Flying with a baby: My experience

I spent all summer looking forward to our trip to Spain but, at the same time, I was also fearing it. More specifically, I was dreading the journey itself. Over two hours in the car to get to the airport, then at least a couple hours waiting there, followed by a 10 hour flight, a stopover in another airport, another flight albeit a shorter one, and finally another two hours in the car to reach home. All this, with a 12 month old hyperactive baby. I think I got a handful of white hairs just thinking about it. And, as often happens, I worried so much in advance… for nothing. But, hey, at least I did a lot of research and now I am also prepared for future flights that will surely not be as smooth.

Baby A. was 11.5 months when we flew to Spain and a bit over 13 months when we came back, so I could buy him an infant ticket. An infant ticket costs 10% of the adult ticket’s price and it doesn’t have a seat, which means you have to hold your baby the whole time. Or, if you’re lucky, like I was, you can get a baby bassinet on board. If you’ve never seen the inflight baby bassinets, they’re like a basket that can be hanged in the separating wall that divides the different sections of the plane. Many airlines only provide bassinets for babies up to 8 kg and 60 something cm, so Baby A. was already too big. Luckily, I found out that Lufthansa has bigger bassinets so I booked my tickets with them instead of Iberia, the Spanish airline that flies nonstop from Shanghai to Madrid. Going with Lufthansa meant having a stopover, but at least I wouldn’t need to hold Baby A. for like 16 hours!

Actually, the first time Baby A. flew he was 2 months old and even though it was just a domestic flight within China, we got a bassinet. We were quite cramped though, check where my knee was… (this was Xiamen airlines, where you can book online and for free the baby bassinet).

 

After buying the tickets, I had an unpleasant surprise when I tried to book the bassinet in advance and I was told that, to book the bassinet, I needed to book the seat that goes with it (i.e. first row) and pay for that. WHAT? I didn’t want to pay extra for a flight that was already VERY expensive (roundtrip flights departing from China are, for some reason, double the price of the same roundtrip departing from Europe). I decided to leave it up to my luck and didn’t pay extra to secure the bassinet.

Our flight was departing on a Saturday at 11:55 pm and had online check-in. When I logged in that same day in the morning… I saw that the seat assigned to me was the first row in Economy class, which meant I had the bassinet by default. Yay! Thanks, Lufthansa! Although you could have told me that before, instead of trying to make me pay extra! I think I can confidently say that, if you are flying with an infant, you will get the bassinet by default unless there are more babies flying in that plane. There were no other babies in our plane this time. If you have a foldable stroller, you can also use it until you get to the aircraft, and then the staff will put it away and give it back to you when you land. Lufthansa also gave us small stuffed toys for Baby A., and I read there are also diapers and baby food available on board, but I didn’t need it.

The bassinet in Lufthansa. It hangs quite high and I had plenty of space for my legs.

 

To entertain Baby A. in the plane I packed several of his toys and books, along with snacks, a change of clothes, a bunch of disposable diapers and the several other things that are indispensable when you are out and about with a baby. Following tips from other mums, I also got an inflatable leg rest that I could use to make a bed for my son if I got an empty seat next to mine, and also some small things and stickers he had never seen in case he got extremely annoying. In the end I didn’t need any of the toys and stickers… because he slept the whole time! We did have a diaper overflow that leaked into my pants and I had a change of clothes for him, but not for me… Oh well. I think no one noticed!

The worst part of the trip was actually the short flight. The bassinets are only available for long flights, and in the Germany-Spain leg of the trip I had to hold him the whole time as the plane was full. He’s heavy and my legs went numb! In the flight back from Spain to Germany, the woman sitting next me to told me that he actually behaved really well! The waiting time in the airports was also fine and I even found out that there are play parks for children in many airports! We visited them in Madrid airport and in Munich airport.

I can proudly say that I survived my first long flight with Baby A. almost unscathed… but who knows how next year will be, when he’s 2!