In general, I do not think much about my airplane experience each time I fly. It is a means to an end. I usually fly United or US Airways just because they have a non-stop from Seattle to Philadelphia, and my company flies to Asia on United. All of my miles are with them. I had never flown Cathay Pacific Airlines until Dek and I took a morning flight from Hong Kong to Osaka this past weekend to meet up with Mike for a week of wandering around Kyoto before heading home.
Just before my flight, blogger mom Pit Stop For Kids, posted her top 5 airlines for traveling families. Her sister had a horrible experience flying solo cross country with her two small children, and Pit Stop For Kids wanted to make sure people were aware that there are airlines out there who recognize that traveling with kids can be challenging, but is also necessary, and a good attitude from the crew makes all the difference in everyone’s experience.
From her list, I can only attest to my experience flying on Southwest and Alaska without kids, but both experience were quite enjoyable. I will be flying Southwest later this summer with Dek, so I’ll be able to get a better sense then. I do know that Southwest used to offer pre-boarding to families, something United has stopped doing, but really is essential when traveling with small people.
I would like to add Cathay Pacific to the list of airlines that know how to treat families right. From start to finish, the ground crew and flight crew were helpful in every way. When I entered the Hong Kong airport I was directed to the correct area for Cathay. I was about to get in a horribly long line, when I noticed a lane that said Seniors, Infants and Disabled passenger check in.
Are you kidding me? I get my own check in lane! Family security lines I am used to. Seattle has a family lane, but a family check in line was a first. The woman checking us in didn’t blink an eye when I checked 3 bags. I wasn’t charged a dime in fact, and only one of them was baby gear (a travel crib). She also put the stroller gate check tag on Dek’s stroller for me and handed me a large plastic bag to put the stroller in once we were ready to get on the plane.
Security was a breeze in the Hong Kong International airport. You don’t have to take your liquids out, you just have to have them all in one bag. I also didn’t need to take Dek out of his stroller to roll him through the metal detector, although I didn’t realize that before I had already taken him out. Oh well.
The woman who had checked me in had also given me detailed instructions on how to get to my gate. It was a bit of a hike, she was very apologetic, but there was a tram and she wanted to make sure I knew how to get there so I didn’t try to walk the whole way. Looking back, I’m not even sure I could have walked there even if I had wanted to.
I didn’t get a seat when my ticket was booked. I had bought a multi-stop ticket through Travelocity.com so I could fly United for the bulk of our journey (I get Economy Plus seats for free now. Those 5 inches make a huge difference), but my flight to Osaka was through Japan Airlines, operated by Cathay Pacific. I think that is probably the only way I could have flown on Cathay. Generally their ticket prices are more expensive than other airlines. I had tried in vain to get a seat assignment before we left and once we were on our way, but to no avail. When the check-in agent gave me our tickets, I asked her if it was an aisle seat and she assured me it was.
Little did I know how great that aisle seat would be. We were in the bulk head section. I have flown many times with Dek and never once has the airline given us bulk head, even on international flights. Isn’t that what bulk head is supposed to be reserved for? People with kids who need a little extra space and also to hang the baby bassinets? I guess not, at least not according to United.
Before take off Dek was also given a Disney activity pack to keep him entertained. There was a puzzle, stickers, coloring book, colored pencils and a few other things I’m still trying to figure out. I was also asked if I needed a pillow or blankets several times to make me more comfortable. When I said yes to a pillow, they came back with two. One for my back and one for Dek to lean on while he was seated in my lap.
The airline also offered child seatbelts. I’m not sure how safe these actually are, but it entertained Dek for a bit at least. Basically it’s a seatbelt that loops onto the adult belt. You strap on your seatbelt and then sit your child in your lap and wrap the child seat belt around them. This way you are both connected.
As the drink cart came by, I asked the flight attendant if I could have some milk in Dek’s sippy cup. She did not have any on hand, but she took his cup and went back to the galley to grab some. It came back on a little tray. How luxurious (can you tell I’m not used to being treated like a person by airlines yet?)
When we landed, I was asked if I needed help out with my bags and when we off the plane my stroller was waiting for me and an attendant opened it up and helped me get Dek strapped in. God bless the people of Cathay Pacific. If it were not for them, I would have been so much more frazzled when I finally saw Mike after 2 weeks of separation. Instead it was a joyous reunion.
Why Cathay Pacific with Kids is amazing:
- Infant Check In Lane
- Priority Seating
- Helpful ground and in-flight crew
- Disney activity pack
- Assistance offered without having to ask
- Milk on a silver platter (well, a tray anyway)
- Help with strollers and bags