Flying long-haul on American Airlines with Kids

Family Flying Airline Review

How does American Airlines stack up for the average family traveler?

We welcome to the Globetrotters Blog today Stephanie sharing her family’s experience flying long-haul with American Airlines.

This post is part of our Family Airline Review series – pop on over and see all of our flying with kids articles


Booking with American Airlines

We flew from Charlotte to London with American Airlines, on an Airbus A330-300 in Economy class. Charlotte’s airport is pretty unremarkable; there isn’t a kid’s play space or anywhere to run around, but it is well laid out and there are lots of nearby bathrooms and snack stands.

We snagged tickets solely because they were cheap and non-stop (thanks, Scott’s Cheap Flights!), buying them through Priceline and using Rakuten for a few bucks back (formerly known as Ebates). Booking tickets was simple and included a checked bag and guaranteed seats together, which I much prefer over having to pay for the privilege of sitting next to my own kids!

They do have a frequent flyer program that we signed up for and filled in for all four of us.

Unexpected delays with American Airlines

Our flight was scheduled to be a red-eye leaving at 10 PM that boarded, then we deplaned, and then delays continued bumping back from 1 am to 2 am, eventually all the way to 4 am. This process was a nightmare; the app was updating and giving us the changes way before the staff were, they advised us to wake up our sleeping kids to go to the new gate when the flight didn’t actually leave for 2 more hours (we ignored them).

While it can’t be blamed on AA, an alarm over the door to the jetway went off intermittently and then the airport announced a fire alarm test at 3 am that lasted for over 5 minutes. They did wheel out free beverages and sandwiches at 11 PM to keep people from rioting, which is better than nothing and did offer some bonus rewards miles when I complained online. 

Any special priveledges for families on American Airlines?

There was no priority boarding for families, and I can’t speak to the ease of checking kid gear because we only traveled with carry-on luggage and bought car seats in London.

Both my kids slept easily without any inflatable footrests; they provided a small pillow and blanket that was sufficient for snoozing and I wish we hadn’t bothered with the bulky neck pillows that we had to drag around the rest of the trip!

Seating onboard American Airlines

The seat configuration was with 2 seats on each side of the plane and 4 in the middle. I didn’t see any seats I absolutely would’ve hated to sit in, but the flight attendants did move several people from the back of the plane to additional open seats, assuring them that it would be darker and quieter away from the back.

I’m not sure if that was due to my kids’ potential for noisemaking (though they were perfectly well behaved!) or simply having the bathrooms at the back, but they left us there and we had no complaints!

Onboard meals and entertainment

There weren’t any special perks for kids when it came to food or snacks; we inquired on the way back but were told we would’ve had to book those ahead of time. I looked on their website and only found information about vegetarian and allergy-related issues, nothing for kids, but maybe they dig up something special if you ask ahead of time.

The meals we were given were decent; on the way home, they ran out of one option after announcing it over the loudspeaker, which was annoying as any parent can relate. Fortunately, my kids were flexible, and they were able to scrounge up some pretzels instead of the vegetarian option although the attendant acted like it was an imposition to do so. The meals that they had for purchase looked very kid-friendly, with hummus, grapes, etc.

The in-flight entertainment was excellent, though I was glad we packed our own headphones for the kids since the ones given were tiny earbuds that wouldn’t have fit in their ears. They had a whole kids section that included family-friendly movies, tv shows, and games, all of which kept my kids completely quiet the entire time.

The return flight with American Airlines

Our flight home from London to Charlotte was not delayed and went smoothly on the same type of plane. Everyone groaned when we mentioned we were flying in and out of LHR but we really liked their airport!

This was the first one we’ve visited that had a large play space; it included a separate section for 2 and under, another area for 2 to 9- year-olds with foam blocks and climbers. There was also a large touch screen with drawing and activities, a TV playing, a changing room, and a sensory room that was darkened with soft light projections playing. It was a completely separate room with attendants near the front and closed doors, which made it easy for parents to relax!

Overall view of flying American Airlines

Overall, I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly American Airlines again, but I also wouldn’t avoid it. They don’t cater to kids but they definitely run cheap flights and the back of the seat entertainment was a hit!

About our airline reviewer 

Stephanie from Explore More Clean Less travels with her husband and two kids aged 4 & 6. Check out one of their favorite stops on this trip, visiting Alnwick Castle!

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