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My husband and I will be escorting our daughter to Britain in
mid-September to start her first term at university. Ideally, we
would either get a nonstop flight from San Francisco to London
or take a few days' stopover in New York, returning in late
September or early October. I've been checking around the Web
and, given rising fuel prices, it seems like a good idea to book
early. Since this trip is slightly complicated, requiring two
round-trips tickets, plus a one-way, and a possible stopover, and
we want to keep expenses down, would we be better off booking
through a travel agent? If so, does anyone know of a
knowledgeable agent in the Berkeley area?
(Any other ideas about good airlines, websites, etc., would also
I would think you would be best to do this all online. I'm not even sure
agency would help you anymore - they no longer get commission from the
so it's really not worth their while and would likely charge you a fee. I
fly home to
the UK frequently and always buy tickets on united.com or ba.com. Their
are super easy to navigate and if your dates are slightly flexible you can
see at a
glance what days are cheaper. You can even select the seats you want.
''multicity trip'' if you want to book through New York. United, British
Virgin are the only carriers that fly SFO- London direct. I've never been
able to beat
the prices I get at united.com and ba.com by using expedia, travelocity or
websites. One other thing - it may be cheaper just to book 3 round trip
if you daughter isn't using the second half of hers. You often have to
buy half of a
full fare ticket if you want a one way. Even better, if she is due to
come home within
a year you could book her return for some random date next summer because
you have used the outbound part of your ticket you can switch to a
inbound flight without penalty if they have room. Even if she is not
returning it is nice to have the option to. Hope this helps - best of
luck to your
daughter - she is going to have a great time!
My husband and I are planning to take our almost two-year-old
daughter to the Philippines this summer. We are trying to weigh
costs v. quality of flight. Any recommendations for child
friendly airlines on long flights? Our options for airlines are
Eva Air, Philippine Airlines, China Airlines, Northwest, Korean
Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Thanks in advance,
We flew home from China in October with a 1-year-old and
5-year-old, on Cathay Pacific, and can't recommend them highly
enough. Our kids got lots of special attention Our 5-year-old
got a backpack full of entertaining books, crayons, etc. For the
baby we got a kit of diapers and wipes and lotions etc., and
enough babyfood & juices to last us a month! Our seats had their
own built-in screens. The service and the food were the best we
have ever had--everyone was unfailingly friendly and genuinely
warm toward the kids.
We have flown back and forth to Asia many times with kids.
We have also done inter-Asia flights with children. Nothing
beats the service on a foreign carrier. Cathay Pacific (Hong
Kong based) is wonderful. Absolutely classy staff and good
food. Comfortable seats . The best bet is pobably EVA
(Taiwan based) airlines . They have an upgraded econ
class that is fabulous (lots of room) and a good price. They
both give gifts to the kiddies. China Airlines is what my
husband flies for business to Asia b/c they have a good
schedule, he never has anything much to say about it. Their
industry rep is so so. The same can be said for Korean
airlines. The word is that the pilots are not the best. That
was about five years ago. We most recently flew EVA to
Taiwan with three kids and it was fine. No problems at all.
I took my infant daughter to Malaysia twice using both China
Air and Korean Ailines to save on cost. China Air added an
extra leg to the trip without telling us so we had to land and
take off six times. One of the worst things on flights for
young children is take off and landing because of the ear
pressure, so it was not a very positive experience. On the way
home, a leg of the flight was delayed and they put us up in a
flee-ridden hotel in Taiwan, where my daughter was bitten
badly. Korean airlines had terrible service, the attendants
seemed disinterested and even grumpy at times. I don't know
about the other airlines, but I've heard Singapore Airlines has
great service if you can afford it. Of course, the flight was
only a small part of the experience and my memories are more of
my time there than the flights.
As far as being treated like royalty, my vote for the best airline around
is Alaska Airlines. They are kind, courteous, seem to love kids, and have
excellent food. Their seats are also more comfortable.
Has anyone travelled on ATA Airlines? Where are they based? Their
current ads tout very low prices to the east coast ($146 RT to NYC), but
I worry about their safety.
I took ATA for a last minute trip to Chicago last year. Although I did not
I certainly felt uncomfortable. The seats were very close together and the
aisles were very
small. I brought my husband and three-month-old daughter along, and spent
much of my
time in the aisle with at least 10 other parents at any one time trying to
calm my upset child.
I had never seen so many children on one plane, and that was both coming
and going. It did
help with the camaraderie though.
Also, ATA is notorious for overbooking, so it was touch and go as to
whether we were
going to get on the plane in Chicago to return home. I truly thought
several people were
going to resort to violence with the airline workers.
I will NEVER fly that airline again.
I fly ATA back and forth to Chicago all the time because it is direct and
less expensive. I have always had great service.
With ATA - you're on vacation!
I have no idea about their saftey record but my dad flys ATA whenever he
visits from the East Coast and he said it was a very pleasent experience.
They fly to tropical destinations mostly. Can't beat the price.
We are going to Europe in early March with our daughter, who
will just be turning 2 1/2. We are thinking about buying
tickets with British Airways - does anyone have input re how
B.A. is as an airline to travel on with a toddler?
Any thoughts/input would be very appreciated.
I flew British Airways to and from London with my then 16 month
old. On both flights the flight attendants were nice and
helpful, however, some of the passengers weren't so nice. As
one of the attendants said, ''Don't worry about them, take care
of your baby, you will never see these people again.'' I have
followed that travel advice ever since. Remember, airline
travel can be painful but it is time limited. The flight ends
and you can start having fun! Good luck.
We've had great flights with British Air and not so great
flights. On the great ones, we had friendly attendants who
handed out bags to the kids with little toys and game books to
while away the time. The better flights were some time ago,
when our daughter was young, so I don't if we were just lucky
travelling with a toddler or if their service has gone down in
quality. That said, I can recommend both Continental and Virgin
Atlantic for flights to Europe based on more recent travel.
We flew BA last year with a one-and-a-half-year-old. They were
not particularly accommodating, but all of the seats have
individual TV displays for movies that is entertaining for the
kids. Unfortunately, the bulkheads are usually taken by people
with infants because BA provides free bassinets.
From: Judy (9/98)
Re: The note about United's new policy about children flying alone:
Northwest Airlines does the same
thing -- I recently paid an additional $60.00 for a one-way trip for my
9-year old to fly from Canada (the 60.00 was in US$, too - ouch!, even tho
the trip originated in Canada) The fee had recently been half that. There
was one plane change, and she did need to go to the minor's lounge due to a
flight delay. The airline also called to let me know about the delay and to
report that she was in the lounge. So I suppose I received something for my
Our long-awaited, relaxing family vacation was off to a bad start (and
conclusion) by using Sun Trips. On both our flights there were not enough
headphones to go around, so the films were broadcast over the loudspeakers!
Aside from not being able to sleep, the worst part was losing all
"parental discretion" about movie subject matter! The first flight began
to broadcast "Grumpy Old Men," which started off with the two lead
characters calling each other names ("Ass Wipe" comes to mind), exactly the
kind of thing we are trying to teach our daughter not to do. Fortunately
the head stewardess was sensitive to this and stopped the movie. However,
on our trip back we were forced to listen to "Blues Brothers 2000," which
has several scenes that take place in a strip joint, and other scenes where
people are shooting at one another, among other things. Unfortunately, the
head steward was too busy to talk to us until about 45 minutes into the
movie and refused to turn off the movie since it would be unfair to the
people who had been watching it that long! He offered us headphones to
listen to their classical station, but obviously there is no way you can
make a 4 year old do that. At least she could not SEE the movie; but we
were extremely uncomfortable and it did take a lot of effort to keep her
occupied and distracted for much of the film. We wrote a letter to Sun
Trips and have not (yet?) heard a response, though we did get one from the
FAA - they have a consumer complaint department (basically saying they
don't control policies about films). So, another way that parents can
register their complaints about airline policies is to contact the FAA's
consumer affairs/complaint department.
Does anyone have any experience flying on Thai Airways? They seem to have
the best fares for flying to Japan right now, but I've never heard of them. Any
feedback, positive or negative, would be greatly appreciated.
I've flown on Thai many times and would not hesitate to do so
again. Bear in mind, however, that you have to fly down to LAX to
catch their trans-Pacific flights, which pass right back over
Northern California en route to Japan. That makes the journey
significantly longer, and connecting at LAX can be a hassle.
Unless you're getting a significantly better deal from Thai, I
recommend choosing a carrier that goes nonstop from SFO.
BTW, if you do go with Thai, remember that they belong to the
Star Alliance, so you can get frequent flyer miles on United, US
Airways or any other carrier that belongs to the group.
Hi, I flew Thai airways a few years ago, from Hong Kong to Singapore, and it
was great - terrific service, even in coach! Much better than any American
airline when it came to service. And other moms I know of in Asia say that Thai
Airways flight attendants are very helpful when you're travelling with young
kids - as if they really seem to enjoy having children on their flight! Amazing!
I have used Thai Airways for years. The service is great. When I
used to organize ecotours to Asia, they were my main airline.
Sometimes you can find consolidators who will even sell Thai
tickets for less. You might google Govind Shahi, owner of
Himalayan Treasures and Tours, from whom I used to get
consolidator tickets. Govind's contact information:
3596 Ponderosa Trail, Pinole, CA 94564; phone 800/223-1813
i have flown thai airlines several times and they are
fantastic. clean, friendly, and efficient. did i mention
friendly? the flight attendants were typical of so many thai
people - absolutely charming.
We flew on Thai Airways and found it to be quite nice...
Definitely the most comfortable 'coach' flight we've ever
taken. The staff was especially warm and the food was really
good. We flew from LA to Bangkok, and then from Bangkok to
Kathmandu. I definitely would fly with them again!
From: Emily (9/98)
Just in the interest of another story: I have a parent child (teenager)
travel story in which the United agents were heroes (and TWA employees the
villains). This long involved story is a lesson in never trying to make
parallel travel plans that involve connections. In short form, when I
missed my connection back to SF (from Paris), I tried to get someone at TWA
to help me get word to my daughter who was flying from Paris via Air France
to NY, then on United to SF. TWA wanted me to fly to St. Louis, stay
overnight, then go on to SF. Meanwhile my daughter, age 17, would have
arrived in SF at midnight and I wouldn't be there. You figure you might
want to discuss alternative plans. But no luck and no help: either
getting me to SF that evening OR getting a message to my daughter.
I finally left the TWA terminal, walked to the next building, asked someone
at the United counter to help me reach my daughter (you can't get out to
the gates without a ticket), and in five minutes, the manager got me a
ticket on my daughter's flight. She even APOLOGIZED because she couldn't
seat us closer than two rows! And I had a TWA consolidator's ticket, so I
don't even think United got anything for it. The flight was also
completely packed, I don't know how they found a seat.
Anyway, as a result, I'm a big United fan. I'm not even going to complain
anymore about the unaccompanied minor fees I've paid recently. Maybe the
United employees have more leeway to bend rules, so you have to be sure to
ask if you need something special. (The Air France person was helpful,
too, checking to see if my daughter had left customs.)
From: Marco (9/98)
I have also experienced the inability to preboard on United with my infant
at least twice in the last year. Since I was already aware of their policy,
I specially requested that they allow us to board ahead along with those
who need extra help in getting settled. The answer was a firm "No", they do
not make exceptions in deference to their business flyers. This probably
happened about 3-4 different times (different legs, flights). On the
positive side, United, like all the airlines I've flown, was helpful in
attempting to get us a convenient seat for the flight. (At the ticket and
check-in gates that is - they were *horrible* over the phone when I called
shorty before my flight.) This still seems to be standard.
From: Maria (9/98)
There have been negative posts in the last two digests about United Airlines
-- just to be balanced, it seems only fair for me to mention that I had a very
positive experience with them in the last two months. I was allowed to board
early with a 3-year old and a 2-month old (I did ASK to do this -- it's true
that they don't seem to be announcing it as policy anymore), and on the return
flight(s) they also changed my seats so that there would be an extra (empty)
seat for the baby. It may be that I just lucked out and got sympathetic gate
agents..... if so, they need to know that policies that try to accomodate
parents and children generate good PR.....
From: Bob (9/98)
I, too, want to relay a positive experience flying United Airlines -- even
though we fly cattle class. Earlier this week my wife (with 4 mo. old)
returned from a RT flight to Boston. On both legs of the trip she was given
excellent service by the flight staff. Seats were changed to provide her
with an empty seat(s) for the baby, and the flight attendants were there
throughout the flight offering to give her a hand. My wife was VERY
impressed, and remarked that this was the best flight she can recall. (Of
course, we've also had less than pleasant experiences flying UA and other
My family and I are going to Britain for two weeks in the early
spring. We want a round-trip, preferably
direct flight, and a one-week car rental out of Heathrow.
What are the good airlines these days? I've
always like British Airways and Virgin; I also hear American
Airlines has superior leg room, a real advantage for people as
tall as we are.
Virgin has great service. They have a video system
that allows you a big choice of movies at your schedule.
However, the downside of that, if you are tall like us, is that
some of the space under the seats is taken up by the box that
operates the video system. Hence, less foot room. My kids were
also not able to fit their backpacks under the seats.
If you're flying with a child, I recommend Virgin due to their
individual video screens with games and cartoons, as well as
their ''goodie bag'' for kids.
Warning though - if your child needs a carseat, Virgin told us
that we could not use our own and we had to use theirs, which
were terrible - difficult to install, even for staff, and very
hard and uncomfortable (this was last year - maybe they've
I also found their fares very competitive - it's worth
registering on their website for deals, which can include car
rental and accomodation.
As for deals in general, I think doing your own homework on the
web beats what any agent can provide, unless you want to pay the
agent to do the web research. Your cheapest flights will always
be those with connections and to Gatwick - so you have to decide
what you want to pay for.
We go to England with
our chilren every year to see the in-laws. We only travel on
Virgin, and I've never been disappointed. I understand British
Airways is also good. I had an awful experience on American once
and vowed never to take another US carrier overseas, no matter
The major pros of Virgin are: Direct flights to Heathrow, and
video monitors in each seat back. My kids basically watch
cartoons until they fall asleep. The flight attendants are
always lovely as well, and then there's the pre-London cup of
I've heard that Virgin Airlines is a great airline to
travel with children on. I don't know about pre-boarding, but one mother
told me that on an 11 hour flight she was quite comfortable with her two
children, and that each seat had its own tv monitor for watching children's
videos, which parents can choose. I'd be very interested in hearing about
other families' GOOD airline experiences so I can learn which airlines to
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