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Flying Etihad with kids

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13 posts
8 reviews
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Flying Etihad with kids

I may be flying with my 4 year old and 1 year old from Chicago to Sri Lanka. Wanted to get people's opinion on how family friendly Etihad is. I am leaning towards Etihad as I can limited my stop-overs to the one in Abu Dhabi.

Also, if I was to meet my husband there (he'll be on business), would I be crazy to fly alone with the kids? How helpful are the flight attendants? Would it be worth the money to spring for business class?

Thanks!

Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle, Family Travel
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1. Re: Flying Etihad with kids

I can't comment on Etihad, but just having completed a long international flight series, I do have several suggestions. Yes, you might be crazy to fly alone with young kids, but it is certainly doable, and I saw several young moms doing the same thing (in coach), though, without question, it will be grueling. Is there a chance your husband could fly at least one way? The other factor to consider is how long you can stay in your destination. For me, international flights are always easier to handle if I have had plenty of time to relax and forget before boarding for the return flight home :-)

As much as I eye the business class longingly everytime I board the plane, several passengers were talking that other than slightly better comfort, you all get to your destination at the same time. If you can burn miles to upgrade, yes, I would consider, but I am not sure it is worth the extra cash. I would almost rather see you use the money to buy an extra ticket and take along an extra adult to help (grandma or a babysitter) than spend the money in business class. Also, depending on the configuration in business class, it may or may not be to your advantage. You best know your children, and though no-one can predict how they will perform in a long-haul situation. One other factor to consider, is that while most flights go smoothly and leave and arrive on-time, delays or changes do occur, and sometimes the connection details are the most stressful. I would also have a contingency plan if you get delayed or stuck (again this is where an extra adult could help!).

The airline carrier does matter/make a difference, so I would recommend that you choose wisely. In your situation the cheapest flight may not be the best choice. In addition to price I would factor in airline, airline quality, flight time, on-time performance, seat selection, connection time, etc.

In general, if flying coach, I would urge you to try and book one of the bulk-head seats in the middle. Some airlines tend to save those for families with infants. Some airlines have clip-on bassinets in that section which you will be able to use for your 1yr old once the plane is in the air, which, with the added space in the bulk-head, will allow you to be hands free, and without an infant on your lap - at least for some of the time.

On recent flights, I observed several families who were able to let their child both sleep and play in that extra bulk-head space and the flight attendants were accommodating. The downside to the bulkhead seats, is I believe the armrests are fixed, so, for your 4 yr old, you won't be able to let her stretch out. But the good news is on the long international flights, the entertainment systems are great, and your 4 year will have so many cartoons and videos to watch she will be delighted.

Regarding flight attendant help, in my experience, it is highly variable. As much as I hate to say this, my experiences and observations with US carrier service - in coach class - is that it is least reliable or accommodating. When traveling with children by myself, I have found flight attendants do what they can, but most often it was other passengers who were gracious, kind and helpful, and would me lend a hand. Like any profession, I have met some outstanding flight attendants who are a credit to their profession. However, several recent international flights with a US carriers (both Delta and United) - the flight crews were just poor and seemed more interested in reading tabloid magazines in the kitchen than attending to passengers. I know today's flight attendants are pulled in several directions and have to deal with many demands and personalities, and that passenger safety and security is of the highest priority, but it doesn't cost much to be professional, pleasant and helpful. On my flights with some non-US based carriers, in general, I have found a higher level of service and attention from the crew - particularly to those flying with "special needs". Again, it's hard to predict, and I am not advocating for one over the other, just another factor to consider.

I didn't mean to be so long-winded, but wanted to give you some things to consider. I am sure others with have other thoughts and opinions. Good luck in your decision making!

Dublin, Ireland
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for Sligo, Dublin
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2. Re: Flying Etihad with kids

Hi Jenniferhc

Island Girl has given you some excellent advice there and i'd imagine, plenty to think about! I particularly like her idea about using the extra money to bring someone along to help. Have your kids flown on a long flight before? How would you manage if they both started screaming with sore ears etc? Don't mean to put you off by saying that but just something to think of.

With regards to Etihad, a friend of mine along with her 3 kids has flown with them and found them fine but if I were you I'd post on the airline forum to get more feedback. They do claim to be quite family friendly and have games on board for younger passengers. You can also request child and infant meals in advance of travel. Just one point though the bassinettes that Islandgirl has mentioned are only available to babies up to 10 months old. As Islandgirl has also said, a lot can depend on the cabin crew on the day. I have found that this varies a lot even on the same airline.

With regard to upgrading to Business Class, personally I wouldn't! I just think that if the kids act up or are crying, all those people who have paid extra to travel in Business will be much less accommodating and understanding than those passengers in the standard cabin who may expect to have some sort of disruption. That, however, is just how I might feel in that situation with the kids, you may feel differently.

Good luck with your decision.

3. Re: Flying Etihad with kids

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