All Ages

6 Best U.S. Airlines for Families

Family-Friendly Airlines; Courtesy of Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock.com
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Not all airlines are equal when it comes to services for families. While one might allow families with young children to board before other passengers, others charge for that helpful honor. Some airlines offer in-flight entertainment to keep the kids busy, while you’ll need to bring your own entertainment for others. Consider one of these family-friendly airlines for your next vacation.

Silhouette of Mom and Kids at Airport

1. Best U.S. Airline for Families: Southwest Airlines

Pre-boarding: Yes, families with children under age 4 may board during Family Boarding, after group A has boarded.
Lap Seat Ages: Infants 14 days to under 2 years old may be carried free of charge. A Boarding Verification Document is needed to board.
Diaper Changers: Yes.
Discounted Child Fares: Yes, child fares are available for ages 2 to 11.
Bottle Warmers: Yes. Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: No, but free peanuts and pretzels are served.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Yes, it offers a free, in-flight entertainment portal, which includes Cartoon Network.
Wi-Fi: Yes, Wi-Fi is available on most flights.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes. A car seat and stroller may be checked at no additional fee.
Bassinets: No.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are allowed to fit in seats that are 15.35 and 17.37 inches in size. Car seats are not allowed in aisle seats, exit row seats, or the rows directly in front of and behind an exit row.

2. Best U.S. Airline for Families: American Airlines

Pre-boarding: No
Lap Seat Ages: Infants at least 2 days old or under age 2 may be carried free of charge when traveling within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the USVI) and Canada. For all other travels, 10 percent of adult fare (plus tax) will apply.
Diaper Changers: Changing tables are available on all wide-body aircraft.
Discounted Child Fares: Yes.
Bottle Warmers: Yes, on all flights except for American Eagle. Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: None, but snacks and sandwiches are available.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Flights longer than four hours provide free movies on overhead TVs. New and refurbished planes have in-seat entertainment with movies, TV shows, music and games.
Wi-Fi: Yes, Wi-Fi is available on nearly all flights within the U.S.; it is available on select international flights.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, fully collapsible strollers under 20 pounds can be checked at the gate, along with car seats. Umbrella strollers may be carried on as long as they fit in an overhead bin.
Bassinets: Yes, bassinets may be available on a first-come, first-served basis, though they cannot be reserved in advance. They are found on 777-200, 767-300, 777-300 and 787 planes.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are permitted, but not allowed in exit rows or the rows directly in front or behind an exit row.

3. Best U.S. Airline for Families: Delta

Pre-boarding: No.
Lap Seat Ages: Children must be more than 7 days old and under age 2 to fly free, and only in the U.S. International flights require a seat for a child of any age.
Diaper Changers: No.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Bottle Warmers: Yes. Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: Yes. Jarred food (strained fruit, vegetables, meats and desserts) is available for babies, and special meals are available for children ages 2 to 12.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Free entertainment is offered on all domestic and international flights via Delta Studio. TV shows, movies, music and games can be streamed on seat-back screens or personal electronic devices with Wi-Fi capabilities — free of charge. Delta also offers Speakaboos, an app designed for kids ages 2 to 6, with audio books and popular kids’ TV shows. Kids can also access the app post-flight with a special code given in-flight.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on all flights within the U.S.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, strollers can be checked free of charge. In addition to one carry-on bag allowance, you may also bring a booster seat, other infant seat or bassinet for free.
Bassinets: Yes. Called SkyCots, they are available on some international flights, on a first-come, first-served basis at bulkhead seats.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are permitted, but not allowed in exit rows, rows directly in front or behind an exit row, bulkhead seats, or flatbed seats.

4. Best U.S. Airline for Families: JetBlue

Pre-boarding: Yes, it’s available for families with children ages 2 and younger.
Lap Seat Ages: Yes, a child must be at least 3 days old and under age 2 to sit on an adult’s lap.
Diaper Changers: Yes.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Bottle Warmers: No. Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: Free snacks, such as animal crackers and cookies, are available.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: DirecTV programming is offered on seat-back TVs, and includes newly released films (free of charge). SiriusXM is also available.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on most planes, except E190 aircraft.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, strollers and car seats can be checked free of charge.
Bassinets: No.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are allowed.

5. Best U.S. Airline for Families: United Airlines

Pre-boarding: Yes, families with any children under age 3 can board before others.
Lap Seat Ages: Children must be at least 7 days old and under 2 years old to be carried within the U.S., Puerto Rico and USVI, and pay 10 percent of the adult fare. Outside of these regions, a ticket must be purchased for a lap seat child.
Diaper Changers: Changing tables are available on Boeing 747, 757-300, 767, 777, 787 and select 757-200 flights.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Bottle Warmers: No, but you may request hot water from a flight attendant. Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: No, but snacks and sandwiches are available.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Satellite TV and in-flight movies are shown on overhead TVs. International flights feature seat-back movies, TV shows, games and music, including children’s options.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on most aircraft.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes; collapsible strollers only. Others must be checked with baggage and are free of charge.
Bassinets: Yes, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis; they are only available on international flights.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are allowed. No booster seats, belly belts, vests or harnesses are permitted.

6. Best U.S. Airline for Families: Alaska Airlines

Pre-boarding: Yes, families with children under age 2 can board before others.
Lap Seat Ages: Yes, kids under 2 are permitted as lap seat children.
Diaper Changers: No.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Bottle Warmers: No.
Kids’ Meals: Yes, Alaska Airlines offers a kids’ picnic pack with cheddar puffs, applesauce and more.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Yes, in-flight movies and TV shows are available and include kid-friendly options.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, free of charge.
Bassinets: No.
Car Seats: Yes; restrictions apply on certain airplane seats, but car seats are generally permitted in window and middle seats as long as they don’t block access to the aisle.