Before I had a baby I had certain criteria that I used to decide which airlines I would typically choose to fly. I was a pretty loyal customer too, sometimes paying more in airfare just to fly with a certain airline (I’m talking about you, Delta). After I started flying with my baby, though, Delta and I had a very bad break-up, and I know avoid the airline at all costs.
Now I fly Etihad Airways whenever I can. There’s a reason why Etihad has been voted the best airline worldwide three years running. I’m now working on racking up my miles with them now. Hasta la vista, Delta- I found a new love. Etihad Airways is hands down the most family friendly airline I have ever traveled with.
1) I am almost always accommodated when I request certain seats for my infant-in-lap. I have 100% of the time been given a bulkhead seat with a bassinet, secured over the phone weeks before heading to the airport. This past trip from Kochin to Johannesburg we were given the bulkhead seats in the middle row and no one else was seated next to us, so we had four seats for my husband, me, and baby, plus a bassinet that Veda still just fits into. I got to watch J Edgar Hoover in its entirety while Veda slept- incredible. I somehow always get seats where I get to sprawl out with baby and toys on Etihad. Delta, for example, does not allow requests for bassinet/ bulkhead seats in advance and requires you to request those seats once you reach the gate. I have seethed several times seeing a young childless couple sitting in the bulkhead seats- that’s where the bassinet goes. WTF, Delta??
2) They have great little perks for babies and kids on the plane. This includes handing out a little toddler/ child sized backpack with a big animal face on the back (lions, and tigers, oh my!) packed with tic-tac-toe games, colored pencils, activity books, etc. Plus, they have organic jarred baby food, and other baby supplies such as diapers. That also shows in the way they’ve built their lounges in their Abu Dhabi hub. Lounges can be accessed for free as a Guest Member with enough frequent flier miles. On this last trip Veda had a great time playing and wearing herself out in the Children’s Room at one of the Abu Dhabi lounges packed with toys, fun mirrors, activity tables, and overstuffed bean bags to roll around on. How many lounges offer that? Not every airline has these perks. On my last Emirates flight with baby, for example, I asked if they had any baby food as she wasn’t interested in what I brought. They brought me a whole hard apple to give her. Emirates, WTF, you expect my baby to bite into a freaking apple? Do you have a blender, by any chance? Remind me again what it is I’m paying 10% of my own ticket cost to have my infant-in-lap fly with me?
3) The flight attendants on Etihad are customer-service oriented, and always engage positively with my baby. On this last flight my daughter kept gravitating back to the galley where all the flight attendants were working, and they knelt down and showed her how to push the trash compactor buttons, offered her healthy snacks, and let her help take plastic bins out of their metal push carts. Veda loved it. On another flight, a young male flight attendant encouraged me to walk about the plane and hang out on the floor of the galley with baby, asking me if I need any “mommy juice” such as vino. Compare this to flight attendants on American Airlines, for example, where “being crusty” must be part of their job descriptions. When I boarded an AA flight, before I even found my seat, a flight attendant looked at my baby and with a fake smile said, “She’s cute, but make sure you keep her away from the middle galley area- that’s where we flight attendants sleep and rest during the flight.” WTF, AA, why are you attendants sleeping on the job, anyway?
4) It’s easy to book my infant-in-lap ticket online with Etihad Airways and they issue an electronic ticket for her immediately. Most of the U.S. carriers I have to book my own ticket online, then call the airline directly and book the infant-in-lap ticket old-school style. They do not issue electronic tickets and have to mail a paper boarding ticket snail mail. Then if I am traveling soon, I have to usually go through the process all over again at check-in. With Etihad I can easily book online and get the e-ticket without the extra hassle. I’m a mom- I like saving time, and I love efficiency.
5) Etihad usually comes up with the cheapest airfare for many of the destinations we travel to around the Middle East, Africa, and SE Asia. That’s right, not only are they a great customer-service oriented, family-friendly airline, but they also save me money. Plus, I can buy a one-way ticket for my baby, which saves me money. Most of the U.S. carriers require baby to have a round-trip ticket purchased, even if I don’t purchase a round-trip ticket myself, so it costs more than the 10% of my ticket price.
6) Family guest membership. I love Etihad’s awards program with Etihad Guest. Not only do my husband and I both rack up miles when we travel, but Etihad gives an option for a “family membership.” We selected yours truly as the “head of household,” so any time my husband or any of our kids fly (once they’re racking up the miles with regular seats, as well), they get their own miles PLUS I get their miles, too. This makes it easier for me to move up in their awards program to take advantage of extra baggage without fees, their lounge with the kids play area, and fast tracking to board the plane. Those are all very welcome as a traveling mommy, and the family guest membership makes that easier for me to take advantage of.
7) Etihad is a compassionate airline focused on making the customer happy. They recently refunded 100% of my tickets for myself, husband, and baby for two separate international flights when we lost our baby during my pregnancy. Might I add that those tickets were non-refundable and non-changeable. I provided my baby’s death certificate, and they credited back 100% of the money for all of our tickets with the credit card we purchased the tickets with, amounting to $3,500, which was welcome during a difficult emotional time. No struggles, no explanations. Thank you, Etihad- I’ll keep coming back to you to book!
Etihad Airways is a fantastic family-friendly airline across the board. Add in the fact that their food actually tastes good (E.g. my husband and I actually look forward to food on Etihad flights, silverware and all in economy class), and we don’t have much reason to fly any other airline. Etihad, please don’t change! I love you!