One of the most asked about topics in baby travel is always, ‘What about a bassinet? How do I get one?’
First off, bassinets are only available on wide body (two aisle) aircraft. They are also an amenity that only applies to international flights. So, if you’re traveling domestically, you’ll need to either fly with baby on your lap, or purchase a seat for them.
For flights where bassinets are provided, the basic concept is that on certain planes there are bulkhead rows (the rows with a wall in front of them) that have fold-down shelves for installing removable bassinets for infants to sleep in on long flights. Some airlines may also provide infant ‘seats’ for these locations, which are much the same idea, but just resemble a light car seat, rather than the flat bassinet. Bassinets are provided after the plane is in flight, and collected before landing by the flight attendants.
Bassinets may not be used during takeoff and landing, and generally you will need to remove baby from the bassinet when the seatbelt sign is on.
Seats in the bassinet rows are extremely limited, and there may only be 2-4 available on any given flight. Further, the seats in these rows may be considered ‘premium’ and subject to extra fees. They also may have extra legroom due to there being no seat directly in front of them, and as such, may be in high demand by elite travelers.
Each airline handles the assignment of these seats differently. At the time of booking, I recommend calling the airline to inquire which rows and seats have bassinet capability. It’s obviously easiest if you can get assigned those seats from the start. Some airlines may ‘block’ these rows until the day of the flight, so they can accommodate lap infants and travelers with special needs. If this is the case, ask when these seats are released, and how they can be assigned. It’s a good idea to get to the airport early to check in, since this is likely when you can get a bassinet confirmed. On a few airlines there may be a small charge for the bassinet itself.
American: Bassinets are available on a first come, first serve basis at the gate for travel only on 777-200, 767-300, 777-300 and 787 aircraft. Bassinets are not available in First and Business class cabins.
United: Bassinets are large enough to hold an infant weighing 22 pounds (10 kg) or less. A limited number of bassinets are available for use, free of charge, on international aircraft only. Bassinets are available for customers traveling international segments in United BusinessFirst® or United Polaris business class on select 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft and in United Economy® on 747, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft. Bassinets are not available for customers traveling in United Global First℠, United Polaris first class, United First® or United Business® at this time.
Delta: Onboard bassinets, also known as SkyCots, are available free of charge for passengers assigned to a bulkhead seat on equipped aircraft for some international flights. SkyCots can be requested by contacting Reservations before arriving at the airport and then speaking with the gate agent at the boarding gate, but cannot be guaranteed due to a limit of two SkyCots per aircraft and weight restrictions. Infants permitted to use a SkyCot must weigh 20 pounds or less and be no longer than 26 inches in length.
Other domestic airlines that only fly single aisle aircraft (Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue,Frontier, etc) currently do not provide bassinets.
For more information about International (Non-US) Airlines, see the links below:
British Airways, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Qantas, Japan Airlines, LANTAM, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Air New Zealand, ANA, Eva Air, Air France, KLM, Swiss, Finnair, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar
As you can see from looking at the various policies, the key to obtaining a bassinet seat is to ask, and then ask again, and then again. Annoying, yes, but on a long haul flight, having the option of a place to put baby down to sleep is worth it! It’s baby’s first ‘lie-flat seat!’