Airplane bassinet seats could be your long-haul flying saviour – here’s exactly what is offered by every airline & how to secure the most comfortable seat on the plane
Airline baby bassinets onboard long-haul aircraft is by far the most commonly searched topic here on the Globetrotters website.
And I can see why. Information on airline websites can be scarce, and new parents especially are not fully informed by either the airline or their ticketing agents of what to expect when booking an infant ticket; having the wrong expectations when you arrive at an airport can significantly add to the stress of your journey with a baby.
We have compiled for you here from both the airlines own websites and our knowledge from over 50 international flights travelling with kids what we know about infant bassinets on planes to help you decipher the airline talk and plan what is best for your baby to get you through your long-haul adventures.
In this article we will cover:
- What is an airplane bassinet?
- What is a bassinet seat?
- How does the airplane bassinet work?
- Restrictions on airplane bassinet usage
- Tips and tricks to secure the bassinet seats
- When baby no longer fits the bassinet
- Guide to baby bassinet by airline
This post is part of our baby travel advice series
What is an airplane bassinet?
When you book an infant ticket (children under 2 years of age), an infant is required to sit on an adult’s lap, secured by an extra loop seat belt that fits to the adult’s seat belt. On longer flights, however, most international airlines will provide a baby bassinet so you can lie your child down flat and secure during the flight. (Also called a SkyCot, CarryCot or Travel Cot)
A baby bassinet is a collapsible basket that can be hung from the walls of the aircraft or placed on a special purpose shelf.
What is a bassinet seat?
The airplane seat where the basket is used is commonly referred to as “the bassinet seat”. In economy, it may also be called the bulkhead seats or bulkhead row (usually with either the toilets, galley or cabin divider in front of you).
In business class and some first-class cabins, many now have special shelves where the bassinet is fitted on a flat surface. These are great as your movement getting in and out of your seat is not restricted by the bassinet – though note some business and firstclass cabins are not fitted with bassinets at all.
See more on Business Class flying with kids here.
How does the airplane bassinet work?
The baby bassinet is fitted by the flight attendants after the aircraft is airborne and the seatbelt sign has been switched off. The bassinet can be left in place throughout the flight (with some restrictions we’ll mention below). It will be taken down anywhere up to an hour before landing as part of cabin preparations. The baby is kept secure in the bassinet using a zipper.
The airline will normally provide their own blankets and pillows to line the bassinet, but of course, most babies sleep best in their own familiar clothes, sleeping bags, blankets with any cuddlies or muslin. Definitely, pack your own bedding items if you think this will maximise the possibility your baby will sleep.
Getting “the bassinet seat” can be the holy mecca of airline travel for parents as it allows both you and baby to get better sleep on a long flight and of course free’s up your hands – a commodity you don’t realise the value of until you’re trapped at 38,000 feet!
Restrictions on baby bassinet use
- You can only use the infant bassinet while your infant still comfortably fits (generally up to 12 months – some pointers on what to do beyond this age below). Each airline and aircraft will have its restrictions, based on either your child’s height or weight. Some airlines place age restrictions too, but in reality, as long as your child can fit, age is irrelevant.
- During the flight, if you experience turbulence the baby must be removed, even if sleeping, and held in your lap with the infant seat belt you use for taking off. The zipper on the bassinet holds the baby very securely (more so that a parent’s arms I would have thought) but almost all airlines enforce this rule.
- Note, not all international airlines or flights will come fitted with a baby bassinet, some even have the fittings on the wall but not frustratingly not the basket. This is common in flight under say 4 hours, but a premium airline on international routes over 4 hours, you can almost expect as standard.
- Do your research thoroughly before booking tickets if the bassinet will make or break your experience (trust me, when you’re feeling exhausted and hormonal, it certainly can!).
- Your particular ticket class may not entitle you to book bulkhead seats or may come at extra cost.
Tips and tricks booking the bassinet seat
- Look for your aircraft type before booking and use the chart below to determine what you should expect. Not sure on your aircraft? Put your flight number into Seat Guru (you can also find out how many bassinets are installed on the aircraft, therefore your chances of winning the baby bassinet jackpot!).
- It’s completely wrong to assume because you have booked an infant ticket that the airline will automatically give you priority over the bulkhead seats. In fact, many unscrupulous airlines work hard to avoid this topic so they can sell the bulkhead seats for more money or the extra legroom; ask, ask again and push until you get it – but please don’t be rude! There are only a limited number on each flight, normally allocated first-come, first-served and despite best efforts you may just miss out.
- Beware the codeshare! If the airline operating your flight is different from the one you booked with, or you change flights during the journey, they are the ones responsible for seat allocation. However, as you did not book your ticket with them you may be unable to speak with their reservations desk directly to confirm your booking.
- Although we’d love to think our bundle of joy is going to sleep securely and serenely once they’re in the bassinet, because of where you’re located on the aircraft you can expect a lot of foot traffic and noise going past. We recommend the Cozigo bassinet cover as a great way to help your baby sleep on board an aircraft. Of course, it’s not fail-proof but certainly helps. Otherwise a large muslin square or nursing cover over the bassinet can help.
- If you are in a bulkhead row, you will have an armrest TV screen. Once the bassinet is up in many aircraft, you will no longer be able to move your screen. Always check this before you ask them to install the bassinet.
- Flying over peak times like Christmas, it is ultra-busy, especially with families so there’s a high chance you will not get the bassinet.
- Airlines tend to prioritise the bassinets based on age so younger babies will get them first (or sometimes loyalty cardholders). Try booking early direct with the airline (not codeshare), and arrive early on check in day (some airlines will not give out the bulkheads until they’ve physically seen the baby).
- You may also find when a flight is busy your group cannot be seated together (i.e. only one adult from your group can sit in the bulkhead) as the whole front row is fully booked with families and infants who equally need the bulkhead seats. As first-time flyers this may, of course, come as devastating news but is, unfortunately, a fact to prepare yourself for – and not the end of the world.
Ultimately, the airline will make the final choice on how they’re bulkhead seats are allocated, there’s no definitive trick to guarantee your seats.
Help my baby no longer fits the bassinet!
Once your infant becomes too large to fit the airline bassinet, should you still book a bulkhead seat? This really depends on how many are travelling in your group, there are a few ideas you could try;
- When we had just one infant, we would still book the bulkhead row if we could as this would allow extra room at your feet, and meant each adult could easily climb in and out on their own – simply much easier for baby handling, but of course, means the baby will have to sleep in your arms with armrests that don’t move.
- Once we were up to baby’s number two and three, however, and had older children to accommodate as well, we had a preference to then choose seats further towards the back, and play for the empty seat tactic. Over dozens of flights, this has worked on all but one occasion – the idea being that you book a whole row but the adult seats are ticketed for the aisles, leaving empty seats in the middle. If no one else takes these seats (a middle seat at the back is the least popular choice!) you’ve scored yourself some extra space to lie your infant out flat across the row, and allows you to put the armrests up for older kids to top and toe (not possible in the bulkhead row), maximizing the chance that everyone in your group can get some sleep.
- When I fly on my own with an infant though, I still try to get the bulkhead seat. It is much easier when you’re the only adult to deal with three children at once when you can stand in front of them and the older ones can walk past without waking the sleeping babe in arms. (I even once got the dream scenario of the bulkhead and a spare seat with hubby taking the older kids 2 rows back, can’t beat that for travelling mum excitement!!)
- The other alternative is of course to book your infant a child’s seat, which on most airlines can be done once your child is over 6 months. Some people have a preference to do this from the start so their child can sit securely (and some babies sleep better) in their usual infant travel seat. Personally, the cost and palaver of trying to drag an infant car seat through the airport along with the multitude of other baby items you need I have not bothered to go down this route, but some swear by it (mostly Americans I think who have terrible international airlines and don’t know the pure joy a baby bassinet can bring!!).
- The other option open to you when booking an infant their own seat is to use some sort of leg cushion like a jet kids bed box, making a flatbed – you can learn more about these sleeping bed products here.
Guide to Baby Bassinets by Airline
So here it is, the information you’ve been searching for, broken down by airline (click on the document to scroll by airline – works best on desktop).Our Globetrotters Guide to Baby Bassinets
Note our review is at January 2016. We have focused on premium international airlines operating long-haul routes. Where information is missing we have contacted the airline and will endeavour to update this document as more information becomes available. Please always call the airline to confirm information before booking.
Further baby flying resources
If you would like to know more about family-friendly facilities by airline, please come and check out our airlines home page. Our detailed guides step you through pregnancy policies, infant luggage allowances, the ability to transfer frequent flyer points between family members and much more.
We also have these detailed baby travel guides to help you on your way:
- Ultimate list of baby travel essentials you must pack
- How to prepare for baby’s first flight
- Dealing with baby jet lag
- Flying with 2 or more infants & toddlers
- Dealing with breastmilk & pumping on the go
- Best lightweight strollers that fit on a plane
Bookmark this page or Pin for Later
So please tell us about your bassinet adventures! Do you have a preferred seating method with infants? Has any airline ever let you down and failed to deliver? We’d love you to share your stories or ask any questions about baby bassinets on planes.
© Our Globetrotters. The author claims copyright over the information researched published on this page. Should you wish to reproduce any of this information or graphics, please seek permission first from firstname.lastname@example.org
47 thoughts on “Airline Baby Bassinets: Ultimate Guide for parents”
Hi my wife and 8 month baby was travelling from abhudabi to kerala. The boarding pass showed *infant * but they didn’t provide any bassinet for my baby and She hss to hold the baby for the entire journey. Is there sny thing i can do about it.
I’m sorry to hear this. Unfortunately having an infant ticket alone is not enough to secure the bassinet seat. Even if you request one, they allocate them only right before the flight and will give them out either first-come at the airport on the day, or on an age basis with the youngest infants given priority. This summer flights are particularly busy as many haven’t travelled for years so I can imagine it’s highly likely they didn’t have enough bassinets on your wife’s flight to go around.
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I am travelling on Thai Airways in a month with my 1 year old. He is small for 1, he is just on 10kg, and 67cm. The EXACT maximums for the bassinet. Would it be too small for him/would his age stop him from being allowed to use it?
Thank you for all the information on this 🙂
I would definitely still ask to be seated in the bassinet row and ask the staff to bring the bassinet out after take off. The staff on board are more likely to look at the child’s size than ask about age.
Thanks so much for this! I’m able to change my seat to two available bassinet options and am not sure which will be best. We are a family of 4… mom and dad with 5 year old and 12 month old. There are 3 seats by a window with a bassinet in the middle seat. Orrrrr there are 3 seats in the middle of the plane with each adult having an aisle seat with a bassinett. I am not sure if I should book the little cozy window spot for us, or the middle of the plane?? What would you do?
Ohh if you’ve still got two options that’s great. But as you say three in seats plus bassinet is cosy! I would personally split the adults over the aisle, that way each grown-up can take turns being with the kids or you split the kids. Its a handful, but at least at any stage one of you should be getting some rest, and the lap baby can be passed to the grown-up across the aisle to give the other child a break too.
This is really a lovely post. It’s very helpful and informative. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Thank you for all of the information.
One quick question, when applying for the bassinet do you have to do it a certain amount of time before or is it only 72 hours? Ive read different stuff and am a little confused. Also, where do you apply exactly?
This will all vary by airline. I would always recommend after booking any tickets online you immediately ring the airlines help desk and ask them to confirm their policy. Usually, they will put a hold or note straight away that you want those seats but nothing is ever guaranteed until that boarding pass is in your hands!
So ring immediately, and I’d ring again in the 72 hours before to confirm the situation. If they can’t confirm, ask if its a full flight. If the flight is not looking too full a couple of days out, then maybe booking a seat with an empty seat next to you is another option.
Very helpful Keri! Thanks!
When traveling with a 6 months old baby, It is better to book a bassinet near the toilet (handy for nappy changing but noisy, sometime crowded ) or near the kitchen ( can be less noisy but far from the toilet)?
Oh good question!! Neither is optimal but I know you often don’t get a choice depending on the layout of the plane. If its a night flight, the toilet is often quieter as people are trying to sleep for majority of the flight while the kitchen is still being used on and off all through the night still. But tough call! Do look for ones that are just the cabin divider but honestly, you will get little choice. If you’re lucky to be allocated one by the airline you don’t normally get to choose which one. But no harm looking up Seat Guru, pick the exact seat you want and ring the airline directly to request it. They may or may not listen when seats are allocated seats on the day.
Great article and tips for parents!
Your posts are Such a great help to those mother struggling with their flights and babies. Thanks BTW.
Thank you for informing us about bassinets, I barely had any knowledge about it, especially on what to do when the baby doesn’t fit there anymore. Keep it up with the excellent work!
Great, so glad we can help – it shouldn’t be so hard to get this information but airlines like to mystify it!
Wow, I’m 2 years late!! We flew with a direct flight from Italy to NYC and return when our daughrer was 4 months and it was great despite our fears for a such tiny baby! They gave us bassinet, comfort seats and every care starting from priority boarding. Travel with children is fantastic!!
Travelling with a tiny baby is so easy!! Had we known and understood it all better we would have flown a lot more with just one – now with three bouncy tots its challenging again, but already my older two can sit still for fairly long periods transfixed by the movies!
Wow, great info! I wish you had wrote it 3 years back ;-)….really loved it!
Likewise, wish I knew half of what I did now when flying long haul with our first!
Great tips and resources! I will certainly share!
I’m so glad I didn’t have to travel with my kiddo as a newborn. Doing it as a toddler was stressful enough!
I found the infant years immensely easier than the toddler – the younger the better! As soon as they need entertaining and can move independently that’s where the fun and games begin
100% agree. I have to deal with 3 kids. Take GOD for electronics!
Fantastic tips Keri, really great article!! We only ever flew in Europe so never got to use the bassinet, but I used to dream of it as I’d usually be travelling alone with a tiny baby. I’d definitely be pinning this 🙂
thanks Maria – its why I actually prefer the long hauls to the shorter flights – 3 hours with a baby bouncing on me drives me insane – 10 hours of a baby sleeping in a bassinet – bliss!
Love this post! So useful! You’re right, it’s hard to find enough information on exactly what’s available. We’re past the bassinet stage ourselves, but I’ll be sharing this. Thank you!
I have no idea why the airlines are so illusive on this information – especially the premium airlines that don’t sell off the leg room. Glad I can help the next generation though
4 years of infant travel and not once have I been lucky enough to score a bassinet or bulkhead seat. I’ve generally been lucky enough to get an extra seat here and there, I’ve also had plenty of times where half of my family has been completely separated from each other. Air travel is always hit or miss.
That’s seriously bad luck Kevin! Maybe we are just more pushy, but I think being active on the phone to them before hand, not just relying on an internet/agent booking really helps. We always sign up to air mile programs too which could help in terms of status on their systems. We’re Gold with Etihad who we fly with most often, which makes staff very accommodating to our requests.
The sitting families separately thing still baffles me, we just fight it and fight it until at least a grown up is with every child – huge family travel problem though that the industry needs to tackle.
We only had one experience with this when flying to and from Europe in 2006 with Qantas and KLM. Both supplied the standard bassinet for baby Willow to sleep in. Great article packed with information Keri excellent family travel resource
Thanks Mark. It really is the holy grail to score the bulkhead seats and can make an immense amount of difference to a families journey.
I do hope this can be a valuable resource to parents, let there be no more families holding babies just because they didn’t know the rules (and the airlines were too stingy to explain them)!!!
We are way past this stage, but I love that you suggest the bulkhead row as the kids grow. That’s smart, especially with how often we have to move around.
Maybe anyone who suffers from DVT should take a couple of my kids with them on there next flight – I do spend most of a long-haul out of my chair too!!!
Airline seating strategies have become a hobby for us now, we know it down to individual aircraft and routes, quite sad really… but hey some people are good at cooking, crafts, this is my hobby!
This is such a great idea – we only had one flight where we got a bassinet (all the rest were either low-cost or she was suddenly too big) and it was a bit of a minefield finding out whether we were guaranteed one. In the end we did get one, but she was determined not to lie down and the cabin crew insisted she wasn’t allowed to sit up in it!
The lack of surety makes it hard to plan but at least with the right information I hope parents will push hard to get what they deserve when they’re travelling with an infant – its the lack of transparency and mystery behind their allocation that makes it so difficult! (and then the little angels go and outgrow them too quick, bless xx)
What a great guide and super handy product: I wish I had known about it when my kids were babies! I remember flying alone with my son when he was only a few months old – I was breastfeeding and I totally underestimated how useful a second pair of hands (or a bassinet) would be… I ended up relying on the kindness of strangers and still hold immense gratitude for the gentlemen who lent me his leather jacket when I couldn’t find my baby’s blanket!
Absolutely love this post, I hope this was available when my LittleOnes were wee babies. We’ve only had bassinet once and it was a nightmare, our 11 month old baby insist on standing and breastfeed while inside.
Oh dear! They have a way of ruining best laid plans. I’m intrigued as to how you managed the standing breastfeed, but if needs must – anything to get through that dreaded flight!!!
Wow..this is a very useful guide. Wish I had this while my boy was an infant.. We always run late on booking and never had the bassinet while he was an infant..
I would say getting in early is crucial – but it really depends! Even if you’ve booked early, many airlines make it clear they can still bump you at the airport if a smaller child books after yo. At least its great to know which policies each airline has – and which will cheekily charge you more for the pleasure!
This is an amazing resource Keri. Well done for compiling. Bassinets can make travel so much easier. We ‘vemanaged to get them a couple of times. For our trip to Malaysia our daughter still fit in it at around 18 months (she’s small and v light). Was a bit of a lifesaver on a full flight. #fearlessfamtrav
oh well done you for still fitting at 18 months! the only one we got away with this still was our eldest flying BA as they move them to the bouncer chair style when they’re bigger
This is great! We only managed to get a proper bassinet once while traveling.
It is a tricky art form but with many years practice under our belt we have only been left completely without a bassinet, or without an empty seat next to us once – pretty good record over 20+ long hauls!
wow! excellent tips.