The best airlines for travelling with kids

When you’re travelling with children, even the smallest things — like priority boarding — can have a huge impact on your experience. If you’re planning a holiday anytime soon, our rank and explanation of different domestic and international airlines will help you work out the best flight to pick for your family!

Mom and child flying on airplane

1

Emirates

Emirates logo

Baggage allowance: One bulky item free of charge, plus one extra piece of checked luggage and one additional carry-on bag.

Cost: Kids under 2 fly for 10 per cent of the adult fare, while children aged 2-11 pay a fare of 50-75 per cent.

Budget: Low/affordable to medium. A return fare between Brisbane and Auckland sells from as little as $350, making Emirates comparable with budget carriers.

Bulky items in baggage allowances refer to:

  • Strollers or pushers
  • Porta-cots and bedding
  • Infant car seats
  • Portable high-chairs

Details: Travelling with children can actually become a fun experience with Emirates, who go out of their way to ensure you and your kids enjoy the trip. From personalised photos taken at your child’s seat — they are processed mid-flight and presented to your little one just before disembarking — to kids’ activity packs, toys, blankets and even specially-prepared baby food, every detail is taken care of.

Emirates also offers a generous baggage allowance — infant baggage allowances include one free piece of checked luggage, up to 10 kilograms, and one extra piece of cabin baggage for infant food, up to 5 kilograms — and priority boarding for passengers travelling with small children. And, as a full-service airline, all meals and drinks are included for the whole family. If you’re going to fly with kids, this is the way to do it! Note that Emirates does not travel domestically within Australia, but they can transport you to New Zealand or destinations further afield.

Enjoy couple time when travelling with kids >>

2

Qantas

Qantas logo

Baggage allowance: Two bulky items (one car seat and one pram) free of charge per child, plus one additional carry-on item.

Cost: Kids under 2 fly for free on domestic flights; the full adult charge is applicable thereafter. On long-haul flights, a fare of 10 per cent of the full fare is applicable for infants and a fare of 50-75 per cent of the full fare is applicable for children aged 2-11.

Budget: Medium to high. A return fare between Brisbane and Auckland sells from around $600.

Details: As Australia’s primary full-service airline, Qantas is one of the most pleasant to fly when you’re travelling with children. It’s the little details that make the difference; for instance, you can continue using a stroller right up until you board the plane.

“To make your time on the ground easier, most mainline Australian ports have strollers available for you to use once you have checked in your own personal stroller. Staff will be on hand at the boarding gate ready to collect the stroller and to further assist you with pre-boarding the aircraft,” Qantas says.

Food and nappies required for infants during the flight may be carried — free of charge — in addition to the accompanying adult’s carry-on baggage allowance, and complimentary drinks, snacks and/or meals are provided. As an extra bonus, families with young children also get to board ahead of the general flight. You may pay a higher ticket price for these services, but couples with kids will argue that it’s worth it!

3

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia logo

Baggage allowance: As many bulky items as required free of charge (no restrictions are officially listed, although, in practice, this is generally limited to two pieces).

Cost: Infants under 2 years fly free on domestic flights, and pay 10 per cent of the full fare for international flights. Children over 2 pay 50-100 per cent of an adult fare, depending on the destination. You can also purchase a seat for your infant for extra comfort at a cost of 75-100 per cent of the full fare.

Budget: Low/affordable to medium.

Details: Virgin Australia has come a long way since its early no-frills days. Depending on whether you are flying domestically or internationally, most economy fares include meals and snacks, otherwise you can purchase them for a small outlay — tea, coffee and water is free on all flights — and you can pre-purchase as much luggage as you need. Virgin also offers a generous allowance for bulky items, like car seats, cots and prams.

The downside for family travellers is that on occasion on international flights, Virgin operates smaller planes (depending on the route), which means no partitions throughout the aircraft and, importantly, no bassinets. Holding your baby in your arms for a three-and-a-half hour flight to New Zealand is no fun in anyone’s books! Therefore, when travelling internationally, keep in mind that this trip pales in comparison to the comfort and luxury of Emirates.

4

Jetstar

Jetstar logo

Baggage allowance: One bulky item free of charge.

Cost: Kids under 2 fly free on domestic and trans-Tasman services; the full fare is applicable for children thereafter. An infant fare of around 10 per cent applies on long-haul flights.

Travel tip:? To request a bassinet on your international flight, call ahead to reserve it as early as possible. There are limits on how many are available on each flight.

Budget: Low/affordable.

Details: Small things can impact your experience — for instance, families don’t get priority boarding unless you’ve specifically paid for it — but it’s a no-frills airline with no-frills prices, so you get what you pay for. Unlike their parent airline Qantas, Jetstar only allows one bulky piece per child, although they do allow infants to fly free domestically; on international journeys, a small infant fare is payable at the time of booking. They also allow you to purchase a seat and pop your little one in your own infant car seat during the flight, which can be handy.

“Let us know in advance if you are planning to use an Australian infant car seat in-flight,” Jetstar says. “There are limits on how many we can have on each flight. The car seat does not impact your carry-on baggage allowance.”

Entertain your kids on a plane >>

5

Tigerair

Tigerair logo


Baggage allowance: One bulky item free of charge.

Cost: $30 charge for infants under 2 years of age; full charge thereafter.

Budget: Low/affordable.

Details: Tigerair ranks lowest on our list, as the budget airline offers the stingiest baggage allowance for kids — and they also slug you a minimum $30 fee to have your baby strapped to your lap, even on a swift domestic flight between Sydney and Brisbane.

“Children are not entitled to free baggage allowance, however, we do understand that travelling with children does need you to sometimes carry a little extra,” they confirm. “We are more than happy to accept one item (stroller, porta-cot, etc.) free of charge for children between 2 and 6 years of age.”

On the plus side, in exchange for these lower levels of comfort, you’ll generally pay less for your fare.

Keep in mind

Our top-five list covers the major airlines that you’re most likely to travel with, either within Australia or on short-haul overseas trips. The list reflects the opinions of the author and in no way is sponsored by any airline. Note that fare guides don’t include taxes, surcharges and additional fees, and infant fares refer to babies travelling on your seat.

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