During my recent travels, I flew on multiple carriers, domestic as well as international. My overall experience was not bad, though I obviously didn’t escape the typical airport stress. What caught my attention though was the difference in food and customer service when it comes to families with children.
In the USA, we received pretzels and assortment of non-alcoholic beverages, mostly soda drinks were offered. No special attention was paid to children… A mom traveling with her infant by herself was left alone in the jet bridge. I offered to help her assemble her stroller while she’d hold her baby. She seemed rather surprised and with obvious relief accepted my help.
Few years ago, when my daughter was only a few months old, I sent a letter to the head of on-board experience department of the airline company I was flying. I suggested a seat reserved for nursing moms with a curtain, similar to those, where flight attendants rest on international flights. I also proposed an idea of bottle warmers on board of each aircraft. I got no response.
In the past month I flew on three different European airlines. Families, injured people and senior citizens board first. Mothers are not to let their babies out of their arms and they receive assistance at all times, including a free rental strollers to move across the airports faster. Immediately upon boarding, each child receives an activity package – typically including a cloth bag or a backpack with coloring or activity book, colored pencils, puzzles and on some occasions, children also receive a small snack, such as crackers in the shape of airplanes.
These corporations know very well, that this small investment will ensure a calm and peaceful experience on board. They understand that a busy child is a happy child. There is less fussing and crying; as a matter of fact, the children were so into opening the new “presents”, they completely missed the take off!
I was offered a drink, including a free alcoholic beverage, on a flight as short as 40 minutes. We received a premium service! On one occasion, the flight attendants were serving an adorable snack package resembling a picnic basket with the red and white checkered napkin sticking out. Inside was a yogurt and neatly packaged “grandma’s cookies”. It is not much but it makes you instantly feeling pampered and cared for.
In Europe, working for an airline is considered a fairly prestigious job and the attitude shows throughout the flying experience. Our domestic carriers have a room for improvement and hopefully can learn from their much, much smaller, yet better competition from the “old continent”.
photo credit / Duke Morse Photography