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Traveling with child with special needs - Q about ticket requirements

Traveling with child with special needs - Q about ticket requirements

Old Oct 8, 17, 5:02 am
  #1  
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Traveling with child with special needs - Q about ticket requirements

I'm helping a family member plan a family trip to Israel in 2018. His son is 3 years old, and has special needs. They are planning on flying business class as a family. As the child will be sitting on his mom/dad's lap the entire flight, they were planning on buying business class seats for themselves, and a coach seat for their son.

My interpretation of airline rules is that you must have a ticket for the cabin of travel you're sitting in (even if you're a child/baby). While he may be able to work with the airline directly to accommodate their needs, it seems like a risk they would be taking.

Does anyone have experience with a situation like this? I'm trying to help them plan a special trip, and would hate for this to backfire on them. Any advice/information would be appreciated.
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Old Oct 8, 17, 5:22 am
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Special-needs child or otherwise, a three-years old child ordinarily won't be allowed to sit in the lap of anyone in-flight during the times when the seatbelt sign is on -- whether in business class or not.

There may be a process to get transportation regulators to issue waivers or notices to a carrier to make special accommodations, but for an international trip it is more complicated than for a domestic trip -- and even then the government authorities and airlines aren't always all that responsive to such requests made in advance.
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Old Oct 8, 17, 6:51 am
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Let me just say this doesn't sound like a good plan. A lot of airlines will not let you ticket someone that young in a different cabin then the parents. I'm pretty sure one of the parents would end up in back on that coach ticket.

That being said and being the adoptive parent of a 6 year old special needs person you can ask. It has amazed me how accommodating people/the world can be for this little fella. He is adorable and I think that helps. I try to never pull the 'special needs' card but when i have it often opens doors up.

Another thing is I really wouldn't believe if the airlines tell you it is okay to try this. There could be an entirely different set of rules at the gate or on the plane that the ticketing people have no clue on. Sounds like a recipe for a possible ruined trip.

I am interested to hear what happens if you could post back here.
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Old Oct 8, 17, 8:16 am
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This sounds like a bad plan. No carrier will ticket a 3 YOA into a separate cabin, especially on departure from the US. What exactly happens in an emergency when the parents are in F/J and the 3 YOA is in Y? Too young to be an unaccompanied minor and too young to help himself with parents located too far away.

Rather than making plans and then calling, why not contact the carrier now and explain the child's needs without getting into who sits where and does not. The carrier will explain the limits of its capabilities and you can then determine whether those will work.

Issues to confront are: sepatate cabins and not seated in own seat for taxi, takeoff, turbulence, and landing. The latter are potentially serious physical risks to the child and to other passengers.

Last edited by Often1; Oct 8, 17 at 10:21 am
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Old Oct 8, 17, 9:52 am
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The child ticketed in another cabin isn't going to work, unless there's an "adult" in the child-accompanying ticketed cabin.

Also, the airline crew will rather easily know whether or not a given ticketed-and-seated passenger has a lap-child allowance or not. The lap-child thing is going to be a very hard sell when dealing with a 3 year-old on an international flight.

Note that some airlines do provide child discounts for international tickets, even sometimes for business class seats.
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Old Oct 9, 17, 12:14 pm
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It's going to throw catering off too
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Old Oct 9, 17, 1:16 pm
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As others have said you can't ticket 2 adults in Business and a 3YO in Economy.

What airline and hard product type of business class is this? If it's a 2x2x2 recliner or something then it may work. The 3YO would need to be in their seat when the seatbelt sign is on but having a parent seated next to them would surely help. If it's a newer "pod-style" then I'd say skip business and and see if you can get 3-in-a-row Economy (or prem-economy if available) so both parents can assist and are much closer to the child.
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Old Oct 10, 17, 1:04 pm
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Originally Posted by jpripcord View Post
I'm helping a family member plan a family trip to Israel in 2018. His son is 3 years old, and has special needs. They are planning on flying business class as a family. As the child will be sitting on his mom/dad's lap the entire flight, they were planning on buying business class seats for themselves, and a coach seat for their son.

My interpretation of airline rules is that you must have a ticket for the cabin of travel you're sitting in (even if you're a child/baby). While he may be able to work with the airline directly to accommodate their needs, it seems like a risk they would be taking.

Does anyone have experience with a situation like this? I'm trying to help them plan a special trip, and would hate for this to backfire on them. Any advice/information would be appreciated.
Ticketing as described is not likely to work, nor is a 3 yo likely to be allowed to sit in parent's lap at all times.

I think the parents need to talk to the child's doctors and determine exactly what is needed versus what is wanted to make the flights safe for the child. Is the child physically unable to sit unsupported? Cognitively/neurologically unable? (not asking for you to answer publicly, suggesting what the parents & docs need to discuss). Before the parents approach the airline they should have documentation in hand to support their requests. It should also state that the child is medically safe to fly provided the necessary accommodations are available. What the parents want to avoid is convincing the airline the child's needs are so extensive that there is a risk of a medical emergency in the air.

If the child lacks the physical ability to sit unsupported I would expect the airline to require some sort of supportive seat that can be buckled to the plane seat rather than allowing a 3 yo old in a lap which I believe violates FAA regs.
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Old Oct 14, 17, 2:12 pm
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I appreciate everyone's thoughtful responses.

It sounds like my suspicions were confirmed, and the best/safest option is to make sure all passengers are ticketed in the same cabin. While some crews may be willing to bend the rules for a special needs child, it's not worth the risk that the airline will be strict in their enforcement (those are the rules after all), leading to a less than desirable outcome.

Thanks again
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Old Oct 17, 17, 9:48 am
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Honestly, in my experience, coach is just more comfortable and accommodating for families. With most airlines going with private, single seat configs in business and first, it's not easy for parents to attend to the needs of young children needing assistance. I imagine this is by design.

Get a set of consecutive seats in coach. Check Seatguru.com to find the best options. The flight will likely not be as relaxing for parents, but the child will be better cared for in coach.

This is the way it is, until airlines figure out some sort of premium family service. I'm not holding my breath for that, although there have been a few intriguing options, like China Airlines Family Couch. So you never know.

Last edited by swise; Oct 17, 17 at 9:38 pm
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Old Oct 17, 17, 12:10 pm
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Call the airline and explain the need for assistance. I would be surprised if they do not have some set protocol on that and/or an agent specialized/knowledgeable. You could likely also ask for pre-assigned seats (not always easy without payment) and assistance at the airport which would reduce wait times and whisk them past some of the sometimes long lines (similar to wheelchair request).
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Old Oct 17, 17, 3:12 pm
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
Call the airline and explain the need for assistance. I would be surprised if they do not have some set protocol on that and/or an agent specialized/knowledgeable. You could likely also ask for pre-assigned seats (not always easy without payment) and assistance at the airport which would reduce wait times and whisk them past some of the sometimes long lines (similar to wheelchair request).
It may vary by airline, but I would be shocked if the airline did have a "some set protocol on that and/or an agent specialized/knowledgeable."

I have booked travel for a family with a disabled child. Be prepared to spend up to 2 hours on the phone making arrangements. Start by insisting on talking with "Disability Services" or whatever your airline calls - look for their name for it on their webpage before calling. DO NOT LET A REGULAR TICKET AGENT MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR YOU - THEY WILL BE COMPLETELY SCREWED UP.

Every time you hit a "we can't do that" ask for someone higher up the ladder. Be polite, be prepared, be very, very specific about what is absolutely necessary and then persist. And after all that, know there is about a 50% chance of whatever you were promised actually happening.
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Old Oct 17, 17, 3:55 pm
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But, bear in mind that if you say that something is necessary for the child's well-being and it cannot be provided, you may find yourself without travel arrangements. Carriers must rearrange seating by way of example. But, cabin crew are generally not permitted to provide special assistance and if what you can provide is not enough, you may be required to travel with an aide or somesuch.

Not in any way suggesting that you sugar coat the situation. Simply that one should list out the things which are necessary for safe travel and things that make the trip better.
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Old Oct 17, 17, 4:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
But, bear in mind that if you say that something is necessary for the child's well-being and it cannot be provided, you may find yourself without travel arrangements. Carriers must rearrange seating by way of example. But, cabin crew are generally not permitted to provide special assistance and if what you can provide is not enough, you may be required to travel with an aide or somesuch.

Not in any way suggesting that you sugar coat the situation. Simply that one should list out the things which are necessary for safe travel and things that make the trip better.
See Post #8
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Old Oct 19, 17, 4:25 pm
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They won't let you ticket a child (3 or older) in a different cabin than you. And they also won't let the adults hold the child on their laps during take off /landing. I once flew with my 2.5 in business, and I wanted to just sit with DC during landing because DC had ear pressure and was miserable. They won't let me.
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