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If you’re planning to fly with a baby using an airplane bassinet, start here! Understanding a few key points about airline bassinets (or skycots) in advance could make a big difference in your choice of airlines, when you decide to undertake an international flight with your child, and whether or not you ultimately want to–or get to–use an airplane bassinet.
1.They’re in it for the long-haul.
For most airlines, airplane bassinets (AKA skycots) are only available for long-haul and overseas flights (you may find some exceptions on shorter flights with Asian carriers). Regrettably, you should not expect one on a cross-country flight with a U.S. carrier (nor much of anything else these days!).
2. Size–and age–matters.
Different airlines have different height, weight, and maximum age limitations for using their airplane bassinets or skycots. This is often the case because the airplane bassinet itself will be a different size and may even have different features. For more on these considerations, see my post “Flying overseas with a baby? Watch out for height, age, and weight restrictions for airplane bassinets” and also “One very good reason to fly British Airways with your baby (or lap-held toddler.”
3. You’ll need to call the airline.
First, because you need to have the right seat assignments in order to use an airplane bassinet, and they might not be the ones you’d expect. While the bulkhead row may seem an obvious placement, not all bulkheads may have mounting positions for airplane bassinets, and some airplanes have locations that can be used elsewhere in the aircraft (I was once brought an airplane bassinet that was mounted above below the overhead storage bin above my head! Though I did not feel right using it for my child, for some reason.) What’s more, there is generally only one lap-held infant (or “lap child”) allowed on the bulkhead row. You must call the airline to make sure your seats will be in a proper location for a bassinet or skycot—and also to request the use of a bassinet.
4. It’s not about safety.
Airplane bassinets don’t necessarily provide extra safety for your child, and they can’t be used during taxiing, take-off, or landing—and generally not during turbulence. The safest scenario is still for a baby or toddler to either fly in his own car seat (see “Five Things You Should Know Before Flying with a Car Seat” and related posts you’ll find there) or to use the CARES flight safety harness (for 1 year and 22 lbs. +) in a paid seat.
5. There are no guarantees.
There are still no guarantees you will get an airplane bassinet or skycot for your flight, so make sure you’ve planned—and packed—for a plan B. Airplane bassinets are only available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the airline cannot even guarantee how many bassinets will be available on your airplane. Checking in as early as possible will at least help make sure you are one of the first requests that will be honored. See “Flying with Infants: Checklist for Getting an Airplane Bassinet.”
Remember there are nearly 100 pages on “Travels by Airplane” alone (Part V) in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide…, with help for all facets of your families air travel from choosing the airline and seats, clearing security, and staying safe and sane in flight. You might also find helpful information for your trip planning in the index to our online Ultimate Tips for Flying with Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers.
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Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
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