Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free

Post Published October 23, 2023

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Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for FreeFlying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - What is a Bassinet Seat on a Plane?

Traveling with an infant can be stressful for any parent. Luckily, many airlines offer bassinet seats to make flying with a baby under 2 a little easier. A bassinet is essentially a small bed or cradle that allows babies to lie flat and sleep comfortably on an airplane.

While not all planes have bassinets, they are common on international and long-haul domestic flights. Bassinets are usually mounted to the bulkhead wall in the first few rows of the economy cabin. Some may also be available in business or first class. The number of bassinets on a flight is limited, so they are offered on a first come, first served basis.
There are two main types of bassinets used on airplanes - fixed and foldable models. Fixed bassinets are permanently installed and stay in a stationary position for the entire flight. Foldable or swing-down bassinets can be stowed against the wall when not in use. Both provide a safe sleeping space for infants, but the fixed models often allow for more room.

Using an in-flight bassinet allows parents to lay their baby down in a cradle-like bed. It provides more space and comfort than trying to manage an infant on your lap or in a car seat for hours. The bassinet is also safer than having a newborn in a separate airline seat, as they could potentially roll off and get injured.
The bassinet essentially creates a little bed in the sky so parents can put a young infant down to sleep. This is incredibly valuable, as babies need a lot of sleep and have a hard time getting decent rest when fully upright. Having a bassinet can help them get the deep, quality sleep they need while flying. It also gives parents a break to eat, use the bathroom, or just relax knowing their baby is safe.
While airline bassinets make flying with infants more doable, there are some drawbacks. The bassinets are small and may not work for larger babies. Parents also need to provide any bedding and cannot keep their child in the bassinet during take-off or landing for safety reasons. The limited number available means you may not get one, even if you qualify.

What else is in this post?

  1.  Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - What is a Bassinet Seat on a Plane?
  2. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Who is Eligible for a Free Baby Bassinet?
  3. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - When to Request the Bassinet During Booking
  4. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Airline Policies for Bassinet Use
  5. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Maximize Baby's Comfort in the Bassinet
  6. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - What to Bring for Baby on the Plane
  7. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - In-flight Tips for Caring for Baby
  8. Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Bassinet Alternatives If You Can't Get One

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Who is Eligible for a Free Baby Bassinet?

When flying with an infant, using an in-flight baby bassinet can make a world of difference. These specialized beds allow babies to lie flat and sleep, rather than being confined to a car seat or your lap for hours. Best of all - they are free if your little one meets the airline's age and size restrictions.
Most airlines will provide a free bassinet to any child under two years old. This covers newborns up to nearly 24 months. Some airlines, like United, provide them for babies under 18 months only. Others have more generous policies, with Emirates offering bassinets up to 36 months. Be sure to check your specific airline's rules.

In addition to age limits, there are also size constraints. Given the compact dimensions of airplane bassinets, they generally accommodate newborns up to 6 months old. Most airlines set weight restrictions between 10-20 pounds. Length is also a factor, with babies who measure over 25 inches often too big for the bassinet.

Again, these size thresholds can vary between carriers. KLM allows use up to 26 pounds and 28 inches, while American caps it at 19 pounds. If your baby is near the maximums, call ahead to confirm dimensions as some models may differ. It never hurts to bring a portable bassinet or other baby sleeping gadget as a backup.
While free baby bassinets are meant for economy class, many airlines also provide them in business or first class cabins. The proper age and size limits apply. However, due to the increased space in premium seats, you may be able to use a bassinet for larger babies.
Just because your little one falls within the general eligibility rules does not guarantee you'll get one. Most planes only have 1-2 (maybe 3 in larger aircraft). They are offered on a first come, first served basis. So request one immediately upon booking and check in early.

Some parents run into challenges getting a bassinet as policies differ for lap infants versus those in purchased seats. Most airlines require babies to be in a separate seat to use the bassinet for safety reasons. If you are holding your child, look for a bulkhead seat with the bassinet brackets installed so you can request one upon boarding.

International routes, longer hauls, and red-eyes typically have more bassinets versus quick domestic hops. Oddly, the planes going to vacation destinations popular with families don't necessarily offer more bassinets. Routes catering to business travelers or foreigners seem to be better equipped.

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - When to Request the Bassinet During Booking

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free

Knowing when to request that free baby bassinet is key to boosting your chances of snagging one. While each airline has their own policies, there are some general rules of thumb to follow.

Request at booking: As soon as you book your flight, immediately call the airline to request the bassinet. This registers your needs in the system right away versus waiting until check-in when it may be too late. Online bookings via the airline website also usually have a "traveling with infant" checkbox where you can indicate you need a bassinet.

Book early: Don't wait until the last minute to purchase tickets if traveling with a baby. Bassinets are limited in number, so last minute bookings are high risk. Giving yourself more lead time increases the odds. Aim to finalize travel plans at least 2-3 months out if possible.

Enroll in family boarding: Airlines like United and American offer early boarding for those traveling with infants. Taking advantage gets you settled before the mad rush. For bassinets located at the bulkhead, this improves access before other passengers block it off.
Pre-assign seats: If booking through an online travel site, avoid the dreaded TBD seat assignment. The unknown makes requesting a bassinet tricky. Pay extra to select seats, ideally the bulkhead row with bassinet hookups.

Confirm upon check-in: A week or so before departure, call the airline again to verify your bassinet is notated and assigned. Don't assume it's there just because you requested it originally. Make sure it is active in their system to avoid disappointment at boarding.
Check-in early: Arrive at the airport with ample time for check-in. Airlines often start processing requests for bassinets and other special accommodations an hour or two before general check-in opens. Being among the first in line is key for the most in-demand seats.

Ask at the gate: If all else fails and you did not get a bassinet seat assigned, ask the gate agent. Be polite yet persistent in explaining your situation. While gate agents cannot work miracles, they may be able to shuffle things around based on no shows. Scoring that empty premium economy seat for you and baby makes their day too.
Partner with the crew: Once onboard, do not hesitate to make one final plea to the flight crew if you could not secure that coveted bassinet ahead of time. Again, politely but clearly explain that having a safe place for baby to sleep would be life-changing. The crew wants a smooth flight too so they will do their best to accommodate.

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Airline Policies for Bassinet Use

When it comes to airline bassinets, policies vary widely between carriers. While the age and size limits tend to be similar, how and when you can request and use the bassinet differs. Understanding these nuances is crucial for securing that coveted sleeping space for baby.

Let's start with booking policies. Some airlines, like Lufthansa, block bassinet seats from online selection. You must call to reserve. Others, such as Emirates, allow online booking but charge a fee. Most US carriers have adopted the family boarding concept, granting early boarding to those traveling with infants. This gives you first dibs on limited bassinets.

Once onboard, strict regulations dictate when the bassinet can be utilized. No airline permits use during takeoff, landing, or periods of turbulence. Babies must be securely fastened in an approved car seat or infant carrier. Some airlines require car seats at all times if the child has a separate seat. Others allow bassinet use during cruising but mandate baby to be in your arms or a car seat for ascent/descent.
In terms of bedding, policies differ. Many airlines prohibit any sort of loose blankets, pillows, or padding due to potential head suffocation hazards. A sleeper or wearable blanket may be permitted. Others do provide bedding. Singapore Airlines offers a cozy quilted mattress pad and fitted sheet. Always use the restraint straps for safety.
Bassinets are not treated like your property. Flight attendants reserve the right to remove your child if you are breaking the rules or if they deem continued use unsafe (clear air turbulence, etc.). Bassinets may also be folded up at crew discretion.
What qualifies as an "infant" or "lap child" who can use a bassinet varies too. American allows lap children until 24 months but bassinets only until 18 months, so a 19 month old would not qualify. Other airlines align eligibility. Read the fine print.
Carry-on limits also impact bassinet use. Many airlines only install them at bulkheads without overhead bins. So you may be barred from the bassinet if you bring a roller bag, requiring you to gate check.

Temperature is a factor as well. The wall at the bulkhead can get cold. Bring layers to keep baby comfortable. Also be aware, some bassinets are right behind business class, so squealing infants are not appreciated by premium flyers trying to sleep. Avoid letting babies play or cry in the bassinet.
No matter the airline, order the special meal for your little one. Bassinet access facilitates preparing bottles and baby food. Changing tables are also key. Pick a seat nearby to make diaper duty easier.

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Maximize Baby's Comfort in the Bassinet

Flying with an infant is difficult enough without the added stress of your little one being uncomfortable in the bassinet. While airlines differ in things like bedding policies and bassinet styles, there are some universal tips to maximize comfort for babies during flight. Taking a few simple steps will help ensure your child can sleep peacefully the whole trip.
First and foremost, show up prepared. Airlines do not provide any special bedding or padding for the hard bassinet, so bring your own from home. A portable crib sheet or swaddle blanket provides a layer between baby and the plastic. A small travel pillow elevates their head slightly for support. If you use sleep sacks at home, bring the wearable version for the flight. Keep in mind that some airlines prohibit loose bedding, so opt for items that can securely attach to the bassinet.
The bassinet location may impact comfort too. Bulkhead rows are convenient but can experience more noise and light pollution from passengers entering and exiting. If baby is a light sleeper, request a set-up behind a solid wall rather than an open entryway. Bassinets in middle rows of economy keep things darker and calmer.

What you dress your infant in matters as well. The wall at the bulkhead can get chilly, so opt for footed pajamas over just a onesie. Sock booties are a smart addition too. However, avoid bundling in too many layers that could come loose and pose a strangulation hazard. Focus on things like sleep sacks that keep them cozy while securely attached.
While airline policies restrict use of bassinets during take-off, taxiing, and landing, take advantage of them to maximize sleep during flight. Try not to shuffle baby in and out too much. Limit removing them for feedings or diaper changes to let them get uninterrupted rest. Employing white noise and blackout window shades facilitates quality sleep.

When bassinet restrictions are in place, maintain comfort in your arms. Use an infant carrier that provides ample head and neck support. Stash a feeding pillow under baby to keep their body aligned while reclining in your lap. Employing a baby sling while walking about the cabin gets them snuggled against your body warmth.
Stay vigilant about the little things that disturb your baby's sleep too. Ask crew to dim surrounding lights and kindly quiet loud children kicking the seats. Politely prevent other passengers from engaging with your child too much, as over stimulation hinders quality rest. If possible, board last to avoid long waits on the plane pre-departure.
A few key items also promote in-flight comfort for infants and parents. Bottles you can fill with hot water work wonders for feeding. Travel humidifiers add moisture to the dry cabin air, helping baby breathe and sleep easier. Soft headphones muffle noise for better sleep. Portable changing pads replace those flimsy airline changing tables. And don't forget pacifiers - lifesavers for relieving ear pressure during ascent and descent.

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - What to Bring for Baby on the Plane

Flying with an infant requires packing more gear than a trek through the Himalayas. While tempting to lug everything baby might possibly need, restraint prevents punching overweight baggage fees. Targeting essentials streamlines the packing process. Focus on items promoting safety, food, sleep, comfort, and hygiene.

Starting with safety, the FAA mandates an approved car seat for all children under two on aircraft. Bring your infant's usual model and avoid experimenting with an unfamiliar loaner seat. Using the car seat onboard provides a familiar sleep and feeding spot for baby when bassinet restrictions apply. Lightweight travel car seats reduce hauling headaches.

Food ranks high on the priority list when packing. Bring bottled breast milk, formula, and baby food in quantities exceeding expected needs. Canned powdered formula permits transporting concentrated quantities that you mix with water during flight. Accounting for potential delays prevents hunger meltdowns. Disposable bottle liners simplify cleaning. Ice packs and insulated bags keep milk chilled and fresh. Sealed snacks add options when airport shops lack baby brands.

Promoting peaceful sleep requires packing clever gear. A sleep sack, like the popular Nested Bean model, provides both comfort and warmth. Swaddle blankets offer another cozy layer. Mini crib sheets lining the bassinet prevent contact with the plastic. White noise machines tune out foreign flight sounds. Window shades block out light. Pacifiers aid oral pressure regulation during take-offs and landings.

Maximizing comfort onboard involves both clothing and accessories. Dress baby in footed pajamas or other attire unlikely to come loose and get stuck. Socks prevent feet from getting cold directly against the bassinet. Avoid scratchy fabrics irritating delicate skin. Pack extra onesies and pants for blowouts. Don't forget mittens to limit accidental scratches. A baby carrier lets you transport infant hands-free through airports.
Cleanliness on a germ-filled plane is no easy feat. Pack sanitizing wipes to swiftly wipe down tray tables, armrests and bassinets. Bring extra burp cloths for quick clean-ups after spitting up. A compact changing pad offers a barrier against nasty bathrooms. Carry ample diapers, extra folds of clothing, and mini wet bags for containing dirty outfits. Having an extra shirt for yourself never hurts either. Don't assume planes have changing tables.
Traveling with everything from diapers and wipes to milk and bottles is exhausting. Durable, wipeable diaper bags simplify schlepping the sheer volume of stuff babies require. Backpacks convert to strollers easing transport. Carry bottles in reusable silicone bags to conserve space. Seek bags with insulated compartments for perishables. Compression packing cubes maximize room.

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - In-flight Tips for Caring for Baby

Flying with an infant can be a daunting endeavor, even for the most seasoned parent. The unfamiliar surroundings coupled with the hassles of air travel are enough to test any seasoned traveler's patience. Yet with the right in-flight gear, techniques, and mindset, you can minimize stress and attend to baby's needs with relative ease. Arm yourself with tools to tackle responsibilities like feeding, changing, soothing, and entertaining little ones once those cabin doors close.
When it comes to feeding baby in-flight, preparation is key. The limited space makes juggling bottles, food pouches, and other feeding essentials difficult. Consider packing formula powder versus pre-made bottles to conserve space. Disposable bottle liners allow filling with hot water from the galley for quick mixing. Insulated bags with freezer packs keep bottles chilled. Sterilizing wipes let you quickly clean trays and seating areas beforehand. Bibs and burp cloths catch spills in the tight quarters.

Diaper duty ranks among the biggest headaches when flying with a baby. Maneuvering a squirmy, crying infant on tiny lavatory changing tables verges on Olympic sport. Yet enduring hours in a soiled diaper uncomfortably irritates babies sensitive skin. Whenever possible, change infants just before boarding or ask flight attendants if a bassinet or other safe flat space is available for changes. Pack a foldable changing mat to create a clean surface. Use seat backs or floor space in a pinch. Bring ample wipes and diapers, even for short flights.
Comforting upset babies who cannot understand why their ears hurt or routine is disrupted tests every parent's patience. Prepare for this eventuality by packing tried-and-true soothing items. Pack favorite stuffed animals or blankets with familiar scents. Employ pacifiers or teething toys to ease ear pressure during ascent and descent. Rubbing sleeping infants' ears can also help "pop" them. Hydrating with bottles aids in this too. Play white noise to drown out the loud drone of the engines. Baby wearing allows close snuggling against your warmth.

Battling boredom represents another in-flight struggle. Fussy, restless babies can disturb fellow passengers' peace and sleep. Arm your child with engaging toys and diversions. New books and small toys you unveil one at a time maintain novelty and curiosity during the long hours. Attach toys to prevent drops and rolls into inaccessible crevices. Screen time on phones or tablets entertains yet aim to limit usage to prevent addiction. When possible, walk whimpering babies in the aisles, respecting seatbelt sign enforcement. Change up positions by baby wearing or holding upright to alter their viewpoint. Interact with your child rather than ignoring them.

Flying with Baby? How to Score the Airline Bassinet for Free - Bassinet Alternatives If You Can't Get One

While bassinets make flying with infants far more manageable, limited availability means you may need a backup plan. Having alternatives ready provides peace of mind if you get that dreaded call from the airline that no bassinet remains for your flight. The good news? Plenty of options exist to create a tolerable experience for both baby and parents. We will explore gear and techniques for when bassinet hopes get dashed.
First and most obvious - use your car seat onboard. While not a ideal as a lie-flat bassinet, your baby's usual car seat offers familiarity amid the foreignness of flight. For very young infants, brace the seat with a rolled up blanket or towel on either side to prevent slumping and support proper head positioning if they doze off. Consider splurging on an especially padded model if flying frequently.

Inflatable pillows like the Fly Tot inflight infant support provide cushioning to make hard narrow seats more infant friendly. They inflate similar to a swimming floatie to custom mold around your child, easing the confines of a car seat or your lap. The design elevates their head for safer breathing and props up their body in a semi-reclined position nearly mimicking a bassinet. While pricy, for lap infants too big for the bassinet it buys sanity.
If you can score the prized legroom of bulkhead rows, make the most of the extra space even sans bassinet. Foot hammocks hang from wall mounts to create a suspended sleeping spot for babies. The cocoon-like design blocks out disruptions. While not approved for take-off and landing, getting in a few solid nap hours eases red-eye agony.

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