Background The British Columbia Children's and Women's Hospital has an international reputation for the air ambulance services it provides to the largest geographic area in the world (1,000,000 sq km) served by a single ambulance service. As a consequence of this expertise we are frequently asked by parents for advice with regards to air travel for them and their children. As we currently do not have material available to provide advice for parents, our research question looked at what material airlines provide for parents concerning how to optimize travel experiences for children on regular commercial airlines.
Methods A questionnaire consisting of qualitative and multiple choice type questions was mailed to the 23 airlines. The questionnaire was sent to commercial airline companies flying from Vancouver International Airport in Vancouver, BC (YVR). Respondents were asked to provide feedback on their policies concerning infant passengers and recommendations given to the public regarding a variety of topics, including how caregivers can access information regarding traveling with children; car seat, stroller, and sky cot provisions; child-friendly meals and entertainment; medical advice given to caregivers; and commonly encountered problems when traveling with children.
Results This study collected 10 surveys. Airlines provide information through a combination of Web-based materials (8/10) and answers from booking agents (7/10) and other airline staff (5/10). Personal car seats are allowed on the flight by 3/10 airlines. All airlines offer special meals to accommodate various preferences; 2/10 airlines offered special children's meals. Strollers can be used between check-in and boarding gates by 10/10 airlines. Other recommendations included discussing children's needs with the airline at the time of booking; bringing snacks, boxed drinks, and spare diapers and changes of clothing; and encouraging feeding during take-off and landing to minimize ear discomfort.
Conclusion We anticipate being able to compile information that pediatricians can share with families to optimize travel with children through greater awareness of common issues that can negatively impact their air travel. International regulations mandate many practices, including the ability of parents to have their child travel using car safety seats, the accommodations made for children with special needs, and the travel of unaccompanied minors.