A survival guide for you and your fellow passengers in business class
I won’t deny it, I’d much rather be sitting up the pointy end of the plane. Every time. Yes, even with the kids!
We are lucky as expatriates (and through the power of being frequent flyers with a lot of loyalty points!) to have experienced the pleasures of flying business class several times on both Etihad and Emirates – two of the world’s leading business class providers. We have been spoilt, I know (but don’t be mistaken into thinking that’s the way we always travel!!)
We have, however, learnt a thing or two about business class travel with kids from newborn infants through to preschoolers. Aside from our 10 Commandments of Family Flying (PLEASE read this before you attempt to take an infant onto an aircraft!!), there are certain rules for safety and flat out good manners that need to be applied when travelling business.
This post is part of our series Flying with Kids – check out all our handy family flying advice
In this article we will cover
Are children allowed in Business Class?
Now after the gasps of fellow business class passengers have died down… is it allowed? Of course. It is completely acceptable – and understandable – that parents would like to enjoy the extra space and quality of service that is available to stretch out and travel comfortably with their kids, especially when flying long-haul.
Particularly parents travelling solo can benefit a lot from the additional service and attention flying up front. As far as I know, there are only 4 airlines though that have declared “zones” where children are not permitted – read who they are here.
But always, always remember its called business class for a reason. I have been there, on the other side of that partition trying to work on a plane while others with their littles are wailing up back. I rolled my eyes. I get it now. But that didn’t detract from the fact I was regularly needing to fly for work, regularly exhausted so either catching up on work or sleep while flying.
I commanded respect from my fellow passengers and expect nothing less now as a parent. You need to sense your child’s needs, give them the attention they need, walk the plane if necessary are essential to business class survival (see some of our other tips for getting through the flight).
Yes, you paid for or earned the right to that seat too, but show respect for the place you are in. Most of the time, we over think these things and panic about our children’s behaviour unnecessarily, but I can honestly say out of about a dozen business class flights with kids we have not suffered through a complete meltdown, yet.
In fact, on many occasions, other travellers have complimented the children as we have left the aircraft for their good behaviour. I put this partly down to simply their amount of experience in the air, but also how we have prepared them for flying.
Business class essentials
Know thy aircraft! Not all business class cabins are set out the same. For shorter flights in, say an Airbus A321, business class will consist of only a few rows in a 2 – 2 seat configuration where an adult can be seated next to a child. More convenient for families, though you are unlikely to experience the luxuries of things like the lie-flat bed and personalised menus that make business class travel so special!!
The stuff dreams are made of can be found on board the wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft such as B777 and A330’s or upper deck on an A380.
Now the problem though with these wide-bodied aircraft, a lot of airlines insist on fancy seat configurations that then mean you have your own booth essentially. Great for business travellers, not so great for families. Do check these in advance before booking as you can find yourself sitting well beyond arms reach of your children (that does have its pluses too…)
Baby’s and Toddlers in Business Class
Just as you would in economy, you can book for a child under 2 to sit on your lap without their own seat. They are restrained with a lap belt that loops into yours for takeoff and landing.
Questions about infant seating with more than one child? Here’s our guide to flying with multiple children.
Cost of an infant ticket in business class
Charges for an infant ticket in business vary by airline and this is when it can get tricky! Please read the fine print!!!
So for example, adding an infant ticket might state “10% of the applicable adult fare”. But if you have booked the flight on reward points, what is the standard adult fare? Some airlines interpret this as the cheapest available adult fare for business class, whereas others will charge based on the full rate adult fare. British Airways is the only one I am aware will allow you to book your infant on points too at 10% of the adult points (how we flew London to Grand Cayman and back with our Miss Z!).
Then there are taxes. Taxes are charged per person and whilst they might be included in your reward booking, they are not for your infant ticket. The costs of a “free flight” with a lap baby can add up to significantly more than even an adult ticket in economy! Confused by it all? There’s a good guide by Mommy Points on how to use reward points with infants.
A good website we have discovered for finding discounted business class flights is Skyclub.com.
Where does an infant sit in Business Class?
Most business class cabins do have at least a couple of allocated bulkhead seats that can have a baby bassinet or carrycot attached. These are either hanging off the wall like they do in economy, or placed on a special shelf. On many airlines, the size can be larger than the economy bassinet. Always check with your airline before booking to make sure a bassinet is actually fitted in your cabin. You may be restricted on which seat they will let you sit in with a lap infant due to cabin configuration.
Pop over to our Ultimate Guide to Baby Bassinets to learn more – we’ve included information (where known) on separate business class rules.
When can you NOT take a baby to Business Class?
As we found out, if you are travelling as a couple with one of you in business and one of you in economy (ok lets set the record straight, if your husband STEALS your upgrade seat from you and you end up back in the economy seats with three kids while he swaggers up front); you cannot simply swap the baby between you.
This usually comes down to an oxygen mask issue. In many aircraft, the extra oxygen mask is only fitted to the bassinet seat in business, whereas in economy every row is fitted with an extra for infants.
Equally, you may not be able to book a lap infant in business class if they have already met their quota for infants allowed in the cabin. If you’re booking gets rejected with an infant, ring the airline to confirm as this could be why. Try booking on a different/day or time if this happens.
And in case you are curious, certainly on airlines offering flat-bed services, IT IS possible for a parent and infant to fit on a seat together lying down. Do note the safety issue with seating on oxygen masks above. And obviously, as your infant grows this seating arrangement will become less comfortable, especially if they’re a wriggly sleeper.
Children 2-11 years old in Business Class
Once you’re past the infant stage and on to children, I guess the big question isn’t CAN YOU, but SHOULD you bother with business class. My honest opinion, the experience is pretty much wasted on a 2-3-year-old. Not only will they not appreciate the surroundings and the extra space, in fact, they will still be lucky if their legs can dangle over the edge of the chair!
Additionally, due to the seat configuration issue mentioned above, a toddler might not actually be happy to sit in their own chair – a disruption to everyone on board. Saying that, if someone is offering you the tickets for free…. You will get by but get to the airport early, and preferable ring the airline in advance to discuss seat configuration and ability to sit together.
Are you a car seat flyer? You could be in trouble here as most business class seats are not designed to take these. Check with the airline first before bringing a car seat on board or expect disappointment. You may still be able to bring a child’s flying harness but again, check specifications with your airline.
NB. If you are cashing in frequent flyer points for a business class ticket or cabin upgrade, expect to pay the same as in points an adult for a child.
The elusive upgrade. Does it really exist? Find out 3 easy ways to upgrade with Qatar Airways
Aiport Lounges for Business Class Passengers
Another plus of business class flying is the airport lounges. With any business class ticket, the airline will give you access to a lounge, either one they own and operate or a shared lounge with other airlines and membership programs (eg LoungeKey or PriorityPass)
Now is the time to spoil yourself! If you are flying pre-kids (even better if it’s your first!), cash in whatever points you have now, pay the difference – pay it all!!! Sit back and ENJOY! This might be the last solo flight you ever take!!! Even when I still had one infant and was pregnant, I used points to upgrade as it allowed me and Miss Z to still stretch out fully flat, and easy access for me to the loo!
Read our Ultimate Guide to Flying Pregnant – includes a guide by airline on how far along you can fly and safety precautions to take
More benefits for travelling business class with kids
If you haven’t convinced yourself of the benefit of flying business class with kids, then consider these additional factors.
Earning frequent flyer miles
Are you kids registered for frequent flyer points? If not, get on to it! Some airlines will only let you register children from age 2, even if you’ve booked an extra seat. Business and First class tier miles though significantly add up – and an awful lot faster than economy miles. You might find that even in one UK to Australia long-haul, business class points will earn you a short European flight for the family. Points obviously vary significantly by program, so check details and that you’re properly registered before flying.
We love the Etihad Guest program because of its very flexible in allowing family members to pool – we compare all the different airline miles programs in our Globetrotters Guide to International Airlines.
Not offered by many, but of particular note Etihad, Emirates and Qantas operate a chauffeur service on many of their long-haul route to major capital destinations if you’ve flown business. It pays to check their websites if this is a crucial element to your decision making as many restrictions apply. Travelling with children though, this can be an extra stress-relieving step that pays for itself.
Business lounges and kids
Think you need to fly business every time to access the airport lounge? Think again! We travel economy the majority of the time now with three kids – we simply can’t justify the upgrade cost on their little legs, but we still travel in style. Flying in and out of our closest airport Abu Dhabi we are both Etihad Gold members and two of the three kids have reached Etihad Silver which gives us access to several of the business lounges (though sadly not the one with the kids’ playroom, sigh).
At most other international airports we have travelled through, we have been able to access an airport lounge using Lounge Key – we get this from owning a Citi Premier Miles card (amongst many other awesome benefits – frequent flyers in the UAE this is the one I recommend!).
If you do have a long international flight schedule ahead of you with kids, I strongly recommend joining the likes of Priority Pass for lounge access. Yes, they cost, but worth their weight in gold and your youngsters get in for free.
Not just for businessmen and women (I’m sure, again, much to their disgust), airport lounges have been our saviour, particularly when travelling with a baby. You can find a quiet, cosy place to feed and the staff will happily wash and fill bottles for you which can take the hassle out of worrying about liquids and security checks. You can safely charge your electric devices and usually, a feed and a drink are included.
Other ways of doing Business Class
Love the idea of business class but feel the benefits are wasted on the kids? Have you considered sending your children back to economy as unaccompanied minors while you sit up front? Take a moment to contemplate – I’m sure if you’re still at the infant stage your agog at the idea just now, but bare it in mind as a strategy.
I know many parents who have done this and the parents arrived refreshed while the children had an experience of independence. Amongst the expat community who are frequent flyers, this is not as unusual as you might think. There are some additional costs as the kids will need to be booked on adult tickets in economy, and naturally, age restrictions apply (usually 5 years old+). Check out more on unaccompanied minors here.
Still gotta fly Economy? Not to worry. We have a huge range of travel advice specifically aimed at the average family-flyer based back in coach. Check out our complete guide to flying with kids.
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Over to you? Have you flown business class with your kids? Horror story or a complete delight? No details spared, please!!!!
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