Having a bassinet available for your baby can make a huge difference for both of you, but bear in mind that no airline guarantees them – they’re assigned “according to availability”. There are often more babies than bassinets available, particularly during peak travel times such as Christmas.
Always request a bassinet at the time of booking. It’s often wise to speak to the airline directly to confirm this (and some airlines insist you do, and won’t allow you to book an infant fare online). That said, bassinets seem to be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis and younger babies “seem” to get precedence. On every long-haul flight I’ve been on, demand for bassinets has always outstripped supply, and some poor parent misses out. Book early and reconfirm before you fly and when you check in. And keep your fingers crossed.
Bassinets can be used when babies are up to a certain weight. Each airline has a maximum weight its bassinets will support.
Singapore Airlines’ bassinets take babies up to 14kg; Qantas bassinets support a maximum weight of 11kg; Virgin Australia’s international long haul aircraft take up to 18kg, but their A330 aircraft only take 11kg; United Airlines and Air France bassinets have a maximum weight of 10kg; and Air New Zealand has a maximum bassinet weight of 11.8kg.
It’s worth doing your homework before you book, and being aware of code-share arrangements where on one leg of the journey your baby fits in the bassinet and on the next leg he or she is deemed too large.
The flight attendants will set up and show you how to use the bassinet. Most contain a sheet and blanket, but if your baby sleeps best when swaddled, stick to that routine (and bring extra wraps in case of accidents).
It’s important to understand that when the seatbelt sign is illuminated you have to remove the baby and hold him or her in your arms, secured with an infant seatbelt. On a flight where there’s a bit of turbulence this is really annoying, but it’s all to do with safety, so follow instructions.