With airfares always on the up, it was an enormous relief to know that my 10 month old daughter would fly for free when we took her to the States this Christmas. But sadly, that was where the good news ended…
To be honest, the thought of being cramped up in economy with a baby on my lap for 10 hours didn’t sound like much fun. So we were encouraged to hear that most big airlines provide cots or baby seats in a few select rows, allowing you to put your baby down and, if you’re lucky, get them off to sleep.
The only thing we didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to get our hands on one of these coveted seats.
Babies on a plane
We were flying with British Airways. When we booked our flights in the summer, we were delighted to find out that one parent could book a spot in the so-called ‘bulkhead’ rows without having to pay a premium. The second parent, unfortunately, cannot book into the same row without paying a premium for extra legroom – but this was something we could live with.
But it soon became apparent that these reservations didn’t count for much. For example, if the plane changes to a model with a different layout, all the seats are reallocated with no guarantees that you’ll get the bulkhead seats you’ve booked.
And that’s what happened to us in December. When we called a few days before the flight to check we still had a bulkhead seat, we were given the bad news that the plane had changed and told there was nothing they could do. They told us to call back the day before and talk to the staff at the airport, but they couldn’t make any guarantees.
On the day of the flight, my wife was placed on a waiting list for an upgrade as a consolation prize. But unfortunately there was no upgrade and she, along with the six other parents with babies on the same flight, all ended up in regular economy seats. None of the people in the bulkhead row had babies with them – just long legs.
No guarantees for parents and babies
When I took to Twitter to make a complaint, BA’s response was rather disappointing: ‘We realise that the bulkhead position does make a big difference but unfortunately we are unable to guarantee seating.’ But why can’t they?
Surely it wouldn’t be difficult to prioritise parents with young children and allocate them seats in the bulkhead row, even if the size of the plane changes. Yes, there may be times when there are more babies than baby seats, but why not allocate seats on a first-come first-served basis?
I’ve always been a big fan of BA and, to be fair, even the flight attendants seemed a little embarrassed about the situation. This is a problem that frustrates thousands of parents a year – as I found when I took to Twitter and Facebook with my problem.
Next time we fly to the States, I’ll be looking for an airline with a more family friendly policy. Have you ever run into problems getting child-friendly seats on your flights? Have you ever booked seats only to find you didn’t get them on arrival?