Babies and first class: why is this an issue?

Earlier this week, I saw a story about babies and first class air travel posted on Facebook. The Facebook poster asked our own Heather Poole (flight attendant, mother, and new book author!) for her thoughts on the story, and she replied, “I’m fine with babies in first class. Usually they just sleep.” Columnist Brett Snyder is a frequent flier and new dad wondering if he should use miles to upgrade his first flight with the baby. Reading the article and the many comments, I wonder: why is this (or really any story about babies and airplanes) a contentious issue?

Long before I even thought about having children, I thought the same about babies in first class that I thought about anyone in the front of the plane: must be nice for them. Sure, it might be a waste of money to give a premium seat to someone whose legs don’t touch the ground and who can’t enjoy the free Champagne, but it’s the parents’ choice to splurge on the ticket. If the parents are more comfortable, the kid might be happier and thus quiet — a win-win for everyone on the plane. Does the child “deserve” to sit up front? Perhaps not, but airplane seating has never been based on merit. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, a passenger is a passenger, no matter how small.As the veteran of nearly 20 flights with an infant in Europe, the US and trans-Atlantic, I’ve been fortunate to fly a few times with my daughter in business class. While the roomy seats and meals make a 10 hour flight easier with a baby, more valuable is the ability to skip check-in and security lines, board the plane early, and spend layovers in a spacious lounge with a place to heat baby food or change a diaper. Some of those perks used to be standard for all passengers with small children, but have now gone the way of the hot meal in coach. Some airlines still make travel easier for parents: JetBlue is one of the only US-based airlines to allow you to gate-check a stroller of any size and check your first bag free (checking a bag becomes inevitable with a baby). Gulf Air offers free “Sky Nannies” on long-haul flights for young children, and Lufthansa offers a guide service (for a fee) to escort families traveling through their German hubs. Turkish Airlines (my most frequently-used airline while I live in Istanbul) always offers a “baby meal” and blocks off empty seats when possible to give us more room.

I’m also fortunate to have an easy baby who so far (knock on wood) has been very well behaved on every flight. This is in part very good luck, but also due to the fact that I watch her constantly and head off any signs of crying before they start. I’ll hold and feed her as often as it takes, even if it means I rarely rest anymore on a plane. Many of the same people who’ve given me “the look” when boarding with an infant have complimented me after on her behavior. Brett also notes in his article: “Don’t just sit there while your baby screams. Do everything you can to calm him and people will be more understanding.” This is good advice, but does it really need to be said?! I’d never dream of sitting by idly while my child disturbed other people and I’m embarrassed by any other parents who would consider such behavior acceptable. Still, I recognize that even with the most watchful parents, sometimes a cranky baby is unavoidable but I hope that when/if that day comes, my fellow passengers will see how hard I’m trying to make the flight easier for all of us. Better still, if I anticipate a difficult age for my baby to fly, I’ll look into alternative methods of travel (or postpone until an easier time).

If we are going to ban babies from first class, or even segregate them from adults on all flights, why stop there? Why not a separate flight for the armrest-hogs, the obese, the incessant talkers, or the drunk and belligerent? I’d like a plane full of only frequent flyers, who know not to use their cell phone after the door closes, who don’t rush the aisles the minute the wheels touch down, who don’t recline their seats during drink service or bring smelly food (or nail polish) onto the plane. Start flights for only considerate, experienced travelers and you will find me in the front of the plane, with my baby on my lap.

For more about (considerate) travel with a baby, read my past “Knocked Up Abroad” stories here.

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Virgin America improves inflight entertainment system

Part of the reason that Virgin America keeps getting voted the best domestic carrier is because of their Inflight Entertainment (IFE). Called RED, the seatback system lets passengers browse live television, catch up pre-recorded shows, watch movies and participate in a whole host of other fancy activities from ordering food to browsing around a real-time Google map.

To stay on top of the industry though, the airline needs to keep adapting their system, and they’re starting the process this week with the announcement of the integration of the Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect platform into their fleet.
Basically, the BoardConnect platform is a completely new engine on top of which the RED system is going to live, meaning that the IFE will look similar moving forward but will be completely overhauled under the hood. The technology leverages a wireless internet network to maintain and update its data, which means that content will now be updated faster and at lower cost. In turn, this translates to a better experience for the passengers on board, which is always great to hear about.

Hopefully it also means that we can get our boys from Travel Talk churning within the RED channels once more.

BoardConnect technology has already been unrolled on the airplane #nerdbird. More updates are expected on later aircraft.

Lufthansa coupon: Take 40EUR off your next flight

Lufthansa has been issuing a wave of coupon codes geared at American travelers over the last six months, perhaps as a way of driving marketshare straight to their site rather than having users go to an online travel agency. Their most recent coupon is for 40 Euros ($55.64 at time of publication) off of an international flight. The voucher can be redeemed until May 1st and travel must be be before August 1st, 2011.

All that you have to do to scour up your own unique coupon code is venture over to and enter in your info.

As to whether or not Lufthansa’s fares are competitive in your particular market is another question. Our suggestion over at Gadling Labs is to run your fare search on Kayak first and then see if LH is competitive. After that, move back to and proceed with your booking.

Another area in which this coupon might be useful is for flights on the A380. Since Lufthansa just started flying out of JFK with the new double decker this could be a good opportunity to experience your first flight on the new aircraft.

Lufthansa contest offers free tickets on the world’s largest plane

Who wants to take a free flight across the Atlantic on a super-jumbo? Lufthansa is offering such an opportunity to travelers to commemorate the launch of their sixth A380. The new jet will begin flying between New York and Frankfurt on February 28, just in time to whisk you away for a much needed European vacation. The contest winners will clamber aboard the world’s largest plane, for free, and be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour.

The first contest, “A380 SeatTweet,” begins on February 16 and ends on February 19. To register, you need to select a seat on the Virtual 380 on the Lufthansa contest website, and a tweet will post to reserve your spot. Once all 526 virtual seats are filled, the day’s winners will be announced. A number of prizes will be distributed including four A380 prize packages. You can follow Lufthansa USA’s tweets @Lufthansa_USA.

The second contest is a bit more location sensitive and will be open to those in New York City. This contest is titled “Catch the 380 Crew” and involves clues and a bit of good old fashioned sleuthing. Starting February 25, @Lufthansa USA will begin tweeting clues about the contest. After the inaugural flight from Frankfurt to New York’s JFK airport on the 28th of February, 23 “crew members” will descend upon SoHo. Only one will be holding the golden ticket – a pair of business class return tickets to Europe. To successfully game the contest, you will need to pay attention to the clues and locate 10 crew members that will lead you to your destiny.

flickr image via JeremyKunz

Spring Break deal: $100 off any Lufthansa flight from the US

Bored with the usual Spring Break destinations? You could consider checking out 5 tips for alternative destinations from our friends at AOL Travel, or if you’d like to get really creative, head to Europe for a bit. Thanks to a promotion from Lufthansa, you can now book a flight on one of their routes for $100 off.

The promotion requires you to enter your name and email address, and minutes later, you’ll have a unique promo code in your inbox.

The fine print is pretty simple – book and redeem between now and February 21 for travel between now and March 31. Promo codes can only be used on Lufthansa flights (so no codeshares) and only on flights that depart in the US. According to the terms and conditions, the promo can be applied to any ticket code! Promotions like this don’t last long – so snag yourself a code as soon as possible.

Found yourself a flight for a nice price? Share it in the comments section!

[Photo: AFP/Getty Images]