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Air travel to become more child-friendly

On July 13, the US passed a Bill (The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorisation Bill) that is expected to greatly improve family travel.

With the transition to new airline policies offering premium seats and boarding options for a fee, families are often facing anxiety-inducing challenges and choices. Parents are forced to pay additional fees when checking in to their flight just to ensure they can sit next to their small children on the plane. In many cases, parents must disrupt the boarding process to ask willing passengers to change their seats, despite the fact that these individuals may have already paid additional fees for seats themselves.

US Congressman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that this Bill, dubbed the ‘Families Flying Together’ Bill, puts an end to the ‘absurdity’ of toddlers sitting separate or unattended on an airplane – requiring airlines to plan ahead so that families with young children under 13 can fly together. It also allows pregnant women to pre-board their flights.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who drafted the family-friendly amendment to the Bill, added: “Parents shouldn’t have to pay extra to sit with their kids on a flight. Separating them is not safe and often leaves them at the mercy of other passengers who must decide whether to trade seats. Separating young kids from their parents during the screening process can be just as traumatic, and the TSA shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Our amendment puts in place commonsense protections that will reduce the extra and unnecessary stress applied to families and pregnant women traveling by air.”

It seems that airlines have taken note of the new regulations. According to an article in the APEX Daily, several airlines have started already introducing changes.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines added a Kid Zone to the rear of its aircraft the day after the FAA Reauthorisation Bill was passed. Families travelling together can book a middle seat for free, while window and aisle seats are available at a minimal charge.

BA re-launched its Kids Fly for Free offer, which allow children under 12 to fly for free with every adult ticket purchased on selected routes.

Ryanair is not as forthcoming, and gives consideration to those passengers who have pre-booked seats. Starting September, the airline will require adults travelling with children under 12 to buy one reserved seat. The child’s reserved seat will be free, as will the seat for an additional accompanying adult.

Families on long-haul flights with Air New Zealand can stretch out and get comfortable by booking an Economy Skycouch, a three-seat row that can be configured into a flat space using footrests that move into a horizontal position.

In South Africa, kulula.com rewards children under 12 with a kiddies certificate, whereas parents flying with Mango can purchase an entertainment pack for their children.