Traveling With a Baby in British Airways First Class

My wife and I just flew British Airways first class. These were award redemptions, and as much as I abhor British Airways fuel surcharges there were a couple of things that made it palatable.

  • British Airways is the only full service carrying flying transatlantic from Austin (in a few months Lufthansa will start service). That’s a real benefit when traveling with an infant.

  • Infants traveling internationally aren’t free. Redeem United, Delta, or American miles and you’re going to pay 10% of the adult fare for a lap child. Redeem British Airways Avios and it’s just 10% of the miles and of the taxes. As a result it was less than 10,000 miles and under $100 each way for her.

This was our daughter’s first international flight. Last month we took her to New York on American Airlines and she did wonderfully. She slept through the outbound, and was up and cheery the full return.

On the Austin – London outbound we were taking off just after her bedtime. As a result she slept most of the way over to Europe. The only times she got up were when the seat belt sign came on. We were required to belt her in with one of us, rather than leaving her in a child seat, whenever the seat belt sign came on — even though the child seat is locked into place with the seat and she was strapped into that seat (frankly it seemed safer than being held).

For the return she napped about three or four of the eleven hour flight, but in first class there’s plenty of room to keep her occupied and play with her. Between my wife and I we managed just fine, and we got plenty of compliments. I think three to nine months is probably an excellent time to travel with a baby, before they’re going to be shrieking or kicking other passenger seats!

At this point her needs are simple. If she fusses she’s hungry, tired, needs a diaper change or wants to interact. So it’s easy to keep her satisfied and to be respectful to the rest of the cabin.

On BA’s Boeing 777-200 with 12 or 14 first class seats seat 4F is the only one that can have a child seat attached. We were only able to book that seat in advance because we had an infant in the reservation. I believe the bassinet seat on the Boeing 747 is 5F and on the Boeing 787-9 is 2F.

British Airways offers two types of seats for lap infants. They call bassinets “carrycots” and they also have “child seats.”

Bassinets or carrycots can be mounted to the wall of the bulkhead in business, those are appropriate for newborns. A 9 month old is going to clearly need the child seat in most circumtances. our three month old daughter was a little bit small for the child seat, but with a pillow helping to secure her she was fine.

The Boeing 777 doesn’t have the option of a carrycot. It was a child seat only. It mounts above the ottoman of your seat, and it’s not possible to swivel the television screen forward with the seat in place but it’s not a problem to use the tray table to work or eat. (You could presumably take the TV out before putting the child seat in, but that would block your view of the child.)

I made sure to request the child seat just as soon as we had boarded. I didn’t want them to run out in either direction, though I’m not sure that would have been an issue. They brought the child seat forward into the first class cabinet to secure it for us, and then set it up once we were in the air. One flight attendant told me that in seven years of working First she had never seen one set up there. The flight attendants who actually did it took a few moments, they weren’t experienced with it but managed to get it done after consulting with other members of the crew.

For a smaller baby than ours I’d probably suggest booking business rather than first class and reserving middle seats at the very back of the cabin by the bulkhead where you can attach a bassinet.

Once our daughter is no longer eligible to travel as a lap infant we’ll be much better off in business as well, in BA’s otherwise-garbage middle-of-middle seats without privacy. It’s not really possible to put a two year old into her own first class seat apart from parents, but you’re so close together in BA business things should work much better.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Thanks Gary! I am traveling on Lufthansa business in a couple of days with my 2.5 month old. We had to pay ~$900 for the lap infant. Good to know BA could be cheaper.

  2. We flew OZ F with our 9 month old at the time LAX – ICN. Got plenty of stares as we boarded from the other F PAX but our baby behaved. He sat in the giant seat played with the seatbelt buckles. Eventually he fell asleep and we closed the door to the suite while my wife and I dined face to face. The quirky thing about the award ticket was that if it was OZ issuing the ticket no lap infant but because we used AC it was allowed.

  3. We took our son to Australia in UA business class when he was 15 months. Some shrew complained to my wife when he cried for 5 minutes while his milk was being heated (about halfway thru). When I returned with the milk I asked if she was upgraded, told her that we paid for our tickets (admittedly a mistake fare) and to talk to me if she had any issues. She shut up after that.
    I find babies are often better behaved than many adults, who drink too much, snore loudly, and leave window shades open when the rest of the cabin is sleeping.

  4. Congrats on a successful babyflight inauguration! I think you nailed the “sweet spot” for infant travel. I remember traveling with our 4 month old grandson in FC to/from Hawaii. On landing the relieved passengers told my daughter in law that our grandson should give “baby flight seminars”

    It’s great to introduce little ones to travel.

  5. I think Gary your far more experienced than a lot of parents traveling these days, one only has to look at Centurion lounges. Along with the passengers around you were fortunate we were on EK DXB-JNB first, 2 EF and the “baby seats” are 3 EF that couple did not have Gary Leff with them, it cried the most of the way played loud. The parents were simply allowing the child to do as it pleased. At least the booze was good.

  6. Keep kids out of first and business.

    And if we get to a point where they kick my seat? I’ll kick you In the face.

  7. Getting ready to buy tickets for IAD->LHR->ARN on British with my wife and daughter (will be 9 months old during trip). Chose British for the carrycots, so hoping I can get one reserved!

  8. “Privacy and Quiet” sums up themproblems we have with airbtravel these days. Adults behave just as badly and in same case worse than children. Privacy and squirts comment “if they kick my seat I’ll kick you in the face” highlights that fact.

    No one has a right to exclude other humans from a cabin whether it is because of their race, gender or age . . .

  9. @Alex – I agree with the vast majority of comments on here that children aren’t usually the offenders. It’s the parents who let them get away with that s**t.

    I’m glad to hear that everyone on this comment thread self-reports that you are all fantastic parents. Hopefully the rest of your first/business cabins agree with your assessments.

  10. We flew AUS-LHR and LHR-DEN in F with our 11 month-old. My wife and I found the experience nerve-wracking because we didn’t want to disturb other pax and our child would periodically wake up and cry. The infant attachment was broken on the outbound flight and he received his own seat for the return. Crew was amazing and no other passengers appeared frustrated, but we were on edge the whole time.

  11. I don’t know if it’s worth being on edge in a biz / first cabin where people have paid thousands for the ability to maximize sleep.

    A 3 seater in coach seems well suited to a family with one small child. Plenty of privacy and while everyone deserves peace on a flight at least folks around didn’t pay a premium for the ability to sleep easier.

    Of course I’m not yet a parent so we will see, but that’s my framework.

  12. Enrolling young kids in frequent flyer programs is its own special thing.

    BA allows even very young children to have accounts but only if opened as part of a household account.

    Some airline programs won’t let you enroll very young children. Some airline programs allow enrollment but will require an adult to call in or enroll the child by means other than just online enrollment. And some airline programs make it very simple to open accounts for young children and even incentivize it.

    There have been some very interesting games to play with using young children’s travels to rack up miles/points or even earn elite status from the children’s travel. Things that Gary will probably want to learn more about and end up doing or at least sharing for the benefit of his audience.

  13. Andy,

    I would suggest avoiding IAD-LHR-ARN as a routing to get to Sweden. The hassle of having to do the connection at LHR with the mess that is T5 security screening even for those entitled to fast track, has me avoiding that route for my frequent IAD-Sweden travels.

    Some Schengen transit airports for US-Sweden journeys will spare you from also having to clear security screening at the transit airport.

  14. @GUWonder, do you have any other route suggestions? We live in NC but have family in the DC area. We are trying to book BA due to their onboard carrycots, which they don’t have on the AA flights out of CLT to LHR.

  15. A crying baby in the cabin is just the luck of the draw. It has never bothered me and I wouldn’t dream of complaining, in any class of travel.
    On the other hand a seat kicker is a major PITA and parents are wholly responsible for ensuring it doesn’t happen.

  16. Andy,

    From CLT, if LH works via MUC, I would look at that.

    Even UA via EWR or DL via JFK, depending on the time of year, would be my preference over flying BA when it comes to going to ARN.

    The LH bassinets on average tend to be able to hold bigger infants than the BA ones on average. Or at least that is how it used to be.

  17. Intentionally Inflicting pain on babies.
    I am amazed to read how many people can be so casually cruel as to subject their innocent babies to air travel. Knowing full well how much pain it causes their precious cargo. The air pressure on a babies ears is so painful on take-offs and landings they scream bloody murder, yet most people are willing to put their babies through that type of torture, for what? Why not have the friends/relatives come visit you? Think about it.

  18. @Smiles first of all depending on the age they may not feel the pressure at all yet, but in any case you need to be feeding them (ideally) or giving a pacifier.

  19. Gary,
    Many parents have never thought about the pain their child/baby has on airplanes because society says it’s ok.
    “Airlines allow babies and young children to fly”
    No parent wants to intentionally cause their children pain, my goodness that would be considered child abuse.
    If adults had to endure that intense pain, there would be less people traveling by air. Babies don’t have a choice.
    Think about the pain that precious screaming baby on your next flight is going through, then you can say to yourself “they may not feel the pressure at all yet”

  20. @Smiles it’s easy you just give them a bottle or pacifier. Our 20 month-old son has been on about a dozen RT flights and never had ear issues. What is the alternative, leave him at home with a sitter while we go visit family?

  21. The “pain” opinion is ignorant and not based on fact. My kids never complained about “pain” by crying or otherwise. That is because the way that humans (adults included) relieve sinus pressure is by swallowing. As long as you have a bottle (or mom) ready to feed the infant it will naturally relieve the pressure by swallowing milk.
    As for the suggestion of 3-across coach seating, let me know how that works for you on a TATL or TPAC. I know my family was far more comfortable being able to stretch out over 2 lie-flat seats. Economy just doesn’t work for everyone.
    As for noise – if you are in the last row of business you may get noise from families in economy. Or people talking with FAs in the galley. Or any host of annoyances. Luck of the draw. Don’t like noise – fly charter or get some nice earplugs.

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