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Bulk head seats on long haul flights

27 replies

tanyac · 02/09/2002 17:33

Does anyone know if you are automatically allocated a bulk head seat (with cot facility) when travelling with an infant under the age of 2?

OP posts:
batey · 02/09/2002 18:00

We flew to Japan with virgin and our (then) 9m/o dd2. We had to request it, phoned a few months prior, to "book" it. Even then I think they said it's not automatic, depends on the day, how many passengers need/request it i.e. wheelchair bound etc. We did get it in the end though and got "fast tracked" through passport checks etc as we were a family and they don't like to keep kids waiting!! Also were first on the plane as we were a family. Have to say that just meant more time haning around in our seats annoying the flight attendants by pushing all the buttons (dd1 3y/o then!).

Also "sky cot" was useless, had a strap at both ends that touched her head however I lay her. So she wouldn't settle. Saw other famillies make "beds" on the floor with fleeces/ coats etc. Looked much more cosy and their dd slept. Mine was awake and exhausted for 12/13 hours!!!

Good Luck! We did have a great time once we got there, honest!

Twink · 02/09/2002 18:08

No, IME you're not. Your best bet is to ring the airline you're travelling with and see what their policy on seat allocation is, they seem to vary.

There are some good tips here about flying with babies & toddlers.

SoupDragon · 02/09/2002 18:35

I agree with Twink. Virgin reserve the bulkhead seats for passengers who request a sky cot BUT you have to request a cot!. You should book them in advance to be sure of getting one as there are limited numbers.

We had one allocated at check in when DS2 was 13 months and it was great - he was too big to sleep in it but loved sitting up in it, looking at everyone behind us.

GillW · 02/09/2002 19:20

We've always had to request it too - and it's first come first served, so do it a.s.a.p. BA now have a choice on long-haul flights of sky cots or a car-seat style thing which lets them be a bit more upright, which we had for DS last year. That bit was good - it was them changing their policy between outward and return flights and refusing to let us bring the car seat back without paying £80 extra, and wanting to count DS as our hand luggage and the buggy as one of our main luggage items that caused all the hassle....

SofiaAmes · 02/09/2002 22:29

tanyac, the short answer is no. And don't believe the airlines when they tell you that they assign the bulk head seats on the day of the flight to people who need them (ie parents with infants). I have flown long/haul with a baby on AirJamaica, Virgin, United and American. And short flights with Ryan Air, Go, KLM, Luftansa, CrossAir, Alitalia and BA. For Longhaul American took the prize for being the absolute worst, most unhelpful, worst seats and rudest flight attendants on all flights. I wouldn't fly them again if they paid me. Virgin were super friendly, but do not give you back your buggy at the exit to the plane so you have to carry your baby and carryon luggage all the way through passport control to baggage claim. On short flights, RyanAir were absolutely appalling and I will never ever ever fly them again. Alitalia are very friendly and helpful with the babies, but they don't give you your buggy when exiting the plane unless you ask very very nicely. BA are generally pretty good. My friend has flown several long haul flights with them with a baby and has had nothing but nice things to say about them.
As someone mentioned, the airlines that do have cots usually require you to book them in advance and then they lose the reservation anyway. I've found that actually putting my child to sleep on the floor with extra blankets and pillows is the best.
good luck.

Elderberry · 02/09/2002 22:36

Tanyac: no, not automatically but we flew to NZ with Singapore Airlines last year and were able to reserve in advance on all legs of the journey there and back. They were v good and we were able to take the buggy to the door and pick it up on both legs of the journey so that we had it in transit in Singapore. Would def recommend them. The usefulness of the skycot depends on the age and weight of your baby - there is a max recommended weight and our ds aged 6 months on the way home wasn't that interested in lying still in his cot!

maryz · 03/09/2002 09:07

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Philippat · 03/09/2002 09:41

Just to echo everyone else: MAKE THAT CALL NOW!

You almost certainly WON'T be allocated a bulk seat without asking, and certainly not a sky cot (when we flew Continental this summer, we were told 9month-old dd was too old for a cot - apparently they are worried you'll go to sleep and she'll sit up, fall out, do an injury and you'll sue the airline, I expect this is a US airline problem!).

However, more worryingly, YOU MIGHT NOT EVEN BE SEATED ALL TOGETHER! This happened to us (I only called up a week before we flew and it was too late by then as the plane was full). It took a lot of special pleading at the gate to get seats swapped (although it did get sorted). Scarily enough I saw a woman on her own with twins under 2, 2 seats between them, and they hadn't seated them together. The poor woman was panicking.

We bought a 3rd seat for dd (it's not quite as expensive as a full adult seat) which was the best decision and the best £250 I have ever spent. We did get a bulkhead at one point but I actually preffered being in usual seats at the back, close to the toilet, seat arms up, near to the stewards area so it's easy to get rid of food trays etc.

You don't say where you're going but watch out for the not-getting-your-buggy back issue. The worst bit of our holiday was the nearly 2 hours in the queue at immigration in NYC with no buggy. Thank God we'd taken the sling, but even then it was tough with a backpack each, an extra bag and the car seat plus the baby.

Good luck!

Ghosty · 03/09/2002 09:58

I am very surprised that people have been allowed to make beds on the floor. When we flew to NZ with Malaysia Airlines at Christmas we were seriously told off for doing that. Something to do with safety apparently. More recently Singapore Airlines also told us not to do it.

Elderberry is right - in my opinion, Singapore Airlines definitely win the prize for general helpfulness and going out of their way to help. DS and I flew to NZ alone in April and we were treated so well. We had a nice chap take us from check in at Heathrow, straight to the plane. My bags were carried and my buggy was taken from me at the door. At Singapore I was given my buggy straight away and was greeted by a nice lady with a trolley for my bags and taken the taxi to go to my hotel (mind you it was 'Travelbag' that organised the transport to the hotel) The next day I was met again at check in and again I was taken straight through.

I did ring the airline a couple of times but I specifically asked to speak to the same bloke who was very helpful and confirmed the service (which was free).

I requested bulkhead seats for both flights and was promised them on the understanding that if there were any babies under 1 we would have to take other seats (ds was 2.5) - again I phoned a couple of times and spoke to the same guy to confirm that. Luckily we got the bulkheads and everything went smoothly!

I did lay it on thick about being on my own etc but I'm not proud!

You could of course spend a fortune and go First Class and not worry about a thing but we aren't that flush!

dejags · 03/09/2002 11:27

Can only echo everybody elses comments. We were assured when we booked with Virgin that on our flight to South Africa there would be no probs with a skycot for DS. When I phoned to double, double, and triple check I found out that in actual fact the policy is that skycots are not allocated to babies 6 months and older. I kicked up a real stink (demanded to speak to Customer Service Manager etc) and in the end got my way. Even though we got it I found that the cot was too small for DS (a big 7 months at the time) and everytime he actually fell asleep we had to take him out because of turbulence. I have flown on various other airlines and had similar experiences.

One thing I did find is that when you are checking in just go to the head of the queue. A bit cheeky I know but nobody has ever dared challenge me in the knowledge that I was trying to haul baby, luggage, handluggage, buggy, carseat etc.

We are travelling to SA at the end of the year when DS will be 20 months. Somebody recommended asking for an aisle seat for DH and a window seat for me. If you get very lucky the middle seat won't be allocated, you can lift up the arms and ds will be able to sprawl all over both of us.


SoupDragon · 03/09/2002 11:39

RE extra seats - always ask at check in if the flight is full. They won't allocate you an extra seat but will, as Dejags said, allocate window & aisle and leave the middle one free. There's no point doing this if the flight is full though!

Twink · 03/09/2002 12:22

As long as you're not flying United, Soupdragon ! A few years ago I was flying on an internal US flight on my own, on an almost empty flight and the stewardess made a big issue of going round to everyone who had put stuff on seats next to them telling them as they'd not paid for it they weren't entitled to use it..

SoupDragon · 03/09/2002 14:46

Unbelievable, Twink! We flew to Florida about 3 weeks after 9/11 and the flight was 1/2 full at best. We had about 10 seats between the four of us on both flights. I think pretty much every passenger could lie out flat to sleep.

We're off there again on Tuesday and Virgin offer "Twilight Check-in" the day before. As we're only 1/2 an hour from Gatwick, we're going to drop off our luggage and book our bulkhead seats early!

One extra warning about Virgin - you need to book children's meals in advance! Otherwise they assume you require standard catering.

whitfield · 05/09/2002 10:21

Just flew back from Florida with my 1 yr old son on Sunday on BA. Despite putting a request in at time of booking we were told at check-in all the bulk head seats had gone but after speaking to another member of staff we managed to get one on the outbound. On the return we just really pushed hard and was lucky. My advice is to kick up a fuss at check-in and don't take no for an answer. It is really frustrating when you see adults in these seats who are obviously not travelling with infants.

mears · 05/09/2002 10:38

This is a slightly different question . We are going to Florida in October with granparents - a total of 4 children and 4 adults. Will we be seated together or do you have to pay extra in advance for that?

SoupDragon · 05/09/2002 10:43

Phone the airline to see if you can reserve seats. Virgin allow you to do this up to 180 days in advance. Other than that - check in early! I'd imagine that they'll try to seat you together but, with the best will in the world, if the seats aren't there when you check in, there's not much they can do. Generally you can try to switch with other passengers after take off if you are split up.

And remember when kicking up a fuss, it's generally not the fault of the check-in staff so be nice!

mears · 05/09/2002 10:46

I'm always nice


florenceuk · 05/09/2002 13:37

Ghosty, Elderberry - I'm flying to NZ with Singapore Airlines with DS at Xmas time, who will be 13mths then. Do you think the bulkhead seats are still worth reserving? I'm worried DS will be too big for a cot - I understand the weight limit is 9kgs, and suspect we will be over it, even though DS is a littl'un. Since the bulkhead seats have fixed armrests, wondering if it might not be better to try and reserve aisle and middle seats, and let DS flop over us. Highly unlikely to be any spare seats at least on leg to Singapore as we were waitlisted for ages just to get these seats. Deep in my bones I know the trip will be hell - we are going to have one day stopover in Singapore on the way back, but on the way there it's straight through.

SoupDragon · 05/09/2002 16:18

DS1 had a sky cot with Virgin aged 14 months and weighing over 11kg. It was a rather snug fit!! He did like sitting in it watching the world go by.

I wrote earlier that he didn't sleep in it but now I think about it he did - we put 1 pillow under the head end strap and one on top of it and he slept like that.

It is nice to be able to spend some part of the flight not holding your child. I don't remember whether the armrests on our flight were static or not so I guess it wasn't a big problem.

SofiaAmes · 05/09/2002 21:55

mears, all the regular airlines (ie not charter) will let you book seats in advance for long haul. Just call them. Florenceuk, it's somewhat a matter of preference, but personally I would always try to get a bulkhead with a toddler. When they aren't sleeping you have a little extra space for them to play at your feet and there is no one in front of you to complain about the 20th time they've just undid the meal tray and kicked and wiggled and etc....

Ghosty · 07/09/2002 11:45

Hi florenceuk!

Christmas is a very busy time to fly to NZ - we are flying back to the UK for three weeks and had no probs booking but when we came in this direction last year it was a nightmare to get available seats on the days we wanted!

As Mears says, a bulkhead with fixed arm rests is preferable to other seats as you have much more leg room. If your little one is 13 months, even if you do ask and hound them you might not get a bulkhead - totally depends on how many little babies there are.

But, you do need to ask before check in. Like I said, Singapore are excellent and do take note of your request. Ring them two weeks before, then one week before and again the day before! Also you will need to check in as early as possible (3 hours) to take advantage of it - if you check in late they might have to give your seat away - you will be surprised how many people don't turn up at all even for long haul flights!

The first time we flew with DS to NZ we thought it would be a nightmare compared to when we flew when we were young, footloose and fancy free. However - you do not get bored with a toddler in tow. The journey goes much more quickly because when they are awake you are busy keeping them occupied and when they zonk out you are too busy catching up of a few zzzz.

The cabin crew usually are very good with littlies too. DS got stuffed with sweets when we last flew!

tanyac · 09/09/2002 13:22

Hi Everyone!!,

Thanks for your feedback regarding the bulkhead seat, it was really helpful!

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LKM · 24/09/2002 16:30

FlorenceUK - when are you going? We are booked to fly with Air NZ on 4 Dec. Have decided to return permanently.
Nightmare situation currently where prospective employers for both me and dh in NZ want us to fly down for interviews!! Do we go at the same time and take dd (age 6 months) - will mean 2 x 35 hour flights in one week?! Or do we go separately and try and manage each on our own here for a week?

florenceuk · 24/09/2002 21:30

Hi LKM - we're off on the 24th, but only for 3wks. If I were you, I'd not bother flying DD all around the world for 1 week - go by yourself and have a holiday!! Give me a call and we should catch up before you go.

SueW · 24/09/2002 22:16

LKM- can they really not wait???? Can't they do a conference call? DH got his job in Australia on the basis of a few phone calls; ditto his current one in Israel.

The biggest problem with the Australian one was finding a time to call which was compatible with both parties.

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