When flying with a baby, an airplane bassinet sounds ideal for long flights. The baby gets to lie somewhere flat where they are more likely to get a good bit of rest. And most importantly, you don’t have to hold Baby for the entire flight.
With that being said there are many things to know before using an airline’s bassinet.
Things we will cover in this blog include but are not limited to:
What is an airline bassinet and is it safe?
Do bassinets cost extra?
How do you book an airplane bassinet?
Which flights have bassinets for infants?
What is an Airplane Bassinet?
A bassinet (sometimes referred to as a sky cot) is a small bed that can be attached to the plane, often the bulkhead wall, in front of a passenger seat. Depending on the airline and aircraft there may be different styles and sizes, as well as varying weight, length, and age limitations.
Different airlines have different policies regarding booking and/or using bassinets (see below). However, most will suggest they are for infants that are six-months-old or younger, have a weight limit of under 20lbs, and for safety reasons can only be used for babies who are not yet able to sit upright unassisted.
Whether the flight attendant enforces said policy is another story entirely. On our most recent flight, our 12 month old was under the weight limit but over the height requirement. Neither of these things were checked though and we were given the bassinet without issue.
Is it Safe to Use an Airplane Bassinet?
Without question, the safest place for a baby to sit on an airplane is in their own seat, in an FAA-approved car seat. But, this is not a legal requirement and on most airplanes children under 2 years old can fly for free or for a small service fee if they fly as a lap infant.
An airplane bassinet is not any safer than your lap or arms but is not unsafe under most flying conditions.
Having a baby on your lap for a long flight can definitely become tiresome. Flying with a newborn or young infant is stressful enough as it is, so having a space where baby (and your arms!) can rest may definitely be welcomed.
During take-off, taxi, landing, and during bouts of turbulence when the seat belt sign is turned on, you must take your baby out of the bassinet and hold them in your arms. Most recommend that baby’s feet are towards the aisle, probably so flight attendants can see baby’s face when walking past and to prevent baby’s head from being knocked if someone stumbles in the aisle.
Safety restraints on bassinets - Most bassinets do not have any safety restraints beyond a velcro strap. That’s the main reason they are not advised for older babies who can sit up or pull up.
Occasionally you may luck out though. The bassinet on our flight with Lufthansa was great and had a thick clipped belt for baby. This kept her in place even as an active baby who could have normally pulled herself up.
Age and Weight Limits
There is no standardized bassinet across the board, so options may vary from one airline to the next. In general, bassinets are quite small and cozy and will best accommodate babies from a newborn stage up to 1 year old, obviously depending on the size of the child and what each airlines restrictions are. In my research, I have seen age limits stated on airline websites from 0-18 months with a maximum weight anywhere from 15-25 pounds.
How to Book an Airplane Bassinet
On any given flight, there is only a limited number of bassinets available. Bassinets are often free but sometimes you must pay extra to secure the bulkhead.
Many US and Canadian airlines do not allow you to book the bassinet seats in advance but rather offer them on a first come first serve basis. In this case, it is very important to arrive at the airport and your gate as early as possible.
Prior to booking, familiarize yourself with the policies of the airlines you will likely fly on. And the earlier you book your flights, the better.
If you’re booking and reserving several months out, follow up with your airline in the weeks and days leading up to your trip. Yes, this means more time on hold and on the phone but it is absolutely worth it for peace of mind.
Travel Agents - If you’re booking using a travel agent, be sure that your agent is familiar with the process of securing an airplane bassinet and remind them of the importance of having one. You are putting the responsibility of this in someone else’s hands so make sure they confirm that they have made your request.
Airline - If you’re booking directly on the airline’s website, a few allow you to request the bassinet online but if not you will need to call them immediately after making your reservations to reserve your seats and the bassinet. Be sure to have all your documentation handy, your reservation and confirmation numbers, as well as paper and a pen to jot down important details.
Booking flights using Kayak, Expedia, or something similar means you will have to follow the above and call the airlines directly. Keep in mind your flights may not all be with the same airline. Pay special attention to connections and if the flights you’ve chosen are operating as a codeshare. This means partner airlines are booking seats on other airlines’ aircraft and so you may need to call the airline that is operating your flight not the one on whose website you booked.
Age & Weight Limits
There is no standard bassinet size across the board, so options may vary from one airline to the next. In general, bassinets are quite small and cozy and will best accommodate babies from a newborn stage up to one year old, obviously depending on the size of the child and what each airlines restrictions are. In my research, I have seen age limits stated on airline websites from 0-18 months with a maximum weight anywhere from 15-25 pounds.
Boarding & What to Expect
Sometimes the bassinets are already set up when you board however most of the time the flight attendants distribute them after take off.
Most Airlines will require that you hold Baby for taxi, take off, and landing. They will also ask for you to remove from the bassinet and hold Baby during any bouts of intense turbulence in flight.
Do I Need to Use an Airplane Bassinet Cover or Sheets?
Much like other parts of the plane, I always think it's safest to give the bassinet a wipe down before putting your baby in it. Additionally, adding your own bassinet or pack n play sheet to lay baby on will also create an additional germ barrier and create a comfier space to sleep.
Since, bulkheads are pretty busy places on a plane. Keeping stimulation to a minimum is key to help babies and toddlers sleep on planes. The CoziGo travel cover (use code TRAVELWITHBABIES for $10 off) was created for this very purpose. We didn't use one for our first international flight with baby but I so wish we had. There was so much light pollution from other people's screens and noises, understandably. The cover would have helped baby sleep for multiple hours instead of just one.
Which Airlines Offer Bassinets for Infants?
Not all airlines offer bassinets, and not all airlines’ policies on booking and using an airplane bassinet are the same. Below is a list of bassinet policies for US airlines (and a few others).
Airlines That Do Not Offer a Bassinet
If you’d like to see another airline added to this list, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Using the links on this page may provide Traveling with Babies with a small commission for qualifying purchases.
(Last Updated: 5/16/2022)