We are planning our trip back to NZ. Now normally, I would just filter through the reputable airlines and buy the cheapest tickets I can find.
But now, we have an extra fractional person to consider.
Typically, when traveling with an infant under two years, you pay 10% of a full price fare, and keep them on your lap. They don’t get their own seat.
Think about that for a minute.
The journey back from Bergen to Auckland takes at least 30 hours. Three flights in total, with two back to back long haul flights, and many hours of mindless waiting in dull transit lounges.
Now imagine having a baby on your knees for a two and half hour flight, crammed in so tightly you are rubbing arm flaps with at least one stranger next to you, and unable to stand up straight when leaving your seat, all the while trying to console your child screaming in pain from the ascent air pressure change.
Now imagine doing this for an 11 hour flight.
And now, imagine doing that twice.
The only consolation was, if you have an infant, airlines will try and give you preferential seating in the bulkhead area, meaning at least you have no-one sitting in front of you, you can stand up straight, and get a bit of leg space. There is also the option of making use of a cot, if you happen to have a normal-sized baby.
However, these seats are at a premium, and draw of the luck. With January/February being peak travel season to NZ, you are far from guaranteed in getting them. The brother of the air hostess, or the family with the one month old twins and toddler will get those seats first.
We started looking at the option of buying a third seat for junior, upgrading the infant fare to a child fare.
Now, this is where it starts getting complicated.
In order for an ‘under-2′ infant to make use of his own seat, he needs to have the appropriate officially approved restraint. A regular car seat is insufficient. And, what’s more, different airlines have different policies on what is an acceptable restraint, and this is often poorly documented. Given that we were flying from Norway, we would be making use of 2 – 3 different airlines, and would need to haul 3 different ‘airline’ approved seats, and even then there would be no guarantee we could use them, or whether they would even be compatible with that plane.
Of course what’s particularly ironic, is airline safety protocols mean everything must be strapped down, even a coffee jug.
Everything, except an infant.
If it’s an infant, then it’s fine for him to hang out in your lap*. In fact, if you are ‘lucky’ enough, you can even abandon your infant in a precarious cot, free of restraint, ready to go full bullet mode, when you hit a pocket of turbulence. But, if you buy him an extra seat, then it’s a whole different story.
Argh. Argh. Argh.
Not to mention an additional child seat costs 75% of a full fare - rather expensive, given that we would have no guarantee of being able to use it.
We started looking at flying business class.
And that’s when I learned there’s been a whole class shift. Airlines don’t seem to do first class any more, and where they do it’s very small. Business class has become flashier. It’s the new first class, while economy class has become more crappier than ever, as airlines cram more and more people on board. So there was an opening for a new class. Premium class. It’s what business class was 20 years ago. It’s about 30-40% more expensive than cattle class, but you get comfier roomier seats, better food, power outlets, alcohol, and a smaller cabin.
So, instead of buying three seats in economy, we decided to opt for two seats in premium economy. This also allowed us to book, and secure the much sought after bulk head seats in advance.
Youtube marketing videos look very enticing indeed.
So now, we are booked, and ready to come home. The land of sunshine, lounging cafes, toffee pops, fine beers and inviting pubs, tasty food, tramping, beaches, forests, summer picnics, and family and good friends. Very excited.
But there is still one small issue which bothers me. Prior to booking, I read extensive reviews on the new premium economy service, and although generally positive, a recurring theme was that in addition to all the extra perks, you also have the advantage of not sitting in economy with the screaming babies.