Boarding a plane with a newborn can feel daunting. Here we answer your key questions about flying with a baby.
When can I fly with a newborn?
There is no minimum age for when babies are legally allowed to travel. Airlines set their own recommendations but, generally, most airlines require that babies are at least two weeks old before they travel. Some airlines allow seven-day-old infants on board. The booking policy differs from one airline to another, so it is important to check directly with the airlines (Which?, 2018a).
I have a different surname to my child: is this a problem?
Irritatingly it can be, yes. You might need to prove that you are related and that you can take them out of the country. You might need a signed letter from your child’s other parent or a birth certificate. See official travel advice for more details (The Telegraph, 2017).
Will my baby or toddler need their own ticket?
Even though they’ll be sharing a seat with you, they will still need a ticket of their own. Book your seats as soon as you get your tickets – if you can – so that you get the ones that make you most comfortable. A lot of parents like aisle seats so they can get up easily (Which?, 2018a).
Will my baby or toddler travel for free?
Sometimes children younger than two years do fly for free, but not always. Most airlines charge a percentage of the adult fare and some airlines charge a flat fee (Which?, 2018a).
Does my child gets a baggage allowance?
Check with your airline if your baby gets a baggage allowance for all of those nappies and tiny socks they need as each one is different. The baggage allowance can be 5kg to 10 kg over for items such as a car seat or travel cot. If not, you might have to splash out for extra luggage allowance (Which?, 2018a).
Most airlines realise a baby doesn’t travel light but some don’t. In this case, you might have to sacrifice your hand luggage in favour of a well-stocked changing bag. Thankfully, most airlines are more generous and do allow a baby’s changing bag in addition to your usual hand luggage.
Can I take baby formula on a plane?
Yes. You can take as much formula as you need when you fly and airline staff can provide boiling water. Alternatively, you can order ready-made formula to pick up at the airport chemist (Flying with a baby, 2018a).
Security will let you take water for bottles/made-up bottles through too though they might get you to test it yourself first. Make sure you have plenty of milk in case your child wants more too. Flying can make them thirsty (Fit for travel, 2018; Flying with a Baby 2018a).
How will I sterilise bottles on a plane?
There are travel bottle sterilisers on the market. Alternatively, you can buy cold-water steriliser bags or disposable pre-sterilised bottles (Which?, 2018b).
Can I breastfeed on plane?
Yes, absolutely. Feel free to breastfeed your baby when you need too. The UK’s Equality Act 2010 says that ‘A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age’ (British Chambers of Commerce, 2010). But some international airlines have particular policies on breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can also be helpful during a plane journey if your baby is in pain, like their ears popping during take-off or landing, or just needs comforting (Well, 2016; Flying with a baby, 2018d).
But be aware that during landing and take-off, babies need to be secured using an extension lap belt (Well, 2016). Think about what you might wear to make breastfeeding as easy as possible. And remember to stay hydrated during the flight if you are breastfeeding (Well, 2016).
Where will my baby sleep on a plane?
On long-haul flights, you can request a bassinet/sky cot for your baby to sleep in. You’ll need to book a bulkhead seat (a row with no other seats in front) to get those though. Contact the airline as soon as you know you’re travelling to see if you can reserve one (Flying with a baby, 2018b).
Another tip: travelling at night can help make sleep more likely. Alternatively, you can arrange to bring a baby car seat with you (Flying with a baby, 2018b).
How will I keep my baby or toddler entertained while we travel?
Lots of airports have kids’ areas to entertain children and buggies you can use. When you’re on the plane, it’s about how you pack: toys, books and maybe an iPad for older children to watch their favourite shows. You might find child friendly entertainment available on the plane but this will depend on the airline (Flying with a baby, 2017a; Flying with a baby, 2018c).
Will I have to check my buggy in?
Most airlines now let you keep your pushchair until you get to the boarding gate, which is super handy (Which?, 2018c).
Will my baby or toddler have their own seat when we fly?
Unless you pay for them to have an extra seat, your baby will sit on your lap until they’re two years old (Which?, 2018a).
Can I take our car seat on the plane so I can use it at the other end?
Different airlines have different policies on allowing car seats and the requirements for car seats. It’s better to check with individual airlines. Usually you have to buy a seat if you want to use a car seat on the plane (Flying with a baby, 2017b).
What will I do if my baby cries on the plane?
First, your baby is likely to find the flight soothing so hopefully there are no worries over tears (Well, 2016; Flying with a baby, 2018d). But the best way to stop your baby crying during take-off or landing (when their ears may pop or hurt) is to feed them, from the breast or from a bottle (Well, 2016). As long as the airline doesn’t require your baby to be in an air baby travel cot or bassinet, you’re good to go.
Try to find out why your baby is crying – they may be tired, hungry or in some kind of discomfort. Same strategies that you use at home while trying to soothe your crying baby, can work in the plane too.
As for the rest of the flight, it might so happens that there isn’t much you can do other than the usual feeding, dummy, walking up and down. If they do cry then most people – and ignore the minority who don’t fit into this camp – will just be sympathetic and may even try to help. You just need to focus all your attention on meeting your baby’s needs and try to do this as quickly as you can (TPG, 2018).
This page was last reviewed in June 2018.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
British Chambers of Commerce. (2010) Equality act 2010: what do I need to know? quick-start guide for businesses who sell goods and services. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/85008/business-quickstart.pdf [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Fit for travel. (2018) Breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Available at: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/general-travel-health-advice/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding.aspx [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Flying with a baby. (2017a) Child amenities and entertainment available on board your flight. Available at: https://www.flyingwithababy.com/baby-and-child-amenitiesentertainment-available-on-board-your-flight/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Flying with a baby. (2017b) Car seats and child restraint devices on an airplane. Available at: https://www.flyingwithababy.com/car-seats-child-restraint-devices-crd-on-an-airplane/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Flying with a baby. (2018a) How to order baby milk and baby supplies from Boots at UK airports. Available at: https://www.flyingwithababy.com/how-to-order-baby-milk-and-baby-supplies-from-boots-at-uk-airports/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Flying with a baby. (2018b) Essential airline bassinet seat information/comparison chart. Available at: https://www.flyingwithababy.com/essential-airline-bassinet-information-chart/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Flying with a baby. (2018c) Tips for flying with a toddler. Available at: https://www.flyingwithababy.com/tips-for-flying-with-a-toddler/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Flying with a baby. (2018d) Breastfeeding on a plane – airline breastfeeding policies. Available at: https://www.flyingwithababy.com/airline-breastfeeding-policies-and-tips/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
The Telegraph. (2017) How to travel abroad with a child whose surname is different from yours. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/family-holidays/how-to-travel-abroad-with-a-child-with-a-different-surname/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
TPG. (2018) Don’t be a cry-baby: What to do when babies cry on a plane. Available at: https://thepointsguy.com/guides/travel-etiquette-when-babies-cry-on-planes/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Well. (2016) Fear of crying. The problem of babies and airplanes. Available at: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/11/fear-of-crying-the-problem-of-babies-and-airplanes/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Which? (2018a) What are my rights when flying with a baby? Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-are-my-rights-when-flying-with-a-baby [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Which? (2018b) Baby products to take on holiday. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/travelling-with-children/article/travelling-with-children/baby-products-to-take-on-holiday [Accessed 6th June 2018]
Which? (2018c) Pushchairs on planes: what you need to know. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/07/pushchairs-on-planes-what-you-need-to-know-446682/ [Accessed 6th June 2018]