Travel with Children - Flying alone with toddler on AF
May 18, 11, 1:08 pm
Hello flyertalk gurus! I'm happy to have found this site! I've looked around a bit, but have a few specific questions that I haven't seen answered, so I thought I'd post my own.
I am traveling on Air France from JFK to CDG (flight AF017) with my toddler (20 months) this summer. I have a seat in the PV cabin (A class), but no seat assignment yet, according to the AF website I cannot get that until I go to the airport.
Because of this, do I need to get to the airport super early to make sure I get a seat, or am I still guaranteed? It makes me very nervous to fly without a confirmed seat, the few times I've done that I've been at risk of getting bumped, even though I had a confirmed reservation. I'm definitely afraid of being bumped with a baby, is there any reason they would be more likely to do that because I'm traveling with a lap child? Am I going to get stuck in the middle of the back row because of my baby? I have a Travel Agent working to try to get me a seat, but no luck so far.
I've also never been in the AF Premium Voyageur cabin - can anyone help me out with a description? I booked it because it was only a bit more than the regular Voyageur each direction, and it sounds like it has at the very least a bit more legroom, plus fewer people surrounding me if I'm stuck in a middle seat.
Any tips from frequent single-parent flyers as to 1) get your kids to sleep 2) manage to eat/drink/pee with hopefully asleep kid 3) make it through security and customs with a toddler? I have flown with my toddler solo a few times but never international, so I'm anticipating everything being a bit more difficult, especially an overnight flight. I booked the flight to take off about an hour before she usually goes to bed, so I'm hoping that will help her be able to sleep.
Finally, I read on a few threads (though I'm not sure how current they are), that AF doesn't allow you to gate-check an umbrella stroller. According to their website you can even take one onto the plane with you, but it sounds like people have had different experiences.
Many many thanks in advance!!
May 19, 11, 1:09 am
AF let me take the stroller to the gate but then it was checked to baggage claim at my final destination. AF doesn't give back strollers on layovers so you have to be ready to negotiate your transfer and getting through immigration, without it.
Do you have a good-quality baby carrier? The good ones should go to at least 2 years of age (I could use my ring sling to about age 3). For an older child, a front/back pack is best. It's a must for easy travel with a baby, especially with the AF stroller situation. I could also sleep with my baby strapped to me in the carrier. AF uses those "belly belts" which are banned on U.S. companies (for safety reasons) but flying AF you have to use it. Make sure you have it handy. Once the seatbelt sign came on and they had to wake me to put it on. I had to dig around and find it. Don't make my mistake. Really a pain and the carrier works just as well but rules are rules...
I managed to get my stroller on board but it was a combo car seat/stroller and collapsed down small. They didn't have to stow it. I used it for my 2 year old. That was after I had the supervisor brought over and explained that I was flying alone with three children (4, 2 and a 4 month old) and getting through CDG alone with all three and no stroller really wasn't realistic.
It's not comfortable flying with such a big toddler on the lap and since you're flying in summer, it's unlikely that you'll be able to secure a free seat.
Elastic waistbands and learning to change your toddler standing up will really help make this easier. No way can you fit a 20 monther on one of those baby changers! Use the handicapped lav instead for more space. Practice at home changing him this way.
Make sure your diaper bag is either a backpack style or an oversized backpack. Don't bring a purse although a string purse around your neck or a "fanny pack" can be used to hold your passports, cell phone and wallet. The goal is to keep everything simple and only bring what you actually need for the flight itself.
Both of you wear shoes that come off and on easily.
No need to force him to drink on take-off and landing (common myth) but I do recommend that you schedule a "well baby" appointment with the ped a few days' prior to your flight. Make sure his ears are clear and infection-free. Healthy ears can handle pressurization changes just fine so please don't wake your child unnecessarily. Let him sleep when and if he can!
Logically, you should be LESS likely to be bumped because you have a baby. You also only have one seat (which increases your chances of getting on). I can't speak for AF's bumping policies but overall, most airlines ask for volunteers first before pulling people off against their wishes. You can check-in early but you might be "competing" with those who checked into connections hours before the desk at your airport even opened. I fly between two big connection points so I get this a lot.
Have you posted on the AF board? Just post about the seat assignments as cross-posting isn't allowed on this site. Hopefully someone with AF experience will chime in. I avoid flying them (opting to go through Frankfurt and using the Lufthansa bus). Avoids the connection at CDG and I got my stroller back on the jetway!
Here are my non-commercial flying tips;
May 19, 11, 9:24 am
Thanks so much for all that information! CDG is our final destination so we don't have to worry about a transfer, but I will keep in mind for the future that it is difficult and try to avoid. We're going to meet my husband who will be working in Paris.
I have an Ergo and was planning to bring that (as long as I don't forget like i did on our last trip to CA!), my daughter can sleep in that on me so at least I can get up to go to the bathroom. But can you explain a bit more about the lap belts? AF makes you wear something different with a lap child that keeps you from moving?
I wish we could buy her a seat, but the prices are over $1600 per person, and there's just no way... it is ridiculous when I remember flying to Paris a few years ago in the summer as well and paying about $450!
I will invest in a string purse and just use a giant tote for the diaper bag (this is what i usually do when we fly). I am hoping to be able to persuade them to let me keep the stroller (or get it back on the jetway at CDG), I don't know how i'll navigate through customs without it but I guess with the Ergo I should be ok.
I will make sure to get her ears checked, though she's never had a problem with them in the past on flights, luckily! I think I'm most concerned about whether she'll sleep on the flight over there, and how to entertain her if she doesn't! But I'm sure we'll be fine.
I did post on the AF board, and they were helpful about the seats (but said my baby is too tall for the bassinets, sadly). Plus my TA was able to get me a confirmed seat - 19E, which is an aisle in the middle section of the plane. So at least there's that! A few people on the AF board said the AF flight crew is usually very family-friendly.
Your blog is great and super-helpful!
FWIW, the one time we were allowed to take a stroller on the plane with AF it was super small and folded in half (i.e. not an umbrella one), so it wasn't larger than a suitcase... on the way back we only got it on because they had let us on the way out:rolleyes:.
Other than that, if you have the ergo you will be fine. And no matter how long the flight seems-- it will end sometime. ;-)
May 19, 11, 11:00 pm
My husband's cousins bought a foldable stroller to avoid this issue with AF. It's not a problem if you're finishing at CDG but I thought I'd mention it if anyone visits this thread who needs to connect on them.
The bassinets on AF are super-tiny. Lufthansa is the only airline I know of with ones that fit toddlers. I think the ones on AF only go to 6 months or perhaps a year.
With a toddler, or basically any baby who stands, bring them to the restroom and try to find the handicapped lav. Bring them in with you and have them stand next to you. Mine would hold on to my leg. It's not very private but it's really the only practical way. Try to keep them from crawling on the floor.
They'll give you a belly belt when you get on board. It's not safe for the baby but you have to use it according to their rules. Air travel itself is safe so don't fret the issue. But keep it handy for turbulence. For turbulence, it's fine but I mentioned keeping it handy for practical reasons. Don't put it away or lose it after take-off.
I found the crews to be nice. I flew with them alone with a lap baby and two toddlers and they were very helpful. Hate AF's ground staff but love their crews!
Bring the Ergo and plan to use it to get through Customs.
I recommend using the Air France bus if you're going into town. Safer and more secure than taking the train (too many coworkers pickpocketed on it) and the taxis are a pain (driving you all around). Also if you don't have your child's car seat (please don't check it as luggage) than be aware there are a lot of accidents here in France. I've even saw one at CDG once.
May 24, 11, 9:39 am
Ask your aircraft carrier if you can gate check a stroller. I have been flying a lot with infants, and there was never a problem to do so (I had a smaller one that I bought just for this). But as usual, everything changes, so I would call ahead just to be sure.
But you should consider buying a Baby Bjorn or a similar baby carrier to use on board. It saved me once when changing airplanes in Frankfurt, and my gate checked stroller did not arrive on time (it showed up at destination a couple of days later). It was a long walk, and I was able to make it with all the hand luggage thanks to BabyBjorn.
May 25, 11, 1:56 am
There is no way a 20 month old will fit in a Baby Bjorn. Mine only went to 6 months and after that, it was too painful to wear. A better quality baby carrier will work but the Bjorn wont. For an older toddler, she needs a better designed carrier which holds the baby in a more comfortable position.
AF will gate-check a stroller. It's just that she will have to get it at baggage claim on arrival, not on the jetway. It can be a long walk at CDG.