Aug 19, 2013

Travel with Baby: Flying to London on United Airlines

Let me start by saying I was a big fan of legacy Continental! When it merged with United, I kept an open mind even though everyone I knew complained profusely. It was just not the same airline anymore and unfortunately, not for the better. We have our loyalty program with them and prior to this trip, we were still loyal customers. But, I'm afraid they've ran us off. Our family dynamic has changed. We have a little one now and it's evident from this trip they're not a family friendly airline.

Yes, it was a last minute trip for me and the baby, I think we booked it about two weeks prior to departure. And yes, it was right in the middle of summer when everyone else is going to London. I knew before booking the flights all the bulkhead seats were taken, but we called the Gold member services ahead of time and requested a bassinet. That's the problem with flying United internationally compared to other international airlines. United sells these bulkhead seats as Economy Plus and anyone, with or without a baby, can reserve them. Most international airlines reserve bulkhead seats for families with infant ticket.

What really irritated me about United this time was their unwillingness to help. I was traveling with an infant on my own. I knew those bulkhead seats weren't available, but I requested the desk agent if she could ask passengers sitting on those seats if they were willing to switch with me. It's not like I had a bad seat since I, too, was sitting in Economy Plus and I had an aisle seat. At boarding time, I checked back with the desk agent and she said the passengers haven't come forward yet, that I should board and get the flight attendants to help me. Ok, fine! I got the sense she didn't seem too thrilled to help me out anyway.

I boarded and asked a flight attendant. He seemed more enthused to help out, although he kinda vanished after that. I finally tracked him down and it seemed he'd forgotten about me. Another flight attendant simply said, "Oh, those passengers... they usually don't want to give up those bulkhead seats". Well... did you even ask? How about the guy sitting in the middle seat, did you ask him if he wanted my aisle seat? No, you didn't!!

Bottom line, they kept dismissing me and I ended up holding my 6-month old baby for the entire 9 hours to London!

Truthfully, the only reason we fly United internationally is for the points. Their loyalty program is probably one of the better ones out there. However, when it comes to everything else - food quality, beverage selection, entertainment choices - they can't compete with other international airlines. But, living in Houston, domestically, they do offer the most direct flights to anywhere.

Anyway, I got to experience their Dreamliner going to London. It's a nice plane, but I'm definitely not a fan of the adjustable tinted windows. Since we were flying overnight, we experienced sunrise midway through our flight. And since those windows are only tinted, even at it's most opague, at certain angles the sun would shine directly on your face. And of course there are passengers who couldn't stop playing with the opacity of the tint. So, call me old fashion, but I still prefer the plain window shutter.

Economy Plus seat

Funky adjustable tinted windows

On our return flight to Houston, I didn't even bother requesting a bulkhead seat in London. My husband was flying back with me and the baby so there was an extra set of arms to hold the baby. I was however, disappointed to the plane itself. We came back on a 767 and it must've been a legacy United plane. It was old and the entertainment system was very limited. I couldn't complain too much, at least we had individual screens. But, what a let down!

Check out how tiny the monitor is on this 767!


  1. We are in complete agreement, United has pulled Continental down to their level.

  2. That tiny monitor is what we got when we flew from Washington to Paris. You'd think US have better plane for international flight, but that's not always the case.