give your baby an over-the-counter medication, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others), to encourage sleep during the flight. The practice isn't recommended, and sometimes the medication can have the opposite effect.
Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
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- Jana LA, et al. Flying the family-friendly skies. In: Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. 4th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2020. https://shop.aap.org. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.
- Newborn-flying and mountain travel. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://publications.aap.org/patiented/article/doi/10.1542/ppe_schmitt_173/82244/Newborn-Flying-and-Mountain-Travel. Accessed. Feb. 1, 2022.
- Families and COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/groups/families-covid-19.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.
- AskMayoExpert. Health considerations for air travelers. Mayo Clinic; 2021.
- Information for pediatric healthcare providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/pediatric-hcp.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.
- Child safety on airplanes. Federal Aviation Administration. https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children/. Accessed Feb. 2, 2022.
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Airline Ticketing Policies for Traveling With a Baby
Emmanuel Aguirre/Getty Images
Flying with a baby often means hauling along a car seat and a stroller and tons of other baggage for baby. But if you're undaunted and planning to fly with a baby, it's important to check with the carrier to understand all the rules that traveling with a small child entails. It's a lot faster than taking a long road trip with a baby, but traveling by air is fraught with issues, and you don't want this particular situation to be one of them.
The rules among airlines for traveling with a baby can vary by airline, and the rules can change frequently, but there are overall general guidelines regarding tickets for babies.
- Babies age two and under can fly free on domestic U.S. flights with one paying passenger as long as they sit in the passenger's lap.
- It is safer for a child to ride in a car seat in the plane , and if you prefer that option, you'll need to pay full fare for a seat for the baby regardless of age. The car seat must be government-approved, with labeling that says it is approved for vehicles and aircraft. You might get lucky and get a discount on this seat, but don't assume that.
- You'll have to supply proof of age of the baby; a birth certificate is a good way to do this.
- Infants under the age of two can travel with an accompanying passenger who is at least 16 years old, depending on the airline, regardless of whether the infant is a lap child or has a paid seat.
- All children two and older must have their own seat.
- The maximum number of infants per adult passenger is two, with a maximum of one lap baby (infant without a paid seat) per adult. In some countries, such as Canada, regulations permit only one infant per paying passenger 16 years old or older, regardless of whether the infant is a lap baby or in a paid seat. So if you are flying outside the United States, check the rules of your destination country.
- If an infant not occupying a paid seat turns two after travel has begun, there is a wide range of policies. Some airlines will provide a seat without charging airfare, while others require you to pay for a seat for the child after he has turned two. Some airlines might require you to pay for an entire trip if the child turns two during your travels, and it may work out to buy tickets per direction so that you only have to pay for a ticket one way; this tends to only work for domestic flights.
- Infants are usually allowed to travel without medical approval as long as they are at least seven days old.
- Most airlines allow you to check a collapsible stroller at the gate and pick it up as you exit the plane. It is a good idea to check on this before you arrive at the airport, however.
Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, and Virgin America do not offer infant fares, so if you are flying on one of these carriers, you will have to pay a full fare for your baby if you decide to use a car seat during flight.
Southwest Airlines offers what it calls affordable infant fares for children under two years when they sit in an approved car seat. The fares are not available on the carrier's website; parents must call 800-435-9792 to book infant fares.
American Airlines offers domestic and international infant fares. International infant fares are discounted 90 percent. Parents must call 800-433-7300 to book the fares; it cannot be done on the website.
Hawaiian Airlines charges full adult fares for infants flying on domestic flights and offers a special child fare for international flights; call 800-367-5320 for these tickets.
For those taking an infant on an international flight as a lap child, airlines have different requirements. Infants traveling without a seat on international destinations are charged 10 percent of the adult fare. Lap infants on international JetBlue flights are required to pay applicable fees and taxes and must be issued a ticket displaying the collection of those fees and taxes. On Alaska Airlines, lap infants are charged fees when traveling from an international location into the United States.
Questions to Ask
Beyond the main issue of airfare and car seats, there are several questions that you might want to ask when you are booking your flight. You might like to know if the car seat you are bringing on for the baby counts as a carry-on for you and about pre-boarding and diaper-changing facilities.
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Missing Your Flight: A Step-by-Step Guide for Recovery
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Booking a Baby Bassinet for Your Flight
Baggage Policies on Icelandair
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Safety & Prevention
Flying with Baby: Parent FAQs
By: Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP
Taking a baby on a plane is something that most parents approach with trepidation—with good reason.
Babies and air travel can both be unpredictable, and they don't always mix well. But some advanced planning and preparation can help make for a better experience for your baby, for you, and for everyone else on the plane.
When is my baby old enough to fly on an airplane?
Generally, it is discouraged for babies to fly unnecessarily shortly after birth. Air travel increases a newborn's risk of catching an infectious disease. Babies born prematurely , with chronic heart or lung problems, or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms may also have problems with the change in oxygen level within the air cabin. Parents should talk with their child's pediatrician before flying.
If there is a measles outbreak in your area, or you plan on traveling somewhere where there is a measles outbreak, your pediatrician may recommend your baby receive an extra dose of the MMR vaccine. This may be given as early as 6 months of age. Learn more here .
Does my baby need a passport for international travel?
Yes. All U.S. citizens, including infants, need a current passport to travel internationally. Parents or guardians need to apply with their baby in person using the form DS-11 . Be sure to bring your baby's birth certificate and a photo taken within the last 6 months. Passport photos must be taken with nobody else in the photo, which can be tricky with infants. To do this safely if your baby can't sit up yet, the U.S. Department of State recommends laying your baby on her back on a white blanket or sheet to ensure head support without having to hold her. Another option is covering a car seat with a plain white sheet and taking a picture of your child while she sits in it.
Should my baby sit on my lap during the flight?
Ideally, no. The FAA doesn't require a ticket for children under the age of 2 years, but that means your baby will be on your lap. If there is turbulence, or worse, you may not be able to protect your baby in your arms. If you do not buy a ticket for your child, ask if your airline will allow you to use an empty seat. If your airline's policy allows this, avoid the busiest days and times to increase the likelihood of finding an empty seat next to you.
Should I bring our car seat on the plane with us? Does that count as luggage?
Car seats, booster seats, and strollers generally don't count as luggage, but policies vary by airline; check with yours before flying. In most cases they can be checked at the gate, where the risk of damage is lower, at no cost. If your baby has his or her own airplane seat, bring your car seat with you.
Which seat on the plane is best for a baby?
Look for rows on the plane with more space , like the bulkhead. Exit rows are out, for safety reasons.
Choose a seat closer to the window, if possible . Aisle seats can be risky for babies during beverage service. Hot drinks being passed to passengers can spill and cause burns , and their little arms and legs can be caught by passing carts. Aisle seats are also closer to falling overhead bin items.
Is there a way my baby can lie down flat on long flights?
Buckling your baby into a car seat or safety restraint remains the safest option. However, there are other options available to help baby sleep comfortably, especially on long-haul flights.
Airline bassinets . Some airlines offer airline bassinets attached to the airplane bulkhead wall―the wall behind the galley, or toilets or another cabin. In some premium cabins, they can be built into the seat compartment.to use in bulkhead rows. Most airline bassinets require the baby to be under 6 months old and/or 20 pounds, and not yet able to sit up unassisted. These bassinets are sometimes referred to as "skycots," baskets, and cots. Check with your airline when booking.
Sleeper seat . For an added fee, some international airlines let you book three seats in a row with locking seat extensions, creating a "sky couch" or sleeper-seat big enough for both parent and child.
Inflatable seat extensions . Some airlines let you bring your own inflatable, individual seat extension for your baby to snooze on lying down. These are fairly new products, and not all airlines permit them to be used, so check ahead of time. Your child will need his or her own seat to use one.
Note: For all options above, your baby would still need to be buckled into a car seat or held on your lap during takeoff, turbulence, and landing.
Will I be able to get liquid formula or expressed breast milk through security?
Yes, but you have to follow the reasonable quantities rules. This means you're exempt from the 3-1-1 rule limiting liquids to 3.4 ounces.
Pack formula, expressed breastmilk, or water for mixing with powder separately and be ready to let the TSA know you have it. You may ask that they not go through the x-ray machine (although this shouldn't cause a health problem). Visit the TSA website for more information.
Any tips for keeping my baby comfortable and content on the plane?
Dress in layers . The temperature in a plane can vary widely, especially if you are stuck waiting on a runway, so layers of clothing are best. As you pick out clothing , choose outfits that make diaper changing in a small space easier. Also, pack a change of clothes or two, in case turbulence hits during a diaper change or when you are feeding. Bring plastic bags for soiled clothing.
Be ready for ear pain . During the climb after takeoff and descent before landing, changes in pressure between the outer ear and middle ear can cause discomfort. If your baby has had ear surgery or an ear infection in the past two weeks, ask his or her doctor if it's OK to fly. Having babies drink from the breast or a bottle, or suck on a pacifier, can help. If your child has a cold or ear infection, a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help; check with your doctor for the right amount to give your child.
Keep in mind that s leeping babies are easier for everyone . If possible, travel at a time when your baby naturally sleeps, or consider trying to put off a nap until it's time to fly. Flight delays can cause this to backfire if your exhausted baby decides to scream instead of sleep. But it may be worth a try.
Consider a diaper change right before boarding. A dry baby is a happy baby. Fortunately, when you do need to change a diaper in-flight, many planes have restroom changing tables . If yours doesn't, ask a flight attendant if there is a spot on the floor where you can spread out your changing pad. Some parents resort to diaper-changing on the closed toilet seat. If you try this, be sure to have a hand on your baby at all times and pack a disposable changing pad. Plan for delays; pack plenty of supplies.
Bring distractions . Pack some toys and books and be ready to play with your baby the entire time. A tablet with videos can be a good backup if the toys and books aren't helping anymore (we don't encourage entertainment media for children under the age of 2 , but desperate times can sometimes call for desperate measures).
Don't let the glares get to you . Despite the best advanced planning and efforts, babies cry sometimes. Know that you did, and are doing, all you can. At that point, one of the best ways you can calm your baby may be to stay calm yourself. And remember that for every person who is glaring at you, there are plenty of people who have been through it themselves and have lots of sympathy.
Ask for help . Arrange for your airline to help you if you need help making a connecting flight. Carrying a child safety restraint, your baby, and luggage through a busy airport can be challenging.
Travel Safety Tips
Holiday Travel Tips
Precautions for International Travel: Information for Parents
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions about Flying with Children (FAA.gov)
Destination-Specific Vaccine Recommendations for Travelers—Including Travelers with Children (CDC.gov)
About Dr. McCarthy:
Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, a senior editor for Harvard Health Publications, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She writes about health and parenting for the Harvard Health Blog , Huffington Post , and many other online and print publications.
Flying With a Baby Checklist
So you want to fly with a newborn? Or, perhaps, due to an adoption, family emergency or relocation you have to fly with a newborn. Whatever the reason, you need a checklist to pull this planning off in the midst of the final stretch of pregnancy, birth and the fog that surrounds those early (but sweet) newborn days.
TPG has an entire guide devoted to helping you prepare for a child's first flight , but if your flight companion is a true baby (as opposed to a crawler or toddler), we are going to start you off with a shorter checklist because you don't need tablets, Goldfish and a Mary Poppins-style bag of tricks . Truth be told, in some ways, flying with a baby is easier than flying with a toddler, though there are a few nuances to address before hitting the sky with a newborn.
Get Cleared to Fly
Many airlines have restrictions on how old a newborn must be before they can fly. Just as airlines' rules for flying while pregnant vary , so do the rules for flying with a newborn. Generally speaking, the major airlines require a baby be at least 2 to 8days old before hitting the skies. Those who do permit babies under 7 days old to fly, generally ask for a medical release or physician's note stating that the baby is cleared to fly.
While not an exhaustive list, here are some current airline rules for flying with a baby.
- American Airlines : American Airlines accepts infants as young as 2 days old, but American's policy states that if you're traveling with an infant less than 7 days old, your physician will be required to fill out a passenger medical form before your flight. American states that a special assistance coordinator will send the form directly to your physician, but if you have trouble obtaining that form, I would bring a note from the baby's physician clearing them for flight.
- Delta : Infants less than 7 days old may not travel without an approval letter from their physician.
- Frontier : Infants must be at least 7 days old to fly.
- Hawaiian Airlines : Infants under 7 days old require a doctor's note -- dated within one day of travel -- that states the child will not require any extraordinary medical assistance during the flight dated within one day of travel.
- JetBlue : Infants between 3 and 14 days old must have, in the form of a letter, their doctor's approval to travel.
- Southwest Airlines: A medical release for travel is required for any infant under 14 days old.
- Spirit: Infants must be at least 7 days old.
- United: Infants younger than 7 days old are not accepted for travel.
To give you a flavor for requirements around the world, on British Airways infants must be at least 48 hours old, Air Canada requires babies to be least 7 days old and ANA sets the bar for babies as at least 8 days old.
To Ticket or Not to Ticket
If you have the luxury of choice, I advise against planning flights for a newborn before they are born. Every baby and birth is unique, so assuming things will be going well enough to fly with a baby in those first few weeks is a gamble. Take this advice from someone who had a seemingly healthy newborn life-flighted at 4 days old and then (because we are slow learners) five years later, paid change penalties to push back a trip for a 6-week-old when we were frankly still far too exhausted to go anywhere.
However, sometimes you simply have to fly in those early weeks, so you'll need to decide whether to book your baby a seat or hold them as a lap baby. If you are 100% set on your baby's name, you might be able to book a flight before they are born. In other cases, I've heard of airlines allowing families to book flights for Baby YourLastName, but don't expect this process to be simple or foolproof.
The easiest way to fly with a newborn may be to simply keep them snuggled close to you. If you are nursing, they may be happiest doing that through much of the flight anyway.
On the other hand, there is something to be said about the secureness of a car seat, especially in the event of severe turbulence or a hard landing. And because nothing is simple once you become a parent, keep in mind there are also studies showing that leaving infants in car seats for more than 30 minutes might be dangerous. In other words, if you are flying with a baby, talk to your doctor, your partner and then go with your gut in terms of what is best from a seating perspective.
If your journey with a newborn is an international flight, brush up on lap infant fees , which can range from inconsequential to exorbitant. On a longer or international flight, you may also wish to request a seat assignment with a bassinet, especially for a younger baby who will still actually fit in one. (Here are the pros and cons of booking the bulkhead seat when traveling with a baby .)
Your baby needs a folder with all of his or her travel-related paperwork started ASAP and then plan on carrying that folder with you when you fly. If you are on domestic flights (on a carrier other than Southwest), you may very well never be asked for any documentation for your baby but it is better to be over-prepared than end up in this situation. While it isn't necessarily fair, this documentation advice is especially true if your baby has a different last name than you, appears to be of a different race or if you are an LGBTQ family . To give context, airlines are sometimes one of the front-line defenses against child trafficking, so they are on the lookout for anything that raises a red flag when it comes to flying with newborns.
Additionally, Southwest Airlines in particular is known for requiring birth certificates to prove that lap children are indeed under 2 years of age, even in cases where the baby is clearly a newborn. If you don't yet have a birth certificate for your baby, bring the documentation you do have from the hospital and/or physician's office to verify the child's age.
If you are flying internationally with your baby, you must have a passport for him or her . Getting a passport means you need to have the child's birth certificate, passport photo , etc. This process can be rushed a bit if necessary, but allow time if you can so that you aren't worrying about passport details the moment you deliver.
Unlike with TSA PreCheck that allows children 12 and under to piggy-back through the line with their parents, even babies officially need their own Global Entry for the family to make use of that service. Make that Global Entry "interview" appointment as soon as you can (yes, even for babies), and pay the application fee with a credit card that covers Global Entry application fees.
Pack Light: Milk, Diapers and Clothes
The paperwork process of flying with a baby (especially internationally) can be a drag, but thankfully the packing process is much easier. A true newborn is pretty simple to pack for as they really only need breastmilk or formula, diapers and wipes, clean clothes, a blanket and you. If you use a breast pump, remember that is considered a medical device , so it can be brought onboard without counting against your carry-on allowance.
Once your baby is a few months old , he or she will appreciate some small toys and things to do in-flight. But in those first few weeks, you can keep the extras to a minimum. Just pack enough to keep them clean, warm, fed and snuggled. (And then pack a little extra of all of those things ... just in case.)
The TSA permits you to bring a "reasonable quantity" of formula or breast milk through security . Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool breast milk are also allowed in your carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they may also be subject to additional screening. If you are traveling internationally with breastmilk, you'll want to do a bit of research on the local rules and regulation as it can vary. Here's how to fly with breast milk in the US .
You might want to bring a stroller for your baby, but honestly for a newborn who probably doesn't weigh more than about 10 pounds, a sling or baby carrier of some sort might work even better than a stroller .
Travel does not end when you have a baby , but it does change quite a bit. We are here to walk you through each step from your baby's first flight to traveling with tweens , teens and beyond. Even if we haven't written the article you are after just yet, check out our TPG Family Facebook Group that is full of more than 12,000 traveling parents from families of all ages, shapes and sizes.
Did we miss anything on your traveling with a baby checklist?
Here are even more resources for flying with a baby:
- The Best Airline Seats, Suites, Lactation Rooms and Lounges When Breastfeeding
- No, Your Lap Infant Will Not Earn Miles for Paid International Tickets
- How to Fly Around the World With a Baby
- Tips for Flying With a 3 Month Old Baby
- Tips for Flying with a Six Month Old Baby
- Traveling With a Baby: How Young Is Too Young to Fly?
Image courtesy of Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images.
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Flying with a baby: 15 tips for an easier trip
Planning on flying with a baby? Here's everything you need to know, including whether your baby can fly for free and tips for managing the flight.
How old does a baby need to be to fly?
Do babies fly free, what do babies need to fly, 15 tips for flying with a baby.
Flying with a baby adds a layer of complication and planning – but that doesn't mean you can't make it work. To help the trip go as smoothly as possible, book a seat for your baby, plan for the security screening, and pack wisely for you and your little one. For everything even the most seasoned travelers need to know about air travel with a baby, read on.
Planning a flight with a newborn? There isn't an official age requirement for air travel, but airlines have varying policies. Some (such as Alaskan Airlines) have no minimum age to fly; others (American Airlines, JetBlue) say babies can fly as young as two or three days old; and still others (Delta, United, Spirit, Frontier) allow babies on board after the first week of life.
Less commonly, airlines will require infants to be slightly older (Southwest, for example, says children must be at least 14 days old for an international flight). Check with your airline to confirm their policy before booking a ticket for your little one.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages parents Opens a new window from flying with a baby too soon after birth. With their delicate immune systems, newborns have a heightened risk of contracting an infectious disease on a plane. That's especially true if your baby was born prematurely or has a condition such as a chronic heart problem that makes them more vulnerable.
Always discuss your travel plans with your pediatrician and ask what they recommend. Depending on your baby's age and your destination, they might suggest an extra dose of certain vaccines .
Babies and toddlers under 2 years old aren't legally required to occupy an airplane seat and can instead travel as a "lap infant" on their parent's ticket. Lap infants are generally free of charge, although you may pay a percentage of the full fare if you're traveling internationally .
Even though you don't officially need to purchase a ticket for your under-2-year-old, leading experts agree that it's much safer to buy an airplane seat for your baby . That's because a baby held in your arms is nowhere near as secure as they'd be buckled into an approved child restraint system should the plane encounter turbulence.
Unrestrained children are the leading cause of pediatric injuries on an airplane, and lap infants have tragically been killed during even moderate turbulence. Although it can be upsetting to think about, human arms are simply not strong enough to hold a child in these events. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Opens a new window , and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Opens a new window all strongly urge parents to purchase an airplane seat for young children.
If you book a seat for your baby or toddler, bring an FAA-approved child restraint on board to strap them in safely. You can use a car seat on a plane (make sure it's approved for both motor vehicles and aircraft) or AmSafe's Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) device Opens a new window .
Although it can be tough to swallow the additional cost, a baby or toddler in their own seat has other benefits in addition to safety: They're more comfortable during the flight, easier to manage, and more likely to fall asleep, many parents find.
This depends a little on your child's age, the airline you're flying, and whether you're traveling within the United States or internationally.
For domestic travel, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn't require Opens a new window children under 18 to provide identification. However, it's still smart to check your airline's identification requirements: Some (JetBlue, Alaska Airlines) may ask for an infant's proof of age for domestic flights, which could be a birth certificate, passport, or immunization record.
Other airlines, such as Southwest, might not ask for proof of age but may require you to have a boarding verification document printed for your infant from the ticket counter even if they aren't occupying their own seat. When in doubt, it doesn't hurt to have some extra documentation for your baby just in case.
If you're flying internationally, your baby will need a passport regardless of their age. And if your baby is flying internationally with just one parent, you might be asked to show a letter of consent.
1. Check in with your airline
Regardless of whether you're flying with a lap infant or purchasing a seat for your baby, it's worth connecting with the airline ahead of time to discuss your seating options. A few things to consider bringing up with the agent:
- If you're going the lap-infant route : Ask the airline if there's an option to reserve a seat in a row with a skycot. These onboard bassinets are designed for babies 6 months and younger and provide a place for your baby to lie down flat during the flight (though you will need to pick them up whenever the seatbelt sign is on, as well as during takeoff and landing). Also confirm whether there are any rules about how many lap infants are permitted per row or section. Alaska Airlines, for example, has a policy Opens a new window stipulating where lap infants can sit on certain aircrafts.
- If you're booking your baby their own seat and bringing a car seat : Some airlines require that car seats be placed next to a window so they don't block other passengers. A bulkhead row can also be nice to request when traveling with a car seat, since it provides extra legroom. Just keep in mind that in the bulkhead row, it's sometimes trickier to access bags that might contain diapers, milk, and anything else might need. Because there's no seat in front of you to stash your personal item under, you'll likely be asked to place it in the overhead compartment.
2. Ask whether your child is eligible to earn points
When booking a seat for your child, look into the airline's loyalty program. Some, though not all, will allow children to earn points that you can use towards future travel. Take JetBlue Opens a new window , which lets parents enroll children 13 and younger in their TrueBlue account. You can then combine points earned within the family through the airline's Points Pooling program.
3. Confirm that your car seat is FAA-approved
If you've bought an airplane seat for your baby, bring an FAA-approved car seat for your child. This is the safest way for babies to fly, plus it ensures you'll have a car seat for your baby at your destination. It's likely that your child's existing car seat is approved for airline travel, but check the product manual or look for a label that says "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft" to make sure.
If you didn't buy a ticket for your baby, you might get lucky and be able to use the car seat if there are empty seats on board, but there are no guarantees with this approach.
4. Consider your stroller strategy
If you're traveling with a baby or toddler, chances are good that you'll be bringing your stroller along, too. Families have three options when flying with a stroller:
- Check it at the ticket counter: If you want a stroller at your destination but don't need it in the airport, you can check it along with your baggage when you arrive. (Note that some airlines always require you to check a stroller at the ticket counter if it weighs over a certain amount.) A stroller usually doesn't count towards your checked baggage, and many airlines allow families to check one stroller and one car seat per child for no extra cost. If you do check a stroller when you arrive at the airport, you may want to use a baby carrier to get your baby to your gate.
- Gate-check your full-size stroller: The benefit of gate-checking a stroller is that you have it with you while navigating the airport, which many families find helpful. Waiting in a long security line or racing to the gate with a small child in tow is often much easier with the support of a stroller. Plus, you can use the stroller's storage basket to stash some of your stuff. The downside is that you'll have to wait for your stroller to be unloaded once you arrive, which can slightly prolong the process of getting out of the airport.
- Bring along a stroller that will fit in the overhead bin: If you'd prefer not to gate-check your stroller, consider investing in a lightweight travel stroller . Some are compact enough to fit in most overhead compartments when collapsed (though you can check your airline's carry-on bag size guidelines to be sure). Their smaller size can be convenient for travel, and it's also nice not to have to wait for a gate-checked stroller to be brought back up when you land.
5. Look into your baggage options
Airlines have different baggage policies, but call ahead of time to understand exactly what you can bring on board. For example, while lap infants are generally not entitled to their own carry-on bags, many airlines allow families traveling with a child to bring a diaper bag, a breast pump, a cooler bag for milk or formula, an FAA-approved car seat, and a compact stroller onboard in addition to the regular carry-on and personal item allowance.
6. Pack smart
Packing for a flight with a baby is an art form: You need to have access to all the essentials, but you also don't want to overpack and have to rummage through a big bag to find something you need.
Consider what you'll want to have access to during the flight and pack your bags accordingly. For example, it's helpful to have a bag with diapers, wipes, disposable changing mats, disposable diaper bags, and a change of clothes at easy reach. For more ideas, check out our suggested supplies for traveling with a baby .
Definitely pack more spare clothes for your baby than you'll think you'll need – and include a fresh shirt for yourself. Nothing is worse than a blowout on an airplane! (Here's how to handle a blowout or just change a diaper on the plane .)
7. Be ready for flight delays and cancellations
When you're traveling with your little one, the last thing you want to deal with is getting stuck at the airport. But it happens, so be prepared. Bring more than enough diapers, formula, and snacks in your carry-on bags, as well as a few changes of clothes for your baby (and perhaps a change of clothes for you, too). Flight delays and cancellations can make it difficult to get your checked luggage, so you want to have the essentials with you.
In the same vein, consider gate checking your car seat and stroller (rather than checking them at the ticket counter) so you can easily get them back if needed.
8. Plan ahead to bring formula, breast milk, and bottles
Thankfully, not all the TSA rules about traveling with liquids apply to you. Parents are permitted to bring greater volumes of breast milk or formula through security.
Review your airline's policies for bringing formula or breast milk on board and hand it to security officers when you go through screening. You don't need to put bottles into the standard quart-size zip-top bag.
To speed up the process, TSA recommends storing either breast milk or formula in clear, translucent bottles rather than plastic bags or pouches, which may be subject to additional screening. And if you pack all the bottles in a cooler bag, know that most airlines won't count it towards your personal item allowance.
Breast pumps are often considered medically necessary, and ice packs, freezer packs, and other cooling accessories are allowed in your carry-on bags. You can bring all of these items on board even if your child isn't traveling with you.
9. Pack formula safely…
When traveling with baby formula , keep these safe storage tips in mind:
- Ready-to-feed formula: Bring an unopened container and clean, empty bottles on board. When your baby is ready for a feeding, pour the formula into the bottle and serve it right away.
- Powdered formula: Fill bottle(s) with clean water and bring a small container of powdered formula and a scoop with you on the plane. You can measure, shake, and serve a bottle to your baby when they're ready for a feeding.
- Premade bottles: You can also bring premade bottles through security if you prefer, using a cooler to keep them cold. Just keep in mind that if the cooler doesn't keep bottles at 35 to 40 degrees, you'll need to use or refrigerate them within two hours.
10. …and breast milk, too
A cooler will be essential if you're bringing breast milk on a plane . You can pack breast milk in bottles or pre-sterilized, sealable storage bags in a cooler bag, then offer them to your baby on the plane.
Breast milk will stay fresh for 24 hours in a cooler with frozen ice packs. At room temperature, breast milk is good for four hours; in the refrigerator, for four days; and frozen, for up to 12 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Opens a new window .
11. Bring plenty of snacks
If your little one has started solids , pack baby-friendly foods for your flight. Containers with pre-chopped fruit, steamed veggies, tofu, and crackers are all easy choices. Know that you're also allowed to bring puree pouches through security, as the TSA considers them medically necessary liquids. And make sure to include snacks for yourself, too!
12. Consider whether you want to board early
Most airlines allow families to pre-board. But there are two schools of thought on how to approach boarding with kids: Some families relish the chance to locate their seats early and settle in, while others find it difficult to entertain young children on an airplane that's not moving as other passengers also try to get settled.
If you're traveling with your partner or a loved one, you might decide to split up, with one adult boarding early with the bags while the other lets the kids run around a bit longer by the gate.
13. Bring entertainment for older babies
Younger infants may be mostly content to sleep, eat, and snuggle their parents, but older babies and toddlers can be trickier to keep occupied on an airplane. At this stage, kids are learning how to pull up to a stand and walk , or else have recently mastered these skills and are eager to explore an exciting new environment.
While you don't need to pack tons of toys, a few new items can help hold their attention. Some ideas: a Slinky, painter's tape, small board books, coloring books and crayons, and stickers.
14. Take steps to fight jet lag
If you're crossing time zones, try shifting your baby's sleep schedule over a few days leading up to your departure and exposing them to sunlight once you reach your destination. Or, you may want to keep the same schedule in the new time zone if that works best for you. Here are more tips for handling time changes with a baby .
15. Prepare for pressure changes
If your baby's ears seem to hurt from air pressure changes during takeoff and landing, encourage them to breastfeed or suck on a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup. If your baby's strapped into a car seat, give them something to suck on while in their seat rather than taking them out to breastfeed. It's safest for both of you to be securely buckled in.
Not all babies experience ear pain when flying, so use your judgment. If your baby's sleeping soundly, leave them be and they might get through the takeoff or landing without any trouble.
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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies .
Alaska Airlines. Undated. Traveling with infants and children. https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/policies/strollers-car-seats Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
American Academy of Pediatrics. 2019. Flying with Baby: Parent FAQs. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Flying-with-Baby.aspx Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
American Academy of Pediatrics. 2015. Family Friendly Flying. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Family-Friendly-Flying.aspx Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
American Airlines. Undated. Traveling with children and infants. https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/traveling-children.jsp Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Delta. 2023. Children and Infant Travel. https://www.delta.com/us/en/children-infant-travel/overview Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Federal Aviation Administration. 2023. Flying with Children. https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Federal Aviation Administration. Undated. Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.faa.gov/faq?combine=children&field_faq_category_target_id=1481 Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Kids Fly Safe. Undated. Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES). https://kidsflysafe.myshopify.com/ Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
National Transportation Safety Board. 2015. Child Passenger Safety on Aircraft. https://www.ntsb.gov/Advocacy/safety-alerts/Documents/SA-015.pdf Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Southwest Airlines. Undated. Traveling with an infant. https://www.southwest.com/help/flying-with-children/flying-with-infants Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Transportation Security Administration. Undated. Traveling with Children. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
Transportation Security Administration. Undated. Identification. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification Opens a new window [Accessed May 2023]
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Kathleen Felton is a freelance writer and editor. She was previously the executive editor of editorial strategy and growth at BabyCenter, the world's number one parenting resource. She is originally from Farmington, Connecticut, and now lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two sons.
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Age at the time of travel, how to add infant-in-arms to your ticket.
When you travel with a child under 2 years of age, you may choose to travel with the child on your lap (infant-in-arms) for free on all flights within the United States. Our step-by-step guide explains how to easily add an infant-in-arms to your ticket yourself.
- Go to My Trips
- Go to the "Special Service Requests" section and select “Open” under the Infant in Arms icon
- Click the "+" button next to “Request Infant in Arms” for the flight(s) the infant or child will be on
- Fill in the required information fields and click “Confirm”
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- Children traveling as unaccompanied minors receive barcoded wristbands that track their journey
- Parents or guardians can escort unaccompanied minors to the gate area through security
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What to Expect the First Year , 3rd edition, Heidi Murkoff. WhatToExpect.com, Flying With a Baby? Here's What to Know Before You Go , September 2021. WhatToExpect.com, Do Babies Need Passports? , October 2021. WhatToExpect.com, Best Travel Toys for Babies , February 2021. WhatToExpect.com, Baby Products You Can Take on a Plane , September 2020. American Academy of Pediatrics, Flying with Baby: Parent FAQs , November 2019. American Academy of Pediatrics, Is It Safe for Families to Travel Now? , August 2021. American Academy of Pediatrics, Travel Safety Tips , August 2018. American Academy of Pediatrics, Is It Safe for My Baby to Travel in a Car Seat a Few Hours at a Time? , August 2021. Transportation Security Administration, Traveling with Children . Federal Aviation Administration, Flying with Children , March 2021. Mayo Clinic, Is Air Travel Safe for an Infant? , October 2019.
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10 expert tips to avoid those dirty looks when flying with a baby
October 31, 2023 // By Lois Alter Mark
By Lois Alter Mark Travel Expert October 31, 2023
Flying with a baby can be a nightmare — for you, your baby, and other passengers on the flight. Not only do you have to pack and carry a ton of extra gear, but keeping your little one comfortable during flight can be tricky.
One new mom flying with an infant from Seoul to San Francisco gave out 200 goodie bags filled with candy, ear plugs, and a note written in the baby’s voice, apologizing in advance for crying. The infant got through the 10-hour flight without a peep, and the story went viral .
But, let's face it: Most people aren’t going to do that. Most of us are just trying to get out the door without forgetting something! Plus, it's natural for babies to cry, and there are bound to be mishaps.
We asked a flight attendant and a couple of pediatricians to weigh in with their best tips to make flying with a baby as stress-free as possible. Here’s what they had to say.
Two words: Plan ahead
“Preparation goes a long way in helping to ensure a smooth flight,” says Dr. Mona Amin, board-certified pediatrician, lactation consultant, and Philips Avent partner. “Think through how you’ll feed your baby, how you’ll keep them entertained and what surprise situations may occur.”
Amin also suggests packing a carry-on diaper bag with more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need, burp cloths, a light blanket, and at least one change of clothes for each of you, just in case. And keep essentials at the top to avoid having to unpack the whole bag to find a pacifier.
Stick to sleep times and feeding schedules when flying with a baby
“Whenever possible, try to keep babies on their regular schedule by planning flight times accordingly,” says Dr. Richard J. Kang, a pediatric critical care medicine specialist in Northridge, California.
If you can find a flight that coincides with your baby’s nap time, they just may sleep right through it. And don’t stress out about having to feed your baby on the plane.
“Feeding is a soothing activity for babies,” says Amin. “Pace it as you normally would. Don’t give a bottle just because they’re fussy unless they’re actually showing hunger cues. It’s more likely to result in spit up, especially with any turbulence or jerky motions on the plane.”
Encourage your baby to suck during takeoff and landing
One of the main reasons babies get fussy on planes is because the pressure changes can hurt their ears, mainly during takeoff and landing.
Both doctors recommend having your baby breastfeed or suck on a pacifier or bottle to help equalize ear pressure and alleviate discomfort during those times.
Enlist the help of flight attendants when flying with a baby
If your baby won’t calm down and you’re feeling desperate, reach out to a flight attendant instead of walking up and down the aisle with a screaming infant.
“We’re trained on how to speak with annoyed passengers and how to support parents,” says Maren Roeth, a flight attendant for Condor Airlines. “I might bring the parents and baby into the galley and draw the curtain for some added privacy. A little space, distraction, and quiet often helps the baby calm down.”
What do kids need to fly?
In addition to expert tips, here are six products you'll want to take with you. They could improve traveling with your baby so much that your little one might need their own frequent flyer number.
Doona Car Seat & Stroller
Thanks to the Doona Car Seat & Stroller , you’ll never hold up the line at airport security or while boarding the plane. This brilliant invention combines a car seat and stroller in one integrated system.
Wheel it right onto the plane, fold up the stroller wheels, and strap the car seat onto the plane seat without ever waking up your baby. You can even use it in cabs. It’s a true game-changer that makes flying with a baby seamless.
Dagne Dover Joey Changing Kit
How do you change a baby's diaper on an airplane? Mid-flight changes are made easy with the Dagne Dover Joey Changing Kit . The well-designed kit lets you take only what you need to the lavatory rather than having to schlep your whole diaper bag.
Made of Dagne Dover’s signature neoprene, it’s compact and stylish and matches the brand’s must-have diaper backpack and tote. It comes with a detachable changing pad and features four pockets to hold diapers, wipes, and creams.
Magnetic Me Parent Favorite Footie
With its magnetic closures, this one-piece footie is ideal for travel because it’s so simple to put on and take off. With the Magnetic Me Parent Favorite Footie , there’s no fumbling with snaps to line up properly, no zippers to avoid getting caught on delicate skin.
That would be enough in itself, but it’s also made of soft and silky modal, which is naturally breathable, temperature-regulating, and eco-friendly. The long sleeves and feet are perfect for over air-conditioned planes, and the footie comes in more than a dozen solids and prints so you can keep a backup in your diaper bag.
Etta Loves x Keith Haring Muslin Squares
Used as burp cloths and blankets, muslins are multi-tasking baby essentials. Etta Loves turns them into sensory experiences that also help your infant's development.
Designed with the help of eye care professionals, these iconic Keith Haring patterns aren’t just visually stimulating. They’re rescaled and recolored to optimize babies’ skills at different ages and stages. They’ll keep your baby engaged and entertained while also serving as covers for breastfeeding and naps.
Ceres Chill Warmer/Chiller Duo
Keeping valuable breast milk safe and fresh while traveling just became a no-brainer, thanks to the Ceres Chill Warmer/Chiller Duo . Created by a mom, the TSA-friendly Chiller holds 12 to 34 ounces and is compatible with every major pump, so you can pump directly into it, and it will keep breast milk cold for more than 20 hours.
The second Chiller can be used as a bottle warmer — just add hot tap water into the chamber — and a bottle to feed your baby, all from the comfort of your seat. No need to ask and wait for flight attendants to warm the bottle for you.
PandaEar Pacifier Leash
The PandaEar Pacifier Leash is likely to become the item you’re most thankful for when flying with your baby. Less than five dollars, the pack of four pacifier clips is the bargain of the year.
Simply attach a pacifier on one end, and clip the other onto your baby’s clothes. When it falls out of their mouth, it won’t fall on the floor, prompting a tight scramble to find your baby’s binky under the seat. The leashes also work with toys, teething rings, and baby blankets. You’ll want to use them everywhere.
About Lois Alter Mark
Lois Alter Mark is forwarding this article to her son and daughter in law 3,000 miles away so they'll bring her grandson to visit more often.
Read more about Lois Alter Mark here.
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Top 8 airlines for traveling with babies and kids.
Some airlines set themselves apart from the competition by going the extra mile for families - here is an updated list for 2023.
Planning air travel with little ones can be a challenge. Not only may you worry about sleep and feeding schedules and other crucial routines getting off-kilter, but you might not always know what to expect from a particular airline. This article will attempt to reduce the guesswork when it comes to what different carriers' policies are when it comes to traveling with infants and children.
Let's take a closer look at the family-specific service of the airlines that are usually named top-of-class when it comes to flying with kids and how they might go out of their way to accommodate their youngest flyers (and their parents). Here is our roundup of the best major airlines for family travel.
Airlines that go above and beyond to accommodate families
Emirates allows infants under two years of age to ride on an adult passenger’s lap or in a bassinet at a discounted fare. Children aged two to 11 years of age must occupy their own seats but receive a discounted fare unspecified on the carrier’s website.
The airline offers complimentary strollers for use at the airport near their check-in desks at Dubai International Airport, families get priority boarding, and you can bring both a pushchair and a carry cot for free.
Onboard amenities for babies include milk formula and bottles, as well as Ella’s Kitchen organic baby food. For kids, there are special meal options to accommodate dietary restrictions. The airline also has kids' specific in-flight entertainment options.
Plush toys in the form of Lewis the Lion, Peek U Panda, Ernie the Penguin and Savannah the Elephant are also on board to keep your little one company, and the airline provides travel-themes activity kits in collaboration with Lonely Planet.
2. Qatar Airways
Like its Gulf carrier competitor, Qatar Airways also excels in catering to the younger passenger segment. The Doha-based carrier also offers free seat selection, and child-specific entertainment on its IFE system and provides kids meals with considerations for various allergens.
Infant fares are applicable up to two years of age if traveling on the parent's lap. The airline will also allow one stroller or collapsible carry cot per infant free of charge. The airline also offers plush superhero toys from its Oryx Kids Club, along with an interactive travel pack with crayons, stickers, and educational material.
And should you wish to have a little break from parental duties, children between five and 11 years of age can travel in a different cabin on the same flight as their accompanying adult.
ANA offers a reduced child’s fare and several additional amenities for the youngest travelers. The Japanese carrier allows lap infants under two years of age to fly at 10% of the adult fare, and infants can fly at 75% of the adult fare if occupying a seat. Children aged two up to 11 years are ticketed at the child’s fare, which is 75% of the adult fare.
Bassinets are provided by advance request on certain aircraft on international flights, though not in the first class cabin. Meals designed specifically for babies and children are available by advance request (24 hours prior to departure), and the airline also carries a limited amount of paper diapers on board. Children are also provided with original ANA toys.
Next on our list is Etihad Airways, also based in the United Arab Emirates. The carrier offers an infant fare for little ones under two years of age traveling on an adult passenger’s lap or in a bassinet. Children aged two to 11 years are ticketed at the child’s fare, which is not specified on the airline’s website. Baby food is available by advance request.
Etihad has a partnership with Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi for themed goodies and entertainment for kids. Children aged three to eight years old receive a fleece blanket, and nine- to 13-year-olds receive a Scooby-Doo backpack and passport holder. There are also Warner Bros. cartoons and movies available to keep children entertained during the flight.
Want answers to more key questions in aviation? Check out the rest of our guides here .
5: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines allows lap infants to fly at 10% of the adult fare, and children aged two to 11 years fly at 75% of the adult fare. Hot water is available onboard for cleaning baby bottles, as are baby blankets. The carrier provides JAL-branded original toys to child passengers and offers a variety of kid-appropriate entertainment options via its WiFi video service.
Lufthansa also stands out for its family accommodations. Lap infants fly free within Germany and are ticketed at 10% of the adult fare on all other routes. Children aged two to 11 years fly at 75% of the regular adult fare. Bassinets are available by advance request on all of Lufthansa’s long-haul flight aircraft, though fees may apply depending on booking class.
Children receive a logbook on their first flight. Once the logbook is full, they receive a “fantastic pilot’s certificate.” Young travelers can also observe the aircraft up close from the pilot’s viewpoint during take-off and landing via external cameras on certain long-haul aircraft.
Qantas makes our top-tier list for its innovative services for children. The Australian carrier allows lap infants to fly free within Australia and they are ticketed at 10 % of the adult fare on international routes. Bassinets are available on certain aircraft and may be requested at check-in.
Zones at select Australian lounges boast kids’ furniture and meals, and kids can even play dress-up in mini cabin crew outfits. The airline’s “Joey Club” themed characters appear on kids’ kits that include an aircraft window-shaped etch-a-sketch and an activity booklet.
8. Air Canada
Air Canada makes the list not only for offering reduced fares and onboard amenities, but also providing dedicated family check-in areas at select airports. Lap infants under the age of two years fly free on domestic flights, and only the ticket taxes apply for flights between Canada and the United States. However, you cannot bring a carrycot or stroller for free.
For international flights, infant tickets are 10% of the adult fare. Children over two years are ticketed at the adult fare on domestic flights or on flights between Canada and the United States. Children between two and 12 years fly at a reduced child’s fare on international flights not in the United States.
Bassinets are available and assigned by advance request on a first-come, first-served basis on certain aircraft. Air Canada does not charge a fee for seating adults and children under 14 years of age together. Children also receive a special luggage tag and activity books for the journey.
Additional airlines offering discounts or services for families
Air France offers discounts for young flyers, including 90% off fares for lap infants. Children aged two or older are discounted at 20% on short-haul flights and 33% on medium and long-haul routes. Bassinets are available only on long-haul flights. Baby kits are provided only for certain fare classes, but organic baby food and kids’ meals are available in the economy cabin.
American Airlines allows lap infants to fly at no charge. Children two years and older must have their own seats and are ticketed at the adult fare. If passengers do not choose seats at the time of booking, the airline will assign seats within a few days so that youth under 15 years are seated next to at least one adult with whom they are traveling. Bassinets are available on a first-come, first-served basis on certain aircraft, but not in the first or business class cabins.
British Airways offers an infant fare for lap infants and a child’s fare for kids flying in their own seat, but the carrier’s website does not provide specifics as to the discount. Kids’ meals are available by advance request and tinned baby food is available on long-haul flights. Notably, British Airways’ Executive Club Household Account allows adults and children in the same household to pool their rewards currency to later redeem for upgrades.
Delta Air Lines allows lap infants to fly free, and children two years of age and older are subject to discounts that vary by country. The carrier’s website states that it “strives to seat family members together upon request.”
Finally, Virgin Atlantic makes the list for allowing lap infants to fly at 10% of the adult fare and setting special fares for children aged two to 11 years and young adults aged 12 to 16 years. Bassinets and cots may be available upon request. The carrier offers kids’ meals for travelers two to 12 years old, and various entertainment options for youth via seat televisions.
Airline fare discounts and amenities are subject to change and may not be available in all situations, so it is wise to check with the airline directly before booking your next family adventure.
What is your experience of traveling with kids on various airlines? We'd love to hear from you, so please share your experience in the comment section.
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Traveling with Children
To ensure your security, all travelers are required to undergo screening. However, TSA has developed modified screening procedures for children who appear to be 12 years old and younger. TSA officers will consult parents or the traveling guardian about the best way to relieve any concerns during the screening of a child.
For children 13 years and older, TSA’s standard screening procedures apply . Accessible property of all travelers, regardless of age, must be screened. If there is an alarm, the individual will undergo additional screening.
Children with Medical Conditions, Disabilities, or Mobility Aids
Inform the TSA officer if the child has a disability, medical condition or medical device, and advise the officer of the best way to relieve any concerns during the screening process.
Inform the TSA officer if your child is able to walk through the metal detector or needs to be carried through the metal detector by the parent/guardian. You may carry your child to ease the screening process. The TSA officer will not remove your child from his/her mobility aid, wheelchair or scooter.
TSA Cares is a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Call TSA Cares 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. You may also call to request assistance at the checkpoint.
Liquid Formula, Breast Milk, Toddler Drinks, and Baby/Toddler food (to include puree pouches)
Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) are considered medically necessary liquids. This also applies to breast milk and formula cooling accessories, such as ice packs, freezer packs, and gel packs (regardless of presence of breast milk). Your child or infant does not need to be present or traveling with you to bring breast milk, formula and/or related supplies.
Inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in excess of 3.4 ounces. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from your other belongings. TSA officers may need to test the liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items.
Although not required, to expedite the screening process, it is recommended that formula and breast milk be transported in clear, translucent bottles and not plastic bags or pouches. Liquids in plastic bags or pouches may not be able to be screened by Bottle Liquid Scanners, and you may be asked to open them (if feasible) for alternate screening such as Explosive Trace Detection and Vapor Analysis for the presence of liquid explosives. Screening will never include placing anything into the medically necessary liquid.
TSA X-ray machines do not adversely affect food or medicines. However, if you do not want the formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) to be X-rayed or opened, please inform the TSA officer. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and you or the traveling guardian will undergo additional screening procedures, to include Advanced Imaging Technology screening and additional/enhanced screening of other carry-on property.
Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) – regardless of the presence of breast milk – are also allowed in carry-ons, along with liquid-filled teethers. If these items are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above.
Travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about the security screening process at the airport may request assistance by contacting TSA Cares online at http://www.tsa.gov/contact-center/form/cares or by phone at (855) 787-2227 or federal relay 711.
Screening of Children’s Items
- Place all carry-on baggage such as children's toys, bags and blankets on the X-ray belt for screening.
- Strollers, umbrella-strollers, baby carriers, car and booster seats and backpacks must be screened by X-ray.
- Place items in the stroller pockets or baskets, in a carry-on bag or on the X-ray belt for screening.
- Equipment that does not fit through the X-ray machine will undergo a visual/physical inspection by TSA officers.
Walk-Through Metal Detector
Children able to walk through the metal detector without assistance may do so separately from their parent or guardian. If they alarm, children are allowed multiple passes through screening technologies and may undergo other procedures to resolve the alarm to reduce the need for a pat-down.
Infants and small children may be carried through the metal detector. Should the alarm sound, additional screening is required.
Advanced Imaging Technology
If your child is able to remain standing in the required position for 5 seconds, he or she may be screened through the advanced imaging technology. If a child 12 and under goes through the machine and alarms, they have an opportunity to go through again or the TSA officer may use other procedures to resolve the alarm to reduce the need for a pat-down.
You may not be screened by this technology when carrying an infant or child.
Screening your Child
- Children 12 and under can leave their shoes, light jackets and headwear on during screening.
- Children will not be separated from their parent/guardian.
- Remove infants and children from strollers and car seats and carry them in arms through the walk-through metal detector.
- Infants may be carried in a sling/carrier (to include lap baby) through the walk-through metal detector or when being screened in a wheelchair, but may be subject to additional screening
- Modified screening procedures are in place to reduce the likelihood of a pat-down.
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Traveling with children
Traveling with children and infants.
We are committed to caring for people on life’s journey and want you and your children to have a safe and positive travel experience. To allow enough time for check-in, arrive early and be sure to have any required travel documents. You may have to present proof of age like a birth certificate for any children under the age of 18.
- Families with children under 2 years old can ask to board early at the gate.
- Only 1 carry-on diaper bag per child is allowed.
You can travel with a breast pump and small, soft-sided cooler of breast milk in addition to your carry-on or personal item. These items don’t have to be checked and are allowed even when you’re not traveling with a child. Also, most airports have nursing rooms and stations available for your convenience.
If you’re a family traveling with children under 15, we want to help make sure you’re seated together on your flight. Here are some tips for when you book:
- Be sure to book everyone in the same reservation.
- The farther in advance you book, the better. (Seats become limited closer to the day of travel.)
- On the seat map, choose seats for your entire family or skip seats for that flight.
- It’s better to skip seats than to choose just a few seats or seats scattered throughout the cabin. Our gate agents can try to reseat you but getting seats together the day of travel is difficult.
If you skip seats
If you’re unable to choose seats, don’t want to pay for seats, or chose a Basic Economy fare, our system will detect that you’re a family traveling. The system will search for seats together automatically before the day of departure. We’ll try our best to keep you together, but if seats are limited, we’ll assign seats so children under 15 are next to at least 1 adult.
Children and adults traveling in separate reservations
If you and your children are traveling together but have separate reservations, call Reservations so we can note it in each reservation.
Children 2 or older are required to have their own seat, a ticketed adult fare. Children under 5 can’t travel alone under any circumstances.
If you don't choose seats in Main Cabin or Basic Economy, we’ll assign seats a few days after you buy your tickets so children under 15 are next to at least 1 adult they’re traveling with.
We welcome infants as young as 2 days old, but infants under 7 days old must have a doctor's letter stating that they are medically cleared to travel.
Keep in mind:
- Only 1 infant may be seated in the lap of each ticketed accompanying adult and the infant must be included in the reservation.
- Additional infants under 2 years old must be ticketed and occupy an infant safety seat or in a separate aircraft seat.
- The infant must be under 2 years of age for the duration of the trip. If they turn 2 during a trip, they will need their own seat for the remainder of the trip.
Adding an infant to your trip
If you’re traveling within the U.S., including Puerto Rico, you can add an infant to your trip when you book on aa.com, or later once it is ticketed. You only need to contact Reservations if you’re traveling with an infant who is under 7 days old; or if you’re traveling outside of the U.S. (taxes and a percentage of the adult fare may apply on international trips).
Book a new trip
- Book your trip on aa.com
- Enter your information on the ‘Passenger details’ page
- Select ‘add infant in lap’
Book a trip
Update an existing trip
- Find your trip on aa.com
- Scroll to the ‘Passengers’ section
Find your trip
Call Reservations if:
- You’re traveling with an infant who is less than 7 days old
- You’re not traveling within the U.S., and Puerto Rico
If your infant will travel in their own seat, you must buy a ticket. The infant must either travel in a safety seat approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or be able to sit upright in their seat without assistance and have their seatbelt securely fastened during taxi, takeoff, landing and whenever the 'fasten seatbelt' sign is on.
Bassinets and changing tables
- Changing tables are available in the lavatories of all wide-body aircraft.
- Bassinets are available on a first come, first serve basis at the gate for travel only on 777-200, 777-300 and 787 aircraft.*
- Bassinets are not available in First / Business cabins.
*Infants using bassinets must be younger than 2 years old and weigh no more than 20lbs (9kg)
Acceptable safety seats
Most safety seats that are approved for use in motor vehicles are acceptable for use in aircraft. The seat must have a solid back and seat, restraint straps installed to securely hold the child and a label indicating approval for use on an aircraft.
The label may include:
- These notes: 'This child restraint system conforms to all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards' and 'this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircrafts' or 'this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.'
- Approval of a foreign government or a label showing that the seat was manufactured under the standards of the United Nations.
- The safety seat can't be used in an exit row or in the rows on either side of an exit row; window seats are preferred.
- Install the seat in the direction appropriate for the size of the child and according to the instructions on the label.
- The child must remain in the safety seat with the harness fastened during taxi, takeoff, landing and whenever the 'fasten seatbelt' sign is on.
- To carry on a safety seat, you must have bought a seat for the child, or a seat must be available next to you. If an unoccupied, adjoining seat is not available, the gate agent will check the safety seat to your final destination.
Review seat dimensions before your trip.
Safety seats are not allowed in First or Business on select planes due to the seat angles.
- Boeing 777-200
- Boeing 777-300
- Boeing 787-800
- Boeing 787-900
- Any device without an approval label
- Booster seats with no approval label or shoulder harness
- Vest and/or harness-type devices, except Aviation Child Safety Devices (ACSD) showing the FAA aircraft approval label
- Belt extensions that attach to the parent or the parent's restraint
- Any device that positions a child on the lap or chest of an adult
Carry-on and checked bags
If you’re flying internationally with an infant on your lap, we’ll issue the infant a ticket. You may check 1 bag for the infant at the same rate as the adult’s first checked bag.
- Each ticketed customer is allowed 1 stroller and 1 car seat to be checked free of charge
- Strollers over 20 lbs / 9 kgs must be checked at the ticket counter
- All other strollers should be checked at the gate before boarding
- If you have a stroller and a car seat only 1 can be checked at the gate
- Breast pumps and a small, soft-sided cooler of breast milk don’t count as your carry-on or personal item
- Play pens, wagons, cribs and 'pack and play' count as regular bags
- If any of these exceed carry-on limits they’ll be checked and incur regular fees
Children or infants traveling outside the U.S. are required to have the same documentation as an adult. If anyone under 18 is traveling internationally without both parents, they may be required to present a Letter of Consent.
Traveling during pregnancy
If your due date is within 4 weeks of your flight, you must provide a doctor’s certificate stating that you’ve been recently examined and you’re fit to fly.
Special assistance throughout your trip
For domestic flights under 5 hours, you won’t be permitted to travel within 7 days (before and after) your delivery date. If you need to travel within this time frame:
- Approval from your physician and a special assistance coordinator is required.
- Your physician will be required to fill out a passenger medical form before your flight. A special assistance coordinator will send the form directly to your physician.
Clearance from a special assistance coordinator is required for international travel or travel over water:
- Within 4 weeks of your due date (travel also requires a physician's note stating that you’ve been examined within the past 48 hours and you’re fit to fly)
- 7 days before or after your delivery (travel also requires a passenger medical form to be completed by your physician)
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How to Travel With a Toddler on a Plane
Melpomenem / Getty Images
Preparing to Travel
Storing drinks and snacks, pros and cons of pre-boarding, should you bring a car seat, keeping your toddler entertained.
Traveling with a toddler can be exciting and daunting. The thrill of showing your little one a new part of the world, or visiting friends and family, can easily be overshadowed by the stress of taking them around the airport and sitting through a flight.
Most parents find themselves racking their brains about what they should bring to keep their toddlers safe and entertained during the flight. While this will vary depending on the length of your journey, there are certain regulations and recommendations parents should be made aware of to make their flight a success.
Let's take a look at some tips and tricks for traveling with a toddler that will take the stress out of flying, so you can enjoy your trip from start to finish!
Orchestrating a plan before arriving at the airport will make for a far less turbulent experience. Like any vacation, you'll benefit immensely from getting organized in advance. Of course, sometimes travel is more spontaneous, but if possible, you should absolutely take advantage of getting your ducks in a row.
Booking a Flight
Either a direct flight or an indirect flight with a longer layover is in your best interest when traveling with a toddler . As you've seen on most outings with your little one, toddlers can be slow movers who require a lot of baggage. So trying to make a connecting flight with a toddler in tow can be challenging—particularly when you have a short layover.
If you're booking a flight with a layover, a couple of hours is ideal. This will give you time to change your toddler if needed, have a real meal, and let your little one burn off some energy before getting settled again.
While you may want to consider your toddler's naptime when booking your flight, don't fret if you can't find one that perfectly aligns. Revolving your flight around your toddler's regular schedule can be beneficial if you're looking to maintain their routine, but remember, flight times do get changed rather frequently. Also, there's no guarantee your toddler will fall asleep on the plane given the new environment and its excitement.
What to Check
Be sure you know which bags you're checking (and whether they meet the airline's weight requirements) before you arrive. Trying to reconfigure your luggage with a toddler in tow will add undue stress to your trip!
The maximum weight limit for most checked bags is 50 pounds. Carry-on items must meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines. They may not exceed 22" x 14" x 19" and must be able to be stored in an overhead compartment or under a seat.
"Always check your suitcases," says Sarah Mann Hall, a mother of two from Denver, Colorado. "It's so much easier to wrangle a toddler if you aren't also dealing with luggage."
You may also want to invest in a travel wallet to organize all passengers' identifications and boarding passes. This will help with getting through security. Remember, the goal is to make the process as smooth and fast as possible. If you're using electronic boarding passes, don't forget to charge your phone before getting to the airport.
What to Bring Onboard
Consider your carry-on to be a more intricately packed diaper bag. Of course, you'll want to be sure you're armed with all the essentials. But, unlike with a road trip or afternoon outing, there won't be the option to stop along the way for items you forgot. That's right: no convenience stores in the sky!
Here are the items you should make sure you have at your disposal before takeoff.
- Diapers: The general rule of thumb is one diaper per hour of travel time.
- Snacks: Your child's favorites, plus formula or breastmilk, if applicable.
- Blankets or loveys: Comfort items are helpful for calming anxious toddlers.
- Pacifiers: If your toddler uses a pacifier, pack a few. The sucking can also help relieve the pressure in their ears during takeoff and landing.
- Changes of clothes: You can never be too prepared—one for you, one for your toddler.
- Toys: Books, stuffed animals, or simple puzzles are safe bets.
- Sippy cups: Bringing an empty sippy cup is beneficial if your toddler uses one, as the flight attendant can fill it during drink rounds. This way, you can avoid the hassle at security.
Can You Bring a Stroller on a Plane?
You can bring a stroller through the TSA checkpoint, and almost all airlines allow you to bring a stroller on board. You may need to check it at the gate, but each airline has their own rules. Be sure to check the airline's website before departing!
The last thing you want on a flight is a hungry, fussy toddler. Packing snacks and beverages to bring on board will certainly remedy that issue, but you may be wondering what you're allowed to bring and what's off-limits.
TSA guidelines state liquids must be under 3.4 ounces or 100 millimeters to be allowed on board, but the nourishment you pack for your toddler is an exception to the rule. Milk, juice, and formula (if applicable) for your toddler can exceed this amount and do not need to fit in a quart-sized bag.
If you're planning on a shorter flight, remember breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours. However, once breast milk is cooled, it must remain cool until it is consumed to prevent it from perishing.
Accessories that are used to keep beverages cool, such as ice and gel packs, are allowed in your carry-on. They will be subjected to screening, but are not prohibited on the airplane. You may also bring on jars or pouches of baby food for your toddler.
"Aim for snacks with protein to keep your child full longer," says Kristen Gonzalez, a nutritionist and health and wellness coach at BBK Fitness in Billerica, MA. "Homemade granola, veggies with Greek dressing, and nut butter sandwiches are great options. Kids find snacks especially appealing if you cut them into fun shapes."
Of course, if it's a shorter flight and your airline offers an in-air snack, you may find it easier to simply ask for food and drink for your toddler from the flight attendant. That said, bear in mind this takes the control out of your hands, as the refreshments won't necessarily be delivered on your ideal schedule.
Many major airlines have family pre-boarding policies that allow families with young children to board the plane early. This gives parents an opportunity to get their children settled before the rush and also offers the chance for little ones to get acclimated with the environment. Each airline's policy varies in terms of how soon families can board and the maximum age of children who are considered for preboarding.
Pre-boarding means you won't have to make your way through a huge crowd of people, nor will you have to worry about getting your toddler buckled in a hurry while also organizing snacks and toys. However, some parents caution against pre-boarding, as little ones can get antsy if they're seated too long.
"Doing early boarding is not always a good thing," says Julie Zupan, a traveling mother of three from Medford, Oregon. "Sometimes, it is worth waiting until toward the end of the line so they can get as much energy out as possible."
Whether you decide to take advantage of pre-boarding depends on the airline's policies, your toddler's temperament, and who else will be traveling with you. Double-check with your airline before your flight to see what options are available.
Whether you bring a car seat on the flight is entirely your decision, as there are no regulations in place that require you to do so. Some parents feel more comfortable knowing their toddler is fastened into a car seat on the plane, while others prefer to get their child their own seat or keep them on their lap.
Your child may feel more comfortable (and nap) during the flight.
Securing your child in a car seat is the safest way to fly, per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Carrying a car seat through the airport can be cumbersome.
Installing the car seat on the plane is sometimes difficult given the tight quarters. You will need to familiarize with seat sizes to ensure your car seat will fit.
Car seat safety experts universally agree flying with a car seat is the safest option for toddlers since runway emergencies do occur, which are similar to car crashes but at five times the speed. Toddlers may ride on your lap at no added cost but will need their own ticket if you are installing the car seat on the plane.
If you plan to bring your car seat on board, bring a copy of the FAA regulations along with you, as some flight attendants may not be fully informed about car seat rules.
In short, nearly all convertible and infant seats are approved by the FAA. American airline carriers must abide by these regulations, but international carriers do not. Check your airline's policy before you travel to be sure you're clear on their rules.
Once you're settled on the plane, you'll want to be sure your little one is kept busy. After all, no parent wants to be the one whose toddler is squirming and squealing throughout the flight.
Safe bets for entertaining your toddler include:
- Mess-free coloring books
- Board books
Even if you don't typically allow electronics at home, you may consider making an exception during the flight. Movies or apps for toddlers can be a great distraction, which will translate into a much smoother flight.
A Word From Verywell
The best way to approach a flight with your little one is to show up calm yet prepared. Your toddler will pick up on any tension, which you can eliminate by ensuring you understand all guidelines ahead of your journey. Having a plan in place for your arrival at the airport, security, and boarding will help things run much more smoothly.
Be sure to bring items on board that will comfort and entertain your toddler, as well as plenty of diapers and food. Remember, you won't be the only one on board trying to keep their little one entertained, and you'll be at your destination before you know it!
Federal Aviation Administration. Carry-on baggage tips .
Transportation Security Administration. Traveling with children.
Centers for Disease Control. Proper storage and preparation of breast milk.
Federal Aviation Administration. Flying with children.
Car Seats for the Littles. Leaving on a Jet Plane – The CSFTL Guide to Safe Air Travel with Children .
By Renee Plant Renee Plant is a health and wellness freelance writer with a passion for delivering well-researched, factual content to readers.
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Man's Neck Pillow Travel Hack Will Have You Sleeping Like A Baby On Your Next Flight
Posted: October 31, 2023 | Last updated: October 31, 2023
Traveling is a luxury, but getting to your destination doesn’t always feel great. Going through security is stressful. Flights are delayed more often than ever before. Airplane cabins are crowded and the seats are cramped.
But not all hope is lost for traveling in comfort — and style.
One man’s genius neck pillow hack will let you sleep like a baby the next time you fly.
The man, whose name is Lawrence, shared his neck pillow revelation on his Instagram account, which was then reposted by Gate Access, an account that offers tips for traveling and making it through the airport smoothly.
According to the post, we’ve all been wearing our neck pillows wrong and we have the aches and pains to prove it. Lawrence showed the right way to wear a neck pillow — by turning it around, so the opening faces the back.
RELATED: Woman Shares Photo Of Man Spreading His Legs On 4-Hour Flight & Asks People How They Would React
Lawrence filmed himself wearing his neck pillow the way our society has collectively assumed it goes, putting the U-shaped accessory around his neck so it opened beneath his chin. He then blew everyone’s mind by turning the pillow around, showing off a way to wear it that is way more comfortable and supportive.
He closed his eyes and rested his head on the side of the pillow as his chin nestled into the plush curve.
The mind-blowing pillow hack makes travel more comfortable by creating a perfect little hug for your neck.
There are aspects on plane travel no one can control, like crying babies or fellow passengers being rude. So, why not control what we can and change how we wear our neck pillows?
One of the major perils of long-distance travel is feeling jet-lagged, which happens when your body’s circadian rhythms haven’t changed to match your new time zone. The more time zones you move across, the more likely you are to experience jet lag.
While jet lag is temporary, the brain fog and fatigue that comes with it can make it hard to adjust to your new location or enjoy whatever trip you’re taking.
RELATED: A Man Texted His Wife & Daughter That He Loved Them Before His Plane Took Off — The Woman Next To Him Said He Should Be 'Ashamed' Of Himself
According to Mayo Clinic , jet lag symptoms usually occur within one or two days after traveling across at least two time zones. Symptoms can include trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, inability to focus, mood changes, and generally feeling sick.
The farther you travel, the worse your symptoms might be, which is especially true if you’re flying east, as you lose time when the time zones change.
Recovering from jet lag usually takes about a day for each time zone crossed. There are simple and effective ways to stave off jet lag, including drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration , which can occur because of low humidity levels in plane cabins. Resting up before taking a trip, sleeping on the plane, and making sure you adjust to your new schedule can also help alleviate jet lag symptoms.
As the neck pillow hack shows, trying a new approach to getting some rest and relaxation on the plane works wonders, and sets the tone for whatever fun adventure you’re embarking on once you land.
RELATED: Touching Video Shows Son Carrying His Mom Onto Airplane— 'I Carried My Son For 9 Months And Today He Is Carrying Me'
Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers travel, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.
This article originally appeared on YourTango
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A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Tailored Brands as a defendant. The company was named in the original lawsuit but dismissed from the case shortly before the jury verdict. This version has been corrected.
WARNING: Some images may be disturbing due to medical content.
Tracey Silver-Charan didn’t suspect her new uniform was at fault when she began feeling “violently sick” at work in 2016. A flight attendant for 37 years, she had been through several uniform changes by the time American Airlines introduced new workwear for all its employees in September of that year. But soon she notified her supervisors she was suffering persistent health problems on the job. Whenever she came home from a trip, she’d start to feel better.
“I was having severe respiratory distress,” Silver-Charan, a 61-year-old based in Los Angeles, told The Washington Post. “I couldn’t even breathe. And my voice would go hoarse. I would feel like I was going to faint. I got some rashes.”
A lawsuit filed in 2017 by 425 employees of American Airlines and its affiliates alleges these problems and others were caused by formaldehyde, a common additive to prevent wrinkles, that was applied to cotton blouses in a Chinese fabric mill. Silver-Charan was one of four plaintiffs awarded over $1 million in a verdict delivered Oct. 25 by a California jury in a case against manufacturer Twin Hill. Tailored Brands, Twin Hill’s former parent company, was also named in the original lawsuit, but it was dismissed as a defendant before the jury verdict.
The superior court in Alameda County filed the judgement Friday, more than a week after the jury delivered the verdict.
Daniel Balaban, the employees’ lead attorney, called the uniforms a “defective product that harms people,” saying that “no reasonable person would have dreamed they could have ever caused them serious harm.”
The verdict could establish a new precedent for determining the risk that uniforms pose to airline workers’ health, opening the door to future settlements or further litigation involving the hundreds of flight attendants that have taken uniform suppliers to court. The lawsuit is one of several filed by flight attendants over uniforms in the last decade.
“Hopefully, it sends a message to the defendant and insurance companies to try to resolve these cases,” Balaban said of the potential for future litigation. “But if they’re not, we’re going to try these cases one batch at a time.”
Tailored Brands and its attorneys declined a request to comment on the case. American Airlines has not responded to a request for comment.
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Bronchitis and ‘swollen eyes’
In 2016, the lawsuit says, Twin Hill provided about 1.4 million garments and accessories to more than 65,000 American Airlines employees. In an interview with The Post, Silver-Charan said she notified her supervisors that something was wrong by that October, a month after she began wearing the shirts.
She said in an interview she was told to wash the uniform again and to alert them if it continued to be a problem. When conditions didn’t improve by later that month, Silver-Charan said, she and thousands of other American Airlines employees who were also facing health challenges with the new blouses were given the option to wear their old ones instead.
Though she was no longer wearing the uniform, Silver-Charan and others continued to face challenges from being around other people wearing the uniform, and their health problems — which allegedly included skin conditions and permanent lung damage — persisted.
Silver-Charan said she was forced to take six months off work in November 2016, when she said the symptoms caused by her new uniform made it too difficult to continue with her job. For those months, she went unpaid.
“I had to go back to work [because] I had to put food on the table and I needed my health insurance because I was sick,” she said.
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By that point, she said, American Airlines had told employees they could buy uniforms from mass retailers like Macy’s or J.C. Penney if they needed. But it didn’t matter, Silver-Charan said, because if she was around others who still wore the new uniform, “I would get sick. And this was happening to thousands of us.”
Silver-Charan wrote letters to government leaders and public agencies, but found little luck: “Twin Hill, the supplier, acted like it was a minor rash …. [which] was far from the truth.”
“It was frightening. I was sick. I was scared. I was scared of losing my job,” Silver-Charan said. “My eyes looked like I was in a boxing match. My eyes were swollen. I would get bronchitis and laryngitis, and I recorded it and sent it to the President and CEO of the company saying: ‘Please help us and do something.’”
According to a trial brief, American Airlines terminated its contract with Twin Hill after thousands of flight attendants complained . The airline switched to Lands’ End as the supplier for its uniforms in 2020.
A bellwether trial is a format used to decide an issue for a large group using a handful of representatives. In the Alameda County case, the plaintiffs’ lawyers selected two representatives for the group of flight attendants, and the defense attorneys for the uniform manufacturer selected another two.
The jury awarded Silver-Charan $320,000 for economic losses and noneconomic losses, including physical pain and mental suffering. A woman named Brenda Sabbatino received $750,000, the biggest sum.
In an email to The Post, the lead attorney, Balaban, said Sabbatino “developed severe chemical sensitivities to fragrances, perfumes, [and] chemical odors,” preventing her from returning to work. Balaban said that she took a medical leave and an early retirement, which is reflected in the $220,000 award for future economic loss.
The two American Airlines employees picked by Twin Hill’s defense were Cynda Lyons and Cathy Babcock. They were awarded a combined $15,000 for past economic losses. Balaban said one experienced an upper chest rash for a month, and the other had headaches, fatigue, stomach problems and a mild rash for a month “every time she flew.”
“We think that the great majority of the other 400+ flight attendants we represent are similar to the two bellwethers we chose,” Balaban wrote, “which will either lead to a substantial similar settlements for them or similar results in future trials.”
While American Airlines and Twin Hill did test the uniforms for chemicals, per the legal complaint, the lack of regulation in the U.S. around chemicals in clothing could have hindered further action. The jury voted “no” unanimously when asked if Twin Hill was negligent in designing and supplying its products.
Now, Silver-Charan said she’s grateful that the uniforms were replaced and that her story was able to be heard in front of a jury.
The new uniforms post-Twin Hill, she said, haven’t caused any problems.
Past problems with uniforms
Then a subsidiary of Tailored Brands, which also owns Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank and other large retailers, Twin Hill had faced problems with uniforms before.
In 2013, flight attendants with Alaska Airlines filed a lawsuit against Twin Hill because of new uniforms they were given in 2010 and 2011. The Alaska Airlines flight attendants documented rashes, eye irritation, hives, blisters and other skin problems — collecting their complaints in a report submitted to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) . That organization recommends workers prevent eye contact with formaldehyde, but it provides no recommendation for skin contact.
After three years, and one year after the suit was filed, Alaska Airlines replaced these uniforms with new ones. The company did not acknowledge a possible connection between the uniforms and employees’ health problems, however. Twin Hill won the Alaska Airlines trial, which did not make it to a jury.
A 2020 suit against Lands’ End for allegedly toxic uniforms by Delta Air Lines employees was also unsuccessful .
When asked about what changed between the Alaska Airlines suit and now, lead attorney Balaban cited a 2018 peer-reviewed study from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study, led by occupational health expert Eileen McNeely, followed hundreds of Alaska Airlines employees before and after the introduction of the Twin Hill uniforms.
The findings showed a stark increase in employees — mostly flight attendants — reporting dermatologic, respiratory and allergic symptoms. Among those were multiple chemical sensitivity, a condition in which individuals become sensitive to a wider range of chemicals, potentially due to repeated exposure to another.
“When they got those uniforms, all those things went up. When they got rid of those uniforms, they went down,” McNeely said of the Alaska Airlines employees. “When one airline with thousands of flight attendants introduces a new uniform at the same time, where everyone is wearing the same thing, and a bunch of people get sick, it really does raise red flags.”
While chemicals such as formaldehyde continue to be commonplace in U.S. clothing — which undergoes less strict regulation than clothing in places like Europe — flight attendants and other airline employees, like pilots, are at increased risk of exposure due to the nature of their work.
Flight attendants wear their uniforms for hours on end, sometimes even while they sleep on long-haul flights. They’re also pushing food carts up and down aisles, which can be grueling and sweaty work at 35,000-feet in the air. All this increases exposure to the clothing and the potentially harmful chemicals in it.
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“When we see pictures of these reactions,” McNeely said, “it’s not unbelievable that they’re at the neck, the waist, where things rub when you’re sweating.”
Flight attendants also work in proximity to each other in a closed cabin environment, further increasing their exposure to the chemicals in their clothing. When flight attendants are given new uniforms, everyone is given the same items to wear at the same time. This uniformity makes it easier to determine whether it’s that change in uniforms that causes the health problems, according to McNeely, who also leads the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study.
Balaban, the attorney, said that despite all the flight attendants in the suit being experienced, international flight attendants, they didn’t have adequate protections in place to prevent issues like what happened with the Twin Hill uniforms.
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'Belittled and harassed' over child seating: Mother wins lawsuit against American Airlines
A mother won a small claims settlement of 4,500 miles and $3,500 in damages against American Airlines on Oct. 27 for "breach of contract" and "negligent infliction of emotional distress" after she said a flight attendant harassed her over the seating of her twin infants during a flight.
Erika Hamilton, a lawyer from Oregon, was on a February flight with her 18-month-old twin daughters from Portland to Tallahassee, Florida, with a layover in Dallas, according to a copy of the complaint filed to the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for the County of Multnomah.
In the complaint, Hamilton wrote how she purchased tickets for one daughter to sit in her lap and the other in a seat – which followed American Airlines' policy at the time .
Infants under the age of 2 "must either travel in a safety seat approved by the Federal Aviation Administration or be able to sit upright in their seat without assistance and have their seatbelt securely fastened during taxi, takeoff, landing and whenever the 'fasten seat belt' sign is on."
The mother ended up being "belittled and harassed" by a flight attendant, Hamilton told USA TODAY via email, "when I was doing something that is absolutely allowed and that is already just really hard – flying alone with two kids under the age of two."
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"American strives to provide a positive and welcoming experience to everyone who travels with us while ensuring their safety and comfort while in our care," American Airlines told USA TODAY on Wednesday. "We are in touch with Ms. Hamilton and will be refunding 4,500 miles for the ticket in question."
Hamilton said she used 9,000 miles and paid $5.90 for the tickets for her and one of her daughters. (At the time, the airline's policy stated that an infant in a separate seat needs their own ticket.) American ended up refunding the full 9,000 miles.
The complaint states the first flight went smoothly, but the layover flight is when the conflict occurred.
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Upon boarding, a flight attendant allegedly "approached me to question whether my seating configuration was safe for my children," the complaint said.
The flight attendant continued to tell Hamilton it was against FAA and airline policy for one daughter to fly without a car seat, and Hamilton tried to refute that by pulling up the rules.
The woman seated behind Hamilton offered to hold one of the twins, which Hamilton felt was the only option.
"By doing so, American Airlines placed the safety of my child at risk, given it is much safer for my child to be seated in her seat, with the safety belt fastened, than to be a lap child in the care of a stranger," she wrote in the complaint.
Midway through the flight, the flight attendant reportedly apologized to Hamilton.
Hamilton said she filed a report with the airline on Feb. 8, and the flight attendant also filed her own. In the report, the flight attendant said she saw Hamilton having "difficulty" handling her twins and felt "concerned" over the safety of the children.
Hamilton claims the bulk of the flight attendant's report is "inaccurate."
Hamilton reached out to the airline for a refund but was only offered a $75 voucher, so she turned to small claims court. She filed a lawsuit in April seeking $3,500 in damages.
"I took the case to court because I think a big problem with corporate America is that there is very little remedy for the 'little guy' when a corporation essentially steals from you," Hamilton said. "What happened here was that American Airlines sold me a ticket, and then refused to let me use that ticket because they did not know or understand the terms and conditions of their own contract."
Hamilton said it felt "important to stand up to" big companies that feel like they can get away with "things like that." She pointed out how, instead of just refunding her the flight, American Airlines "chose to take this all the way through a trial, after hiring a private attorney, and doing so must have cost them in the tens of thousands of dollars."
During the trial, two other passengers also testified that the flight attendant was "categorically false."
American Airlines filed a Motion for Summary Judgment saying Hamilton "cannot meet each of the substantive elements of her claims," according to an excerpt published by TheStreet.
The airline also said crew members can deny people the right to fly "for any reason," which doesn't breach any contract.
Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected] .