British airways, Emirates Voted Most Family-Friendly Airlines

British Airways planes taxi on the runway at London City airport
British Airways planes taxi on the runway at London City airport with the financial towers and office buildings of the City of London in the background. AFP FILE PHOTO  

British Airways, Emirates, Etihad and KLM have been voted the world’s most family-friendly airlines.

Toy company Play Like Mum compared 20 international airlines, looking at how easy they make the travel experience for families.

The airlines were among the top 10 that offer children their own free checked luggage allowance, a free allowance for a pushchair, car seat and complimentary special children meals on longer flights. “We know how daunting the experience of flying with children can be. We’re delighted with the great feedback we’ve been hearing from families who are really pleased with the changes we’ve made to make their journeys more exciting,” said Tom Stevens, British Airways’ head of customer at Heathrow, which has introduced a permanent family check-in zone and security lane at the its hub at Terminal 5.

Most airlines have started catering for young fliers, offering them from storybooks, cartoon boarding passes to serving them food before adults.

Passengers have been pushing for child-free flights but many charge 10 per cent of the paid fare for a child carried on the laps.


Cost of a seat

Most parents travelling with more than one child face the difficult task of booking seats because airlines charge extra or “preferred” or “premium” seats.

For Emirates, Hendrik Du Preez, the country manager Kenya, said an economy class traveller can pay to select a seat in advance or enjoy complimentary seat selection when online check-in opens 48 hours before the flight.

‘‘ The cost of the seat is based on whether you prefer to be seated at the front or back of the aircraft, enjoy extra legroom, a great view from the window seat, or access from the aisle seat to get up and move around. Business Class or First Class passengers, enjoy complimentary seat selection anytime,’’ he said.

Etihad Airways general manager Africa, George Mawadri, said they do not charge to choose seats while booking on standard economy.

The value-add on family entourage raises competition among airlines that charge extra fees on tickets to cater for children.

Even parents travelling with one child have had to seek permission for their children to sit on an empty seat making it hectic to travel as a family.