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Flying the Family-Friendly Skies

Matt Villano

At a time when a multitude of major air carriers are making travel downright difficult for families, an airline that actually values family travel stands out.

That’s why Emirates Airlines is my new fave.

Quietly, over the course of the last few weeks, the airline has rolled out a variety of family-friendly promotions and policies that make some nurseries seem rigid. Free toys. Free diapers and formula. Even a special kid frequent-flier program.

Put simply, Emirates has established itself as the anti-Malaysia Airlines, a champion for families and traveling parents everywhere. It’s a refreshing departure from the status quo. And it’s about time.

Here’s a sampling of some of the new Emirates benefits and features:

  • In addition to traditional offerings such as activity books and colored pencils, the airline has introduced a new line of in-flight toys for travelers 12 years and younger. Preschoolers will enjoy plush monster dolls with fun names like Tezz and Wagga; kids ages 6-12 are given Quiksilver travel journals, wallets and playing cards.
  • On-board the aircrafts, entertainment systems offer a selection of more than 300 Disney movies, as well as a variety of kid-friendly TV shows, music stations and podcasts. In airport lounges, Emirates has added PlayStation consoles and games for kids, too.
  • Skysurfers, a new frequent-flier program available to travelers ages 2-16, allows kids to earn points redeemable for some pretty fun (Dubai-oriented) rewards such as camel rides, sand-skiing and desert camping.

On top of these, the airline has instituted priority boarding for families, and offers changing tables and bassinets, as well as free diapers (!), baby food (!) and formula (!) on every flight.

Perhaps the only downside to Emirates’ new philosophy is its route map—for a host of reasons (some more explicable than others), the average American family isn’t exactly frequenting Dubai. Also, admittedly, these are long flights; from San Francisco, the closest airport to my home, it’s almost 16 hours in the air.

Still, seeing an airline value families instead of vilify them is a welcome change. Let’s hope Emirates inspires others in the industry to do the same.