Topic of the Week: Upgrading with a Baby

This became a big discussion on Twitter, so I thought I’d bring it here. In a couple months, my wife and I are taking the little guy on his maiden voyage, and we had the chance to upgrade using miles on a cross country trip. Would you do it with a newborn or not? It was a mixed bag on Twitter.

(We actually did do it, but of course, we’ll be incredibly conscientious about any noise.)

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144 Comments on "Topic of the Week: Upgrading with a Baby"

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Henry Harteveldt
Guest

Brett, I’ve seen adults on planes behave far worse than any baby.

James Burke
Guest

If I had a child like my niece, who I know slept like a baby when she flew cross-country a few years ago, I would upgrade. If my child wasn’t one who made an obscene amount of fuss, I would upgrade. Yes, a baby will cry when landing, as the pressure is often too much for little ears, but most kids are fine when crusing, and most experienced travellers (the kind in biz domestically) have fancy noise-blocking headphones. I don’t know if I would take a baby in first on EK or SQ, but on a domestic, why not!!!

Southeasterner
Guest

Besides the takeoff and landing I really don’t find children to be all that bad. Try sitting next to a drunk Russian on an 8+ hour flight with heavy turbulence between Moscow and Bangkok. At least when a baby projectile vomits it’s formula/milk or some type of liquified vegetable. Needless to say after the flight my suit went to the dry cleaners in Bangkok.

I would ban booze before babies.

explanethings
Guest

….but booze for babies is not a bad idea in this case!

Brad
Guest

Booze before baby is usually how it happens. We’re due in June! :-o

If you were non-reving I’d say H to the N-O. You earned the upgrade, you’re an experienced traveller, why not?

(Curious to heR what happens since we’ll travel with him in infancy as well).

John R
Guest
Brent – LOVE your blog. I check it most every day. I either purchase first class or upgrade so that the large majority of time I’m up in first. I do that not only for the comfort but for the piece and quiet. Unfortunately I’ve noticed a trend of more fidgeting and crying children (not just babies) along with more loud, rude adults in first that really takes away from the experience. But if I had the chance to upgrade with my child I’d do it also. Good luck with little guy in his first trip and safe travels.
Simon
Guest
I am taking my daughter, who’ll be 18 months by then, from London to see her Grandpa who lives in the US. I’ve used miles to upgrade because I figured once she was 2 and paying more than 10% of the fare then we would never be able to afford it again. The plan was just go be in Club World but there was no availability coming back so we’re in First on BA. I’ve never flown First so part of me is stupidly excited, but part of me worries that I am going to ruin the flight for everyone… Read more »
MeanMeosh
Guest
I’ve flown in domestic F with newborns in the cabin a few times, even international business once or twice. Frankly, I don’t even remember the flights, which gives you an idea of how much of a non-event having the baby in the cabin was. Perhaps it might have been wise to take the little one on a “test run” first to see how he’d react to flying (some babies definitely do better than others), but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Honestly, the problem I’ve had on planes hasn’t been infants, but children in the 2-10 age range. You know the… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
So people are worried that their baby/child would ruin the flight for first class passengers, but don’t give it a second thought about ruining the flight for coach passengers? If they were really first class types, they would be flying in private jets. Most will be upgrades just like you so don’t worry about it. Think of it this way, if the baby (or you) cry the whole flight you will only ruin the flight for maybe 6 others and not 106 others. You are actually doing most of the passengers on the plane a favor by being in first… Read more »
LT_DT
Guest

Giving a baby a bottle or pacifier during take-off and landing will mitigate the effects of the pressure changes. In our experience, that takes care of about 90% of the potential for crying.

longtimeobserver
Member

We flew with our middle one at three weeks. He and Mom were FA-magnets. Dad was SO relieved… Flew with the oldest one at 18 months and he launched a gummed apple over the seatback into the very bald head of the man in seat 1A. Fortunately, a very understanding gent… Dad was SO relieved… Flew with the youngest one at twelve months. She and Mom (still) were FA magnets — which really ticked off Elle Macpherson, who was also in the cabin. (Huh? Who?)

Paul
Guest
I do not have children (mine all bark and purr.) I also do not enjoy being on a flight next to an infant or toddler. That being said, it is your prerogative to upgrade and bring your child with you. If you and your family upgrade to the front of the bus, you are paying to be there just as everyone else is: either you are paying cash for the upgrade or you are paying with miles/certs that you acquired by spending cash with the airline. You have just as much right to spend your miles/certs/cash as other passengers do.… Read more »
patrick
Guest
I’m not a fan of people upgrading with babies (or any children). Some people paid extra money for the quiet that comes with a first class cabin, and babies have the potential to ruin that quiet. To be fair, I rarely pay for first, so I really can’t use this argument for myself. Even so, upgrades are a reward, and that reward is less valuable if there are unruly *anythings* in the cabin (children, babies, drunk adults…) This discussion comes up a lot, and I’d like to address a few of of the arguments from the pro-baby-upgrade camp: 1) Noise-canceling… Read more »
ladonzi
Guest

It always comes down to the parents and how they handle their children on the aircraft. I fly a lot and believe parents who do not control a situation with their child on the ground, will be the ones that lose control in the air.As a mother of 4 I can say that with experience. Babies cry on take offs and landings no matter where they are on the plane and all hear it in the enclosed space. It is just the way it is.Experienced flyers bring noise cancelling ear gear anyway!

hawes.daryl
Member

As a successful and now kinda-famous (and possibly wealthy as a result) blogger and freelance writer, you should consider chartering a private plane as it costs only a “little” bit more AND the entire process is hands-down easier than flying a scheduled carrier. The downside is that you won’t earn frequent flyer miles for the flight.

longtimeobserver
Member

…unless you charter from Delta Elite, on which you do get Skymiles. ;-)

wdcguy
Guest

I’m going to be cranky and say that children under a certain age simply should not be allowed in the most premium cabin on any flight (meaning not at all on two-cabin flights). It’s another item for the inconvenience side of the page for parents to consider when deciding to have or travel with small children.

john96
Member
Crankster, traveling with children advice: 1. Leave them at home 2. If you have to take them hire a nanny to sit in coach with them while you enjoy the upgrade. 3. Ok, so you still dig the parenting thing and want to have them with you – I get it, your youngster is not a teenager yet ;o) Upgrade with the little guy, and enjoy it. As said above, if you are being a responsible parent with food, pacifiers, toys, silly faces, whatever – then most fellow travelers are understanding. If they are not, then they must have had… Read more »
Alan
Guest

I do not have an issue with you upgrading your flight so that you and your family have plenty of space. I did it with my daughter when she was under 2…first class in a 3 class cabin in a brand new 777…turned on the cartoon network on her in-seat video and heard not a peep for the entire DEN – IAD leg. Her first trip was at 16 weeks, and as long as she had a bottle or her pacifier, she was an angel. Go for it.

Steve
Guest
We pay for comfort. Bottom line. Comfort is not having our eardrums pierced by shrieks from the next seat. One time I actually moved back to coach to get away from it. It was maddening. I don’t blame the child. Guess who I blame. Cranky: children of very young ages have dysfunctional eustachian tubs and cannot valsalva or equalize so the pressure changes can be VERY painful. It has been implicated in early deafness in children. I would SERIOUSLY consider the wisdom of this. Part 2: If you were at home and strapped your kid into a chair, and made… Read more »
Steve
Guest
We pay for comfort in First/Business class, bottom line. Having shrieking in your ears for hours on end is NOT comfort. I have actually moved back to Coach to get away from it. If you were to strap your child into a chair at home, and have it kicking, screaming, and crying for 2 hours, child protective services would be called. Someone you can get away with it on airplanes. Cranky: Children have dysfunctional eustachian tubes and air pressure changes can cause INTENSE PAIN. It has also been implicated in early deafness in children. You should consider the wisdom of… Read more »
longtimeobserver
Member

Your kids may not listen to you, but it doesn’t mean their hearing was damaged by flying at an early age…

davidwhotz
Member

Your wife, your son and you have just as much right to be in the first cabin as the person paying $2000 for their ticket or others getting upgrades as long as you are following the rules of the program. Premium cabin passengers may not enjoy a crying baby, but neither do coach passengers. Just because they’re in the pointy end of the plane doesn’t mean that they’re better than folks behind the curtain.

malbarda
Member

Cranky: my son has flown in biz ONLY since he was born. Prepare as parents is rule 1: at this age this means booking flights that do bot completely ruin their sleep/eat patern. When toddlers or kids: toys, dvd’s, ipad games, etc. you’ll be a mule :-)

Rule 2 is to train/teach them from young. So from now.

Rule3: be considerate in seat selection. Give up on your normal choices to minimise impact on other pax.

My sons hearing is still fine. So don’t worry…

Brian
Guest

Any typical business class passenger will be traveling with headphones,
probably noise-canceling ones. Don’t worry about it.

marvzwerin
Member
As a physician whose kids have flown since 3 weeks old and whose children have taken their babies on flights equally as early, and who has traveled often up front and in the back let me make several comments. Neonatals are clueless of where they are; in bed, being held, sleeping, waking. They are usually not the problem unless they have colic or eustatian tube issues (only takeoff or more likely landing). Infants mostly sleep and don’t have to be entertained. But when they are hurting, nothing can distract them. As other responders have reported, it’s mostly the parents who… Read more »
eleanor.c.moore
Member

Good idea to start flying early, and the main problem as I’m sure you’re aware of is take-off and landing when a little baby’s ears can really bother him. That’s when you get a pacifier or bottle out to start the sucking and swallowing to help him out. I’m also certain that you of all people are well aware of being sensitive to surrounding passengers if the baby cannot be quieted. I see nothing wrong with taking the upgrade at all.

matt weber
Member
I have seen it both ways. Generally kids under about 6 months travel well unless they are sick. It is from about 8 months to 18 months that it can be a nightmare. At that stage they have learned that screaming and tantrums will get them attention. I had the misfortune one evening of flying BA LAX-LHR in F with a very well known (and still is well known) Musician. This was just before the arrival of the BA F class bed product. He had a kid about a year old, and she screamed most of the way to London.… Read more »
BW
Guest

My wife and I were in F on Aer Lingus LHR DUB back in 2001. We were late because of bomb threats at JFK caused a reroute through DTW and LHR immigration was hell because it was maybe 3 weeks after 9/11. The guitar player from U2 and his family were the only other passengers in F with us. No nanny, just their 3 small kids doing what unsupervised kids do on planes. Good thing it was a short flight. At one point, we told him his parenting sucked even worse than his music.

chris
Guest

Very discourteous to fellow first class travellers

Gabriella Ribeiro Truman
Guest

Go for it! I have been upgrading with my child since she was 3 weeks old and we had to bring her home cross-country. I do it as often as I can, I need the comfort of the extra seat room and leg room, definitely a meal, and marginally better/more understanding cabin crew (sometimes!). Don’t think twice, just do it.

Daphne
Guest
Nope. I’m going the cranky route here. It used to be that children simply were not allowed in first class. The presumption that everybody in first class is there on upgrades is just that, presumption. People who pay $3500+ for a first class ticket have certain expectations in return for the premium paid and having the disturbance of a child is definitely not one of those expectations. None of this is to say that the following experience is a given with every infant, but I think one only has to be burned once after spending $6600 pp to fly in… Read more »
chris
Guest

very discourteous to people who pay handsomely for a desire not to be annoyed with babies crying and kicking seats.

longtimeobserver
Member

In a word: NetJets

Nick Barnard
Member

So to the folks who think it is discourteous to be in First Class with an infant. Do you think the same about that infant being in the coach row directly behind first class?

Joe L
Guest

Yes, I do. IMO, children that cannot avoid disturbing others do not belong on an airplane, period.

Obviously, overseas flying is different since there is really no alternative – can’t drive across the Atlantic! I think in these cases there should be special “family” sections on the plane with a partition that keeps sounds out or at least lessened.

My children will not be flying with me until they are of the age where they can be trusted to be quiet and behave.

Daphne
Guest

Thank you, Joe. That was exactly the policy my parents had when we five were growing up. Lots of car trips as a family, and airplanes were for Mom and Dad while we had a relative sit us. (The same rule applied for restaurants beyond the level of Perkins, Dennys, etc. It’s perhaps even more rude to ruin someone’s special evening out to a fine restaurant.)

I boarded my first plane at age 7, when I was well old enough to mind my manners (and I was the last of the five).

Cindy S
Guest

My child has been flying since the age of 2. She is a great traveller! Its not the childs fault if they are bad, its 100% the parents fault!

Nick Barnard
Member

CF, is Atticus getting his own seat or is he a lap baby?

Also, are you starting a flight log for him as well?

ghlewis
Member

NO babies [no children under 8] in first class period!

longtimeobserver
Member

Seems fair, as long as pious, self-important blowhards are also barred from the front cabin. Deal?

David SF eastbay
Member

Someone talked about using FLL due flights to more cities or something like that.

So which airport does have more nonstop service to different cities MIA or FLL?

At least for domestic travel I would almost think FLL.

David SF eastbay
Member

whoops wrong blog……lol

David SF eastbay
Member

If airlines didn’t want children/infants in First and Business they wouldn’t allow it. Only now I’ve read about one or two airlines starting that.

I do agree that 21st century parents of young children are clueless on how to raise them. My childhood was in the late 50’s-early 60’s and when you were out in public you didn’t make a sound or act up in anyway. Back then parents had belts and knew how to use them.

DAB
Guest
The bigger issue I would see is that I am of the firm belief that in a plane the child should be in the same seating as the car. To that end, we bought these nifty little frames with wheels to roll the carseat through the airport. Took me two flights to really get the hang of them and getting the seats secure to the chair (in coach…). Lap child and turbulence can equal missile. Also, the children really do better being transported in the way to which they are accustomed, and that should be a carseat for any child… Read more »
BigSix
Guest

Our first trip with our children was when they were 6 yrs. and 3yrs. and that was a car trip. Our first trip on an airline with them was when they were 6 yrs. and 9 yrs. We waited that long for two reasons; first, it was much easier for us to travel with older children, and second, out of respect for other travelers. My advice is if you must travel when your children are less than about 4 years old, leave them at home with a relative.

jamesgdpollard
Member
Infants (ie. unable to walk!) are typically pretty good on the plane as you can entertain them easily, will sit on your lap etc. As they get to toddler stage, they dont like being restrained. We’ve travelled extensively (domestic and international), mostly in Business Class (what in the US would be domestic F) with our son who is now 13 months old. The first 8-10 months were a breeze (and being prepared is a huge part of making life easy), but we can see as he gets older, he just cant sit still so un-necessary plane flights will be a… Read more »
Michael Rowan
Member

Yes, any folks that give you a hard time are welcome to use the wingside smoking lounge to relax.

D
Guest

If it was possible, I would fly on adults only flights. (why do these not exist?) It isn’t so much the infants but the kids that just won’t stop talking, or accidently or purposefully kicking the seats. Sitting still and being quiet, very difficult for some (most) kids it seems. I use noise-cancelling headphones but still find the kids annoying. Some kids are much better than others, they seem to have parents that have tried or are trying to teach them to be respectful of others.

longtimeobserver
Member

NetJets, baby! Pay up and chill out.

John
Guest

AirBoss, there’s a thing called consideration for others. Parents seem to lose it as soon as they become parents, but that doesn’t make it right to bring crying kids on a plane (or into a restaurant, bar, theatre, etc.). Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

longtimeobserver
Member

John, I guess it would surprise you to learn that I’ve seen a far greater percentage of adult a-holes in First Class than difficult infants and children. To be clear, that’s by percentage, not instance. The actual instance of difficult infants and children is miniscule. A-hole adults, not so much. I’m sure you’re not one of the latter.

trackback

[…] of a format that doesn’t require limiting thoughts to 140 characters. I posed the question on my blog, The Cranky Flier. Around 50 comments later, I found most to be quite encouraging, but it was far […]

Scott
Guest

This idea is the height of rudeness. If I am in first, I want room, service, and certain behavior from travelers who are supposed to be sophisticated enough – either by wealth or frequency of travel – to know that first class should be a refuge from the discomfort and occasional chaos of coach. This idea is a violation and even a cancellation of the advantages of first class travel. I would be – and have been – furious with an infant or toddler in first class.

longtimeobserver
Member

Airlines are public conveyances. If you want refuge on your own and only your own terms, fly NetJets.

Amanda
Guest
With a baby only a few months old, it’s unlikely to be a problem. I flew with my six-week-old daughter from the East Coast to the West Coast for my grandmother’s funeral and she never made a peep. I carried her in a sling the entire time and she slept. When she’d start to wake I’d pop a nipple in her mouth and she was happy. I had people in the very next row behind me see her when we were disembarking comment they had been completely unaware there was even a baby on board. I flew with my nine-month-old… Read more »
Andrew Marshall
Guest
Brett, as a 767 captain flying trans Atlantic flights for a number of years I have weekly experience with children of all ages. It happens our flight crew rest seats are in first class. On East bound flights that fly thru the night, I rarely have seen bad behavior from infants. They usually sleep most of the night and if they are fed and changed regularly, it’s nearly a non-event. West bound, during the daylight hours they can be a little fussier. However I have had numerous problems with children 2-10 as one of your other readers said. Parents think… Read more »
Jim LaBatt
Guest

I think all airlines should ban babies from first class. If I choose to pay several hundred or thousands $$ more for a first class experience, I don’t want a screaming baby seated next to me. I have had babies sit next to me in their mothers lap, spitting up, screaming, etc. I never flew my children in first class until they were older and knew right from wrong. And even then I kept them under strict control.

longtimeobserver
Member

…right after they ban the pompous and self-righteous, OK with you? Otherwise, there’s NetJets. Look into it. You’ll like it, and so will the rest of us when you’re flying them.

Andrew
Guest
My wife and I took a 14 month old and 33 month old to Italy in business class. The kids behaved beautifully for the 9 hour flights between Atlanta and Venice on the way over and Rome and Atlanta on the way back. We paid for them to have their own fully reclining seats, so they didn’t ride in our laps. We got compliments from many other travelers as to how well behaved they were. I say book your trip, and if the baby gets fussy, take him/her for a walk up and down the aisle to calm them down.… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

I remember a USAir flight attendant walking a baby up and down the isle. The baby was nice and quiet, the flight attendant was delighted to be holding a baby, and the mother? I didn’t see her, but I figure she was happily taking a rest.

longtimeobserver
Member

FA probably had a lot more fun and satisfaction than taking care of whiny masters of the universe, that’s for sure…

Jayne
Guest

If you are talking domestic flights, most people who fly first class didn’t pay for the seat. They are also flying on upgrades. Go for it.

Stacy
Guest
Those travelers and diners who chronically complain about children/babies that are anything but “seen and not heard” would say NO – do not upgrade to 1st class and ruin their travel….not thinking how much the extra room 1st Class comes with would greatly enhance your travel and make it easier to travel with a child/baby. Those of us who have children and are more accepting of the idea that you cannot control another person would say HECK YEAH! Your trip will be so much more pleasant with the extra room 1st class provides. I say Go for it – people… Read more »
pedi-nurse
Guest

Why don’t the grandparents fly to you?

John
Guest

Babies don’t belong on airplanes at all. The class is irrelevant. The grandparents can fly to him without bothering other people.

longtimeobserver
Member

Curmudgeons don’t belong either, pal.

Dave
Guest
Brett, Sorry to burst your intellectual bubble, but the question actually speaks loads more about you, than about your baby or how others might or might not be affected by sharing first class with an infant. In this “it’s about me and/or my child” society, the fact that you or others would bring babies into first class disregards how others might be adversely affected by your “right” to upgrade with a tot. I have 3 children (pre-teens) but would have never considered first class when they were young, even if I had many extra miles. Why? Because to others, who… Read more »
Dave
Guest

Baby = Coach…

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