Family-Friendly Airlines; Courtesy of Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock.com
All Ages

6 Best U.S. Airlines for Families 2021

See recent posts by Family Vacation Critic

Not all airlines are equal when it comes to caring for families.

While one might allow families with young children to board before other passengers, others charge for that helpful honor. Some airlines offer in-flight entertainment to keep the kids busy, while you’ll need to bring your own tablets and toys for others.

Based on the factors that matter most to those flying with kids, these are the best U.S. airlines for families.

Editor’s note: Note that some of these amenities and services may be limited due to the pandemic. Always follow all COVID-19 restrictions, rules, and safety regulations from your airline, at your destination, and upon returning home.

1. Southwest Airlines

Pre-boarding: Yes, families with children under age 6 may board during Family Boarding, after group A has boarded. Southwest is also one of few airlines that ensures families can sit together.
Lap Seat Ages: Infants 14 days to under 2 years old may be carried free of charge. A Boarding Verification Document is needed to board.
Diaper Changers: Aircraft dependent.
Discounted Child Fares: Yes, child fares are available for ages 2 to 11.
Nursing Accommodations: Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: No, but free peanuts and pretzels are served.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Yes, it offers a free, in-flight entertainment portal.
Wi-Fi: Yes, Wi-Fi is available on most flights.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes. A car seat and stroller may be checked at no additional fee.
Bassinets: No.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are allowed to fit in certain seats. Car seats are not allowed in aisle seats, exit row seats, or the rows directly in front of and behind an exit row.

2. American Airlines

Pre-boarding: No
Lap Seat Ages: Infants at least 2 days old or under age 2 may be carried free of charge when traveling within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and Canada. For all other travels, 10 percent of adult fare (plus tax) will apply.
Diaper Changers: Changing tables are available on all wide-body aircraft.
Discounted Child Fares: No. Children over the age of 2 are required to have their own seat at full fare.
Nursing Accommodations: Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: None, but snacks and sandwiches are available for purchase.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: American Airlines offers access to its streaming library of TV shows, music, and movies to view on your personal device through the American Airlines app – no wi-fi purchase necessary.
Wi-Fi: Yes, Wi-Fi is available on nearly all flights within the U.S.; it is available on select international flights.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, fully collapsible strollers under 20 pounds can be checked at the gate, along with car seats. Umbrella strollers may be carried on as long as they fit in an overhead bin.
Bassinets: Yes, bassinets may be available on a first-come, first-served basis, though they cannot be reserved in advance. They are found on 777-200, 767-300, 777-300 and 787 planes.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are permitted, but not allowed in exit rows or the rows directly in front or behind an exit row.

Related: Traveling While Breastfeeding: What to Know, What to Pack & More

3. Delta Air Lines

Pre-boarding: Delta offers boarding just after First Class for fliers traveling with strollers and carseats.
Lap Seat Ages: Children must be more than 7 days old and under age 2 to fly free, and only in the U.S. International flights require a seat for a child of any age.
Diaper Changers: Aircraft dependent.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Nursing Accommodations: Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: Yes. Jarred food (strained fruit, vegetables, meats and desserts) is available for babies, and special meals are available for children ages 2 to 12. These options qualify as ‘special meals’ and must be requested at least 24 hours before flight departure.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Free entertainment is offered on all domestic and international flights via Delta Studio. TV shows, movies, music and games can be streamed on seat-back screens or personal electronic devices with Wi-Fi capabilities, free of charge. Delta also offers Speakaboos, an app designed for kids ages 2 to 6, with audio books and popular kids’ TV shows. Kids can also access the app post-flight with a special code given in-flight.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on all flights within the U.S.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, strollers can be checked free of charge. In addition to one carry-on bag allowance, you may also bring a booster seat, other infant seat or bassinet for free. If children are flying for free, however, they do not have a baggage allowance and their items will count toward the adult’s baggage allowance.
Bassinets: Yes. Called SkyCots, they are available on some international flights, on a first-come, first-served basis in bulkhead seats.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are permitted, but not allowed in exit rows, rows directly in front or behind an exit row, bulkhead seats, aisle seats, or flatbed seats.

4. JetBlue

Pre-boarding: Yes, it’s available for families with children ages 2 and younger.
Lap Seat Ages: Yes, a child must be at least 3 days old and under age 2 to sit on an adult’s lap.
Diaper Changers: Yes.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Nursing Accommodations: Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome.
Kids’ Meals: Free snacks, such as animal crackers and cookies, are available.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: DirectTV programming is offered on seat-back TVs, and includes newly released films (free of charge). SiriusXM is also available.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on all planes. While coverage can vary by route, it is guaranteed on flights over the contiguous 48 states.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, strollers and car seats can be checked free of charge.
Bassinets: No.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are allowed.

Related: The Best Baby Travel Gear 2021

5. United Airlines

Pre-boarding: Yes, families with any children under age 2 can board before others.
Lap Seat Ages: Children at least 7 days old and under 2 years old traveling within the U.S., Puerto Rico, and USVI can fly free of charge. Outside of these regions, a ticket must be purchased for a lap seat child.
Diaper Changers: Changing tables are available on Boeing 757-300, 767, 777, 787 and select 757-200 flights.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Nursing Accommodations: Breast pumps and breastfeeding are welcome. To warm bottles, you may request hot water from a flight attendant.
Kids’ Meals: No, but snacks and sandwiches are available.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: DirectTV is now being offered for free on select Boeing 737 flights, featuring a wide-range of programming including TV, movies, and games.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on all mainline aircraft.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes; collapsible strollers only. Others must be checked with baggage and are free of charge.
Bassinets: Yes, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis; they are only available on international flights.
Car Seats: Yes, FAA-approved child restraining seats are allowed. No booster seats, belly belts, vests or harnesses are permitted.

6. Alaska Airlines

Pre-boarding: Yes, families with children under age 2 can board before others.
Lap Seat Ages: Yes, kids under 2 are permitted as lap seat children.
Diaper Changers: Aircraft dependent.
Discounted Child Fares: No.
Nursing Accommodations: Breastfeeding welcome.
Kids’ Meals: No, but Alaska Airlines does offer beverages and small snacks as well as a Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter available for pre-order on flights longer than 1,100 miles.
Kid-Friendly Entertainment: Yes, in-flight movies and TV shows are available and include kid-friendly options.

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is available on most aircraft and on most North American routes, with the exception of flights to Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Mexico.
Stroller and Car Seat Gate Check: Yes, free of charge.
Bassinets: No.
Car Seats: Yes; restrictions apply on certain airplane seats, but car seats are generally permitted in window and middle seats as long as they don’t block access to the aisle.

Related: Traveling With Infants and Toddlers: Everything You Need to Know

What to Pack for Your Next Flight

Items to Pack Before You Get to the Airport

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

You Might Also Like:

8 Things You Should Never Put in Your Checked Bag
10 Ways to Amuse Kids at the Airport
The Best Airplane Baby Clothes: 9 Great Outfits and Accessories
9 Best Airplane Toys for Babies
9 Kid-Approved Snacks to Bring on the Plane


Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.