Travelling With Children: When A Family Flight Is Delayed


Flying long haul with small children requires a lot of planning. How to entertain them, how to dress them, how are they going to sleep, how to make them sit still at take off and landing, just to mention the main concerns. It’s important to plan out the small details too, because it can be a very nerve wrecking few hours for parents.

We just did an 11 hours long overseas flight with our 15 months old girl and 3-year-old boy. I was dreading it for months in advance.

I planned out all the details and made a plan B too for everything:

  • Inflight entertainment for two different age groups
  • Changing clothes (also for us parents -the experience is talking here)
  • Bought food, snacks and fruit juices after check in
  • Packed Calpol sachets for cabin pressure induced ear pain
  • Coordinated wake up and nap times on the day of the flight so that they can sleep during the flight
  • Packed extra nappies and wipes
  • Packed light weigh blankets for them because it’s normally quite cold in the cabin
  • Booked overnight flight, so they would most probably sleep through most of it

Having said all that, you can’t possibly prepare for everything. But, you do your best, try to deal with the rest and just keep calm.

What we haven’t been prepared for on the way home is a delayed take off. We’ve never been told the reason why. It happens sometimes. This has sadly resulted in two cranky, small children by the time we boarded the aircraft.

When you have an overnight flight, it means you already take off quite late on that day, so probably around your children’s usual bedtime hours or even past that. If the flight is being delayed for a few hours, they will be overtired and if you’re a parent, you know what does that mean for you: crankiness, whining, crying, not cooperating, etc. Especially, if your child is just a very little toddler and she just started to discover the power of her loud, high pitched scream.

So, in the end, after literally wrestling her down for take off (whilst screaming her head off), then trying to rock her to sleep because she refused feeding (screaming her head off and kicking) she went to sleep, but it was very upsetting for us.

All because of two ours delay.

As I said we have never been told why, and we also had to spend a considerable time on the plane, just sitting and waiting for take off, which happens at busy airports: waiting for a free runway is often the reason.

So at home I checked online what are our chances for compensation, and though we weren’t entitled for any,

I found some information for the future, which is worth to keep in mind:

According to the Flight Compensation Regulation (261/2004), which is a set of rules for the compensation that passengers can claim if they are impacted by delays, diversion, and cancellations and apply to all passengers departing from or arriving into an EU airport, as well as passengers from outside the EU, as long as they are arriving at an EU airport and the airline is based in an EU member state. These rights are also very strictly imposed by the EU Court of Justice.

The good thing is, that you don’t have to go through complicated legal texts, you can simply check online if you’re eligible using this Flight delay compensation site.

For next time you can also prepare your family for flight delay or cancellation.

My tips:

  • Talk to the kids about the possibility if they are old enough to understand it
  • Always have an entertainment back up, as eventually devices will run out of battery or you may be not permitted to take it on board when it doesn’t switch on
  • Look up in advance what facilities the airport has got: does it have kids friendly restaurants? Does it have a small play area for children?
  • Carry some cash with you

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