I never wanted to be one of those parents travelling on a crammed domestic flight with a ton of luggage and a screaming infant. You know the ones that catch your eye in the airport lounge, struggling with their babies as you think to yourself “please don’t sit near me.” And they always ended up sitting near me. What usually followed were two hours of ear piercing screaming, crying, seat kicking, fidgeting or clambering over the top of me for regular trips to the toilet.
I remember one long flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, where a screaming toddler sent most of the passengers and crew completely out of their minds. I am sure that if we had all been issued with parachutes, there would have been a steady line of passengers lining up for their first solo sky dive.
"Well now it's my turn and I am very afraid..."
After many years of self indulgent travel, my wife and I decided that it was time to start a family, finally ready to let go of our carefree and selfish lives and take on the challenge of parenthood.
In the second week of September our little bub arrived into the world, and after six months of interstate commuting the time came for wife and bubs to move up from Adelaide to Byron Bay where we would all start our new family life together.
The second scariest flight of my life had arrived– the inaugural flight with bub. As I flew down to Adelaide to pick up my wife and baby, I sat nervous on the plane with feelings of fear and trepidation…I was going to be one of “those” parents with screaming child on a full festive season flight.
We arrived at Adelaide airport for our flight to the Gold Coast, equipped with nappy bag, pram, baby capsule, two large travel cases and matching hand luggage. Even the baby had his own miniature backpack. How can one small person require such a large entourage of people and equipment?
We allowed 90 minutes for check in (most Australian domestic airlines require passengers travelling with an infant to check in at least 60 minutes prior to departure). The extra 30 minutes gave us additional time to check in, pass through airport screening, find our departure gate and fit in one last feed for the baby before our 2.5 hour flight.
Virgin Australia allows specific infant equipment (including a pram/stroller, portable cot, car seat and baby capsule) to be carried free of charge on domestic flights. All other infant baggage is included as part of the parents’ or guardians’ baggage allowance. A single car seat booster per child is also allowed as checked in baggage, free of charge irrespective of weight for children aged between 2-11 years of age.
Guests travelling with an infant may carry-on an extra bag containing articles for use in the cabin such as nappies, baby food and formula. Be sure to pull any liquids and baby foods aside to show the staff when passing through security, but they will allow them for babies.
We were seated in the back of the plane and had to walk downstairs to the tarmac then back up the rear stairs of the aircraft. It was difficult travelling juggling an infant and cabin luggage up and down flights of stairs.
I would recommend booking a seat towards the front of the plane to enable you to use the aero bridge or asking the crew while boarding if you can enter by the front doors. It’s also worth considering a seat near in the aisle as it provides easier access to toilets and enables you to easily get up with your baby if needed.
We got settled and I’ll be honest, the anticipation was intense. How would he be when we took off, and how would our surrounding passengers take it if our pride and joy showed his darker side? Most babies cry during take-off or landing when they often experience mild discomfort caused by pressurisation or de-pressurisation of the cabin. Our baby boy was no different in that he did cry during landing. A quick feed worked wonders in distracting and comforting him during the landing. Suckling, on the breast, bottle or a dummy, helps the child’s ears to pop during the rapid pressure changes.The rest of the flight was far smoother than we expected – flying during the morning sure was a good decision.
I must admit, there’s no simple formula when it comes to travelling with infants and every baby’s needs are different. Arriving with plenty of time to spare enables you to stay as relaxed as possible and good old fashioned preparation goes a long way to making the flight as comfortable as possible.
A good healthy dose of luck also helps.
I must admit that the experience has taught me to be more tolerant and accepting of parents travelling with small children and infants. There are always going to be instances where some parents let their children run riot on board and have no regard for the needs of others. However, most parents are just trying to get from A to B and are genuinely fearful of upsetting others or causing inconvenience. It’s not easy. A little bit of understanding goes a long way.Have you ever flown with an infant? We’d love to hear your story.