This year I was excited to discover that Air France had the most economical pricing for our family to fly to Paris. When I've flown with Air France in the past, they've had excellent service and very decent meals, unlike other airlines I've flown that seem to cut costs wherever possible.
On this trip, our fourth child is just four months old, so I was curious how the bassinet option would work out for us. With Air France, you can pay upfront to reserve a seat behind a bassinet (currently an additional $29/person), or you can wait until 50 hours before the flight, when anyone flying with an infant will automatically be assigned to a bassinet seat for free (if there are any remaining and assuming you have purchased the infant ticket as required. Currently an infant ticket is typically around $100 for an international flight).
The bassinet seating area is bulkhead seating--the center row behind a flight attendant service area. This means that you face the center wall rather than having seats in front of you. The upside of this is more leg room; the downside is that you are required to stow your personal items in an overhead bin rather than under your seat. I was relieved that our seats had individual screens that folded out on a mechanical arm, so my children could still enjoy some films or game options.
Before takeoff, a flight attendant brought a safety belt for our baby; it slides onto the adult's safety belt and snaps around baby's waist. I was instructed to keep baby seated on my lap and keep him facing forward during the takeoff. This didn't make breastfeeding easy (which is commonly recommended during takeoff to help ease pressure on the eardrums) but the safety precaution makes sense.
Once we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendant installed the bassinet. I'd been told not to expect much since the bassinet is basically just a box that attaches to the wall, but honestly I was delighted. It is so nice to be able to put down your sleeping infant and to be hands free for a while! The bassinet fits infants up to 27" long (perhaps up to 6 months old?) and weighing less than 22 pounds/10 kg. I wouldn't recommend it for babies who can sit up, but it was perfect for our four month old.
The bassinet is fairly shallow and I was required to zip up the center flaps so that baby couldn't be jolted out. This was reassuring, though I was asked to take out the baby whenever we hit a small bit of turbulence. Still, a baby bed is a blessing on an overnight flight as ours was.
The bassinet made it impossible for my son next to me to pull out his screen all the way, but he was still able to use the screen and he didn't seem to mind. Air France also brought each child a little zippered case with travel activities, colored pencils, and other trinkets, to their delight!
The children's meals were brought out before the adults, which gave me a chance to help the youngest child open the containers and cutlery. Their main course was pasta, broccoli, tiny meatballs, and cheese, along with a side of cheese, bread, salad, chocolate pudding and a small Twix bar, and a juice box. It isn't what I would normally choose for my children (we lean more towards dairy-free and whole foods) but it was a nice provision for them.
After the meals and a fair amount of screen time (including some charming short French films of magic tricks), my children slept several hours of our 8 hour flight from Detroit. What really helped was their Pillow Pets. I am not a fan of licensed toys but these were given to us when our kids were younger and it was really helpful for each child to have a large supportive pillow on the flight. I even appreciated the pillow's lap or side comfort for the times when I was holding our baby.
Overall, the Air France flight attendants were extremely helpful and really went out of their way to meet any needs we had. I had a flight attendant open a food item for me while I was holding my baby; later, another located an additional blanket for my kids and I even though he thought they had all been distributed. He even found my bag and rolled it out to me after I accidentally walked past the overhead bin where it was stored. I was really grateful for such a good flight and my husband and I are grateful to know that the flight attendants will be supportive when I need to fly home with four children by myself this fall.
What was the best flight experience you've had? Do you enjoy taking flights as a family?