My wife and I just flew British Airways first class. These were award redemptions, and as much as I abhor British Airways fuel surcharges there were a couple of things that made it palatable.
- British Airways is the only full service carrying flying transatlantic from Austin (in a few months Lufthansa will start service). That’s a real benefit when traveling with an infant.
- Infants traveling internationally aren’t free. Redeem United, Delta, or American miles and you’re going to pay 10% of the adult fare for a lap child. Redeem British Airways Avios and it’s just 10% of the miles and of the taxes. As a result it was less than 10,000 miles and under $100 each way for her.
This was our daughter’s first international flight. Last month we took her to New York on American Airlines and she did wonderfully. She slept through the outbound, and was up and cheery the full return.
On the Austin – London outbound we were taking off just after her bedtime. As a result she slept most of the way over to Europe. The only times she got up were when the seat belt sign came on. We were required to belt her in with one of us, rather than leaving her in a child seat, whenever the seat belt sign came on — even though the child seat is locked into place with the seat and she was strapped into that seat (frankly it seemed safer than being held).
For the return she napped about three or four of the eleven hour flight, but in first class there’s plenty of room to keep her occupied and play with her. Between my wife and I we managed just fine, and we got plenty of compliments. I think three to nine months is probably an excellent time to travel with a baby, before they’re going to be shrieking or kicking other passenger seats!
At this point her needs are simple. If she fusses she’s hungry, tired, needs a diaper change or wants to interact. So it’s easy to keep her satisfied and to be respectful to the rest of the cabin.
On BA’s Boeing 777-200 with 12 or 14 first class seats seat 4F is the only one that can have a child seat attached. We were only able to book that seat in advance because we had an infant in the reservation. I believe the bassinet seat on the Boeing 747 is 5F and on the Boeing 787-9 is 2F.
British Airways offers two types of seats for lap infants. They call bassinets “carrycots” and they also have “child seats.”
Bassinets or carrycots can be mounted to the wall of the bulkhead in business, those are appropriate for newborns. A 9 month old is going to clearly need the child seat in most circumtances. our three month old daughter was a little bit small for the child seat, but with a pillow helping to secure her she was fine.
The Boeing 777 doesn’t have the option of a carrycot. It was a child seat only. It mounts above the ottoman of your seat, and it’s not possible to swivel the television screen forward with the seat in place but it’s not a problem to use the tray table to work or eat. (You could presumably take the TV out before putting the child seat in, but that would block your view of the child.)
I made sure to request the child seat just as soon as we had boarded. I didn’t want them to run out in either direction, though I’m not sure that would have been an issue. They brought the child seat forward into the first class cabinet to secure it for us, and then set it up once we were in the air. One flight attendant told me that in seven years of working First she had never seen one set up there. The flight attendants who actually did it took a few moments, they weren’t experienced with it but managed to get it done after consulting with other members of the crew.
For a smaller baby than ours I’d probably suggest booking business rather than first class and reserving middle seats at the very back of the cabin by the bulkhead where you can attach a bassinet.
Once our daughter is no longer eligible to travel as a lap infant we’ll be much better off in business as well, in BA’s otherwise-garbage middle-of-middle seats without privacy. It’s not really possible to put a two year old into her own first class seat apart from parents, but you’re so close together in BA business things should work much better.