Family Travel

The Most Kid-Friendly Airlines All Have One Thing In Common

Reassured wanted to find out which airlines were best for traveling with kids, and the U.S. airlines leave a lot of room for improvement.

Originally Published: 
An adorable Eurasian baby boy sits in a stroller and smiles at the camera while his mother and older...
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Flying with kids. Yeah, it can be a nightmare. And it's certainly not helped by the never-ending array of fees that continue to rise, from seat reservations to kid-friendly snacks to stroller mishaps. But not all airlines are the same, and for families traveling with their kids, finding a kid-friendly airline can make a big difference. But, according to a new survey aimed at identifying the most kid-friendly airlines in the world, major airlines in the U.S. are among the worst for families.

Reassured, a life insurance broker website based in the U.K., analyzed major global airlines — from Qantas to American Ryanair, for example — and scored the airlines against seven factors, to determine which were the most family-friendly.

The ranking criteria they used include the following:

  • How much airlines charge for seat reservations
  • How much you need to pay for checked luggage allowance
  • Families that do or don't get priority boarding
  • Access to child-friendly meals on flights
  • Access to child-friendly entertainment on flights
  • Whether carry cots or pushchairs are free-of-charge

After sifting through the data, Reassured ranked 24 airlines in order of most family-oriented to least, based on the weighted metrics. And what’s one of the worst airlines? One with the American namesake.

"The study reveals that American Airlines is one of the worst child-friendly airlines due to not offering free seat reservations or checked luggage, nor can you bring a carry-on cot onboard for free," Reassured explains. "However, they do at least cater to children with their food and entertainment options."

These are the 5 most kid-friendly airlines:

  1. British Airways
  2. Qatar Airways
  3. Emirates
  4. Qantas
  5. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

British Airways ranked the best, offering free seat reservations, free checked luggage, priority boarding for families, kids meals, child-specific entertainment, bringing a carrycot for free, and bringing a pushchair for free. Qatar, Emirates, and Qantas do the same. Only KLM Royal Dutch Airlines missed free seat reservations.

In fact, major American airlines don’t even crack the top 10 for being kid-friendly in the U.S. Ranking at 12 and 13 are Delta and United, respectively. Delta only offers priority boarding for families, kid’s meals, child-specific entertainment, free carrycot and free strollers. United, while it offers free seat reservations, doesn’t offer free luggage or free carry cots.

These are the 5 worst airlines for being kid-friendly:

  1. FLYBE
  2. Ryanair
  3. American Airlines
  4. Air Canada
  5. Thai Airways

Of the worst airlines for kids, each only met three of the seven criteria.

In the U.S., traveling is already challenging for parents. However, the Department of Transportation has taken some steps to make family travel more accessible. Last year, the DOT sent a notice to airlines urging them to "do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child" to sit next to an older family member. Specifically, they requested that kids 13 years old and under be seated with their parents during the flight whenever possible.

They also launched a dashboard that shows parents which domestic airlines will let families with kids younger than 13 book seats together with no extra fees, and which airlines provide the most support to families in the event of flight delays or cancelations. Currently, only three of those airlines — Alaska, American, and Frontier — have committed to “fee-free family seating.”

For more information on the most family-friendly airlines, check out Reassured's full report.

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