The best airlines for flying with children

Children on planes – it needn't be a nightmare.
Children on planes – it needn't be a nightmare.  Photo: Getty Images

"Family-friendly airline" is an oxymoron. How can cramming hundreds of people into a small space for up to 17 hours be pleasant for kids?

It's not the airline's fault. It's just trying to make a buck.

As parents, we tend to catastrophise. One bad experience and, "I'm never flying that airline again!" (So far, we've boycotted about five ...)

Often, the flight attendants and check-in staff make all the difference.

A smile – and a wipe – goes a long way when a baby has vomited on your shirt before boarding. 

Cheapflights.com.au has just put out a list of family-friendly airlines in the Asia Pacific region. And there are certainly some surprises.

The top three are – drum roll, please – Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Thai.

They all offer advanced seat assignments, an extra bag for nursing, special children's meals and entertainment, a gift or toy, and stroller check for free, plus pre-boarding for families, change tables in toilets and bassinets for infants. And there's preflight social media support, for last minute glitches. 

In our experience, Emirates is the pick. The airline's Fly With Me fluffy animals, and retro kids' travel packs, are a bonus.

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See: Airline review: Emirates economy class

Thai Airways is generally cheaper than Cathay Pacific. The kids' meals on Thai are pretty basic, but the green chicken curry is a winner.

See: Airline review: Thai Airways economy class

Singapore Airlines is the next on the list. A parental block can be arranged for the Kris World entertainment system (that's to block kids of certain ages from watching adult content, not the parents. Just thought I should clarify ...)

See: Airline review: Singapore Airlines economy class

Qantas is next. It now has a dedicated kids' movie channel with 21 hours of content, and a TV channel with 28 hours. (However, if I have to watch that much Peppa Pig – even peripherally – I will stick pencils up my nose.)

See: Airline review: Qantas economy class

Tying for next place are Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, two of our family's faves. The kids love The Lord of the Rings-themed safety video on the way across the ditch. 

And, if flights are delayed, Virgin is quick to hand out food vouchers and bottles of water to tired families.

Jetstar is a step below, with ticks for change tables, bassinets and free stroller check, but crosses for no pre-boarding for families and an international lap fee.

AirAsia scores just five ticks, with no free advanced seat assignments, entertainment or gift.

At the bottom of the list is Tigerair. Which, I must say, I find surprising. We've had good experiences.

Still, the airline offers only free kids' meals and stroller check at the gate. Probably not the top choice if you have infants, with no change tables in the toilets. 

It's cheap, though. And you get what you pay for.

Really, none of this will stop a child crying. But every little bit helps.   

Yes, children are annoying on planes. It's important to remember we were all kids once. 

Finally, airlines are becoming more family friendly. Now, it's the passengers' turn.

See also: When parents ditch the kids in economy and fly business

See also: Dirty looks: The horror of flying with a baby