Flying with children can be daunting for parents, and flying when your child is feeling ill or has a disability can only add to the stress. However, there are some requirements in place, depending on the severity of an infant or childs' illness or disability. The first point of call, is always to contact your airline directly.
When the issue is more severe, parents will need to complete a medical form for the airline medical centre to assess the risk to that child whilst travelling, and to ensure that proper care can be provided. This can be anything from a condition from birth, to a temporary illness, injury or surgery, but should not result in a refusal to travel.
Any other less serious illness or disability should not need pre-planning, unless of course it is contagious! For instance, you cannot fly if you or your child has open chicken pox spots which are not completely scabbed over.
Seating is pre-assigned in an area of the cabin that is more comfortable or where the
passenger requests, usually a bassinet/bulkhead seat but not the emergency exit. Some airlines e.g Monarch provide a special chair for free for disabled children. Their website states,
"Monarch Airlines offers a specially designed chair for disabled children, known as the Travelchair. The Travelchair fits into the airline seats with adjustable security straps offering upper body support.The Travelchair is suitable for most children aged 1 to 9 years and is available on request from our customer services department free of charge."
In all cases, many airlines offer a quicker check in process by using the Special Assistance Desk, which means there is usually no queuing involved. If any medical equipment is being carried as part of the baggage allowance, they are free of any excess charges.
Some airlines, like Emirates, use a company that will assist any passengers if there is any member who is ill or disabled, again free of charge and it's quite often requested if Mum or Dad is travelling alone with the child/children.
At airport security, these passengers are encouraged to use the Family route, if it is available. This speeds up the whole security process and again avoids long queues.
Many airlines also offer pre-boarding to anyone with babies or young children, but particularly for those with additional needs.
Flying with a child on the autistic spectrum and learning difficulties can also present its own challenges. I've recently been informed of a very good idea implemented by Manchester Airport in the UK since 2013. It's called 'Airport Awareness' and the scheme provides travel advice and assistance for parents and carers of children on the Autistic Spectrum.
You can ring the customer contact centre on (+44) (0)871 477 7747 and give them your details. You will receive a booklet and once you have provided proof of autism, you will receive a wristband at the airport. The airport staff look out for the wristbands and help you through the airport. The pack explains the whole airport process to reduce travel anxieties. Furthermore, if your child doesn't want to wear the wristband, you still can. Instead of having to wait in a long queue, you will be prioritised.
Edinburgh airport also provides factsheets which help breakdown the journey through the airport into key stages.
Arriving and checking-in
Please email email@example.com for more information.
In the USA, Wings for Aviation and the TSA have teamed up with JetBlue and the Charles River Centre at Boston Logan Airport to not only provide training for airport and airline staff, but allow families to familiarise themselves with the airport and travel procedures and kids get a chance to practice the key stages, including boarding the aircraft. This event is held twice a year. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Wings for Aviation often visit other USA airports for one day events too.
In general, always have a look online at your airports website, as many provide additional resources either with videos that you can watch from home, or guides to help you navigate through the terminal.
There are also many childrens' books available to buy to help prepare your child for the journey and for what to expect, to help promote a smoother experience for the whole family.
For more information and tips for flying with young children see www.flyingwithababy.com and follow Carrie on Twitter @flyingwithbaby