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Rishik's First Flight - Intercontinental Flight with an Infant

Yes, the post was long due as it is almost six months ago we took that dreaded flight. However, it still is relevant and alive in our memories. We have all had flights as a part of life. It is a regular set of rituals that we undertake and get off at the airport. Being a management consultant, travel is second nature for me, and airplanes are my second home. However, things suddenly become difficult as soon as you have an infant in tow and you are planning your first intercontinental flight with the little one. Our son was just 11 months old at that point in time. Who knows what an adventure it is going to be. So, here is our experience on our first trans-pacific flight from India to the United States with an 11-month-old.

Background and Preparations

I was assigned a long-term deployment to the States and we planned to shift temporarily rather than me making multiple trips to and fro. Convenience aside, travel was a driving factor too in the decision. This was going to be our opportunity to travel across the United States. The trip was to happen in June of 2019 and the preparations began with looking for travel options. Since it was a company-paid trip, the price was not the primary concern.

We started researching various options and finally decided on a Lufthansa flight with a layover in Frankfurt. The choice was driven by two factors. One we wanted a layover to avoid a long leg in case the kid was being too much of trouble. This would save a single set of co-passengers to bear the pain :) Another was the luggage allowance. Since we were traveling for a move, we were bound to have a good amount of luggage.

We were anxious right from the start and hence prepared ourselves the best we could. The diaper bag was well stocked and we packed a separate bag with various snacks that the kid preferred - or so we thought. We even packed a few toys for distraction. We read a few articles on how people traveled and came across instances where parents would distribute earplugs and chocolates to other passengers in advance. While it wasn't our cup of tea but it was sure to make us nervous about what was about to come on our first flight with an infant.

The Trip Begins

Finally, the day arrived and we packed and left for the airport. The feeling was nothing short of a soldier going to war. We were going to spend over about 15 hours in an aluminum tube. This with an uncontrollable brat and a load-full of strangers. We completed the check-in and cleared the security. Things seemed smooth until now and we were given some priority at both the counters.

The trip starts at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi

As we proceeded toward immigration, the kid started growing restless. The officer there guided us to a special counter for diplomates to fasten the process for us. We were the first in line - the only issue being the group already at the counter was a pretty big one. By the time we were at the counter, the kiddo had decided that he would no longer stay in his stroller and wanted to crawl around. The officer at the immigration counter was friendly and accommodating. He asked us to let the kid free for some time and a little banter ensued. We loved his remark - " there are no borders that can stop kids and they aren't supposed to" when I quipped that the kid would cross over without customs if we let him free. We completed the formalities and moved on to the gates.

The first leg of the flight

Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi is huge. You need to travel long distances to reach the gates. We were able to move fairly quickly with the kid in the stroller. As we reached the gates and checked on our request for a bassinet seat, we were in for some good news. The agent was able to find a couple of bassinet seats for us right in the front row. We took a sigh of relief and waited for the boarding. Rishik was more than happy to find some friendly co-passengers waiting for the same flight. The only irk was that the flight was delayed by a couple of hours.

Rishik's First Flight Starts - An Intercontinental One

We got priority boarding to allow for extra settling-in time for the kid. The stroller had to be gate checked and we would get it as soon as we disembarked in Frankfurt. We found our seats and settled in. Rishik was hyperactive already and all the information booklets were already out of the pouches. We asked the steward to keep these away from our seats and hold them for the flight. She was happy to allow that and also informed us that we would get our bassinet soon after the take-off.

It was a mixed bag of experience

We had the two seats on one side of the middle column of 4. The other two passengers were a nice couple and seemed friendly. The steward came in and set the bassinet up right after the take-off and in time. The kid had just slept and the bassinet was the perfect bed-of-sorts. From the looks of it, the bassinet was soft with nice bedding and robust support. The relief was short-lived. Halfway through the flight, Rishik woke up. While he still wasn't cranky but was playful. He kept playing and wanted to move around. This was obviously a challenge in the restricted space. However, the couple with us was pretty understanding and allowed some space for the kiddo.

Rishik had a good sleep on a decent-sized bassinet

We also had a very good steward who would come often to check on us and if we needed anything for the kid. Also, when the kid was restless and crying at one point, we were frantically trying to calm him. It was then that her words were the greatest relief for anxious parents - "He is not the first kid to cry. If people have a problem with that then it is their problem. Do not be too worried about it." While we knew that it was our responsibility to cause the least problem to co-passengers, she seemed to be God-send at that point in time.

Layover in Frankfurt

After an 8-hour flight, we finally bid goodbyes to the co-passengers and staff and deboarded for our layover in Frankfurt. We got on the aerobridge and waited by the gate for the stroller. We were in for a shock here as after about an hour of wait we were notified that they had probably packed the stroller for the final destination. Good Lord - we were stuck with an infant without a stroller in a new airport, plus we had quite some carry-on luggage. Anyways we moved into the terminal and checked our flight as we were already late for our initial connection. The airline had bumped us to a different United Airlines connection considering the original delay in the incoming flight.

Rishik is finally happy in his loaned umbrella stroller

We strolled toward the assigned gate. For anyone who has been to Frankfurt, it is a huge airport with limited transportation options. So a walk was the best way, only we had an extra load! Luckily halfway we noticed a helpdesk and wifey had an instinct that they may be able to offer some help. They in fact did - they loaned us an umbrella stroller for our stay at the airport. We reached the assigned gates and parked ourselves for the wait.

Meanwhile, I visited the United counter to request the bassinet seats for the second leg as our original seat allocation was no longer valid. This was the time for another shock. When we were moved from our original connection, their system did not transfer the kiddo's details correctly. In fact, it took them another 40 minutes of discussion to sort it out between the two airlines. So about an hour later, we had our correct boarding passes in hand - just in time for the boarding announcement.

Time to hop on for the second leg

We boarded the flight - again were given priority because of the kid. If this was a flight similar to the first leg, we should have been fine. However, things were different on this one. We had two of the seats on the right column with an elderly lady on the window seat. She was already grumpy from life and hence we were cautious in keeping the kid away from her. As we reached the cruising altitude, it took at least 3 reminders before the request for the bassinet was accorded. To our surprise, the bassinet was much smaller than the one on the first leg and the kid could barely sit - let alone sleep.

Also since the kid had slept quite a while on the first leg, this was going to be a difficult one. On top of that staff wasn't half as helpful. However, luckily there weren't too many of the howling moments and the flight did end up quite manageable. The lady on the window too gradually became friendlier and we landed in San Francisco around late afternoon. Lufthansa is no doubt a better package than United.

Finally, we were here

We deboarded the flight and proceeded to immigration. There was no point in waiting for the stroller - shipped to the destination meant we would get it on the belt. Immigration in San Francisco did not have a provision for priority to parents with small kids so we waited for our turn in the line. Again, luckily, an officer noticed and moved us to the line for the handicapped and we moved relatively faster. Another hour and we cleared immigration and picked up our luggage. As we exited the airport, an operations support personnel was kind enough to get a van for us and we moved to our destination for the day - our temporary abode in Half Moon Bay.

More about our stay in Half Moon Bay - Half Moon Bay, California - Things to Do in the Coastal Town
Other articles from our US stay are available at - Destinations in United States

How has your experience been on a flight with an infant? Or do you have an interesting story of being on the receiving end? Tell us all about your experience and learning.

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