/ Travel & Leisure

How BA ignored my baby on board

A baby in a toy plane

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?


Travelling with a baby on your laps is quite an exhausting experience. It’s sort of fine when they’re really small and only nurse and sleep, but when they get nearer the age of two (the limit in age before you have to pay a full fare for them), it’s a real challenge.

My partner travelled on her own with our 22-months old toddler recently on an Easyjet flight. She had a seat with the baby on her lap and other passengers on each side.
After take off, she noticed that there were quite a few unoccupied seats further down the plane. So she moved there to have more space for our toddler to wiggle around and be less annoying for the passengers immediatly next to her. Only to be told that she could not seat there as, in order to choose a seat, she would have had to select that option at the time of booking and pay a fee for it.

In the future we would be happy to pay a small fee to select a seat if it meant we could be sure we would have more space, but there is no way of knowing which seats, if any, would be left free next to us at the time of booking.

At the end, the stewardess was quite accommodating and my partner was allowed to stay in that other seat whilst airborned and only had to return to her allocated seat for landing, which was fine. Thank you for human kindness. And I’m sure it meant other passengers had a more pleasant flight as having to restrain a toddler on someone’s laps for two and half hours wouldn’t have been fun for anyone.

Swiss airline on the other hand always accommodates us to another set of seats if free sests are available on the plane to give us more space. And they give our toddler toys (and Swiss chocolate). Thank you Swiss! No wonder they topped the Which? airline survey 😉


“but there is no way of knowing which seats, if any, would be left free next to us”

There is. Book two seats.

Christian Arms says:
8 February 2013

But what can you do, eh? Swings and roundabouts. Imagine if you took your child on a bus and you were sitting in a disabled seat with your child and then a disabled person got on – you’d have to get up. It’s the same principle, really. If you want a bulkhead seat – lovely expression, that, bulkhead, I’ll be using that if you don’t mind, did you make it up or is it a standard expression, anyway, lovely turn of phrase – there may be someone more deserving like an excessively tall person or someone with a knee brace or someone who has big shoes like a clown. All I’m saying is you’re better off taking a ship.


A bulkhead is a partition in a ship or aeroplane; I can think of lovelier engineering terms but each to their own.


It seems to me this is a sensible concession offered by airlines – providing appropriate seating is available, but not as a right. No more than the leg room required by tall people. My son had a much better flight than normal to Hong Kong by upgrading to premium economy – wider fully reclining seat, lots of leg room, worth the extra because he is tall. You get what you pay for.


I have no sympathy. I have lost the number of times that I, and my fellow passengers have been disturbed by crying and screaming babies on long intercontinental flights. I now always try to book a seat well away from the extra leg room seats because of baby disturbances! I travel with ear plugs just in case. Why do people travel such long distances with babies? Are they emigrating?


You’re brave. Usually the slightest criticism of people with screaming babies guarantees a storm of abuse.

Don’t get me started on kids in pubs.

Christy says:
14 February 2013

Occasionally we like to see our parents if they live in other countries and we’d like them to see their grandchildren too.