By Justine Seligson
From "Take-Off!'- Lufthansa's app for kids
Parents who have always dreaded flying with kids can say good bye to those days…at least on some planes. Increasingly, airlines--especially international ones--are providing all sorts of bells and whistles for families, making the whole experience something to actually look forward to.
One of the leaders of the pack is Lufthansa. Determined to make time in the air as stress-free and fun as possible, this German airline has brought family-friendly travel to new heights (no pun intended). Actually, for kids, the fun stuff begins long before the plane departs the gate. JetFriends is the airline's online club, designed to entertain young passengers, while also taking the mystery out of flight. The colorful site features games, quizzes, arts and crafts for kids 2 to 12, and, for older teens, information about everything from how the black box works, to the thrill of visiting a country like Morocco.
The club is designed to make kids excited to fly, keep them busy during the flight, and offer them activities they can pursue during their trip itself: such as collecting stickers, creating postcards and uploading vacation photos to enter in contests. Any child or teen between the ages of 2 and 17 can become a member. By doing so, he or she automatically becomes a member of the Miles & More frequent flyer program, earning miles by flying Lufthansa or any of the other airlines in the Star Alliance network. Membership comes with its own card and lanyard…and what kid doesn’t want a card to call his/her own?
There’s also a related app, called Take-Off!, which has six stages that teach children about the steps of the traveling process—Departure, Security-Check, Gate, On Board, Cockpit and Destination. Each step has a game and a place to collect stickers in a Travel Diary.
On the ground, the airline has created special check-in areas specifically for young families at some airports (including those in home country Frankfurt and Munich). Far from the humdrum check-in counters we’re all used to, these are festive family welcoming zones complete with a friendly greeting by Lufthansa crane mascots Cosmo and Lu. While checking in, kids can also get a “Best Friends Boarding Pass” for their doll or stuffed animal.
Of course the flight itself is also child friendly. Don’t worry if you checked your kid’s toys or forgot them altogether, as he or she will have many options for play while in the air with puzzles, coloring books and all sorts of toys. First and Business Class kid passengers get amenity kits with items like toothbrushes, eye masks and ear plugs.
And as for meals: Lufthana’s menus are Disney themed, featuring characters from the movie Planes.
Offering child- friendly airline service is obviously a trend that’s in the air (pardon me) as Lufthansa is not alone in wanting to please its youngest passengers. Of course, Swiss International Air Lines—Lufthansa’s partner—has always had a soft spot for traveling youngsters. Their crews hand out all sorts of puzzles, coloring books and toys as well as bibs and eye masks guaranteed to put a smile on children’s and parents’ faces.
Other airlines go even further. Etihad Airways and Gulf Air offer “Sky Nannies,” on their long-haul flights. They are exactly what their name implies: specifically trained nannies that assist young children with boarding, disembarkation and games and food service en route.
And, of course, leave it to Richard Branson, who’ll soon be taking passengers to outer space, to push the envelope of flights for kids back here on earth. There’s talk of a new Kid Klass, a cabin just for kids on Branson’s Virgin flights. Let’s see if the idea “takes off.”