Flying United Airlines Internationally with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Flying United Airlines Internationally with KidsI hesitate to write these reviews because United Airlines and Lufthansa are not as exotic as, say, Asiana Airlines.  But, I can find so little information on flying specific airlines internationally and with children, that I think it’s worth it to put my experience out there in the hopes that others will do the same.

Our trip to the US last month consisted of four flights: United Airlines from Frankfurt to Dulles, from Dulles to Orlando, from Orlando to Chicago O’Hare, and Lufthansa from Chicago O’Hare to Frankfurt.  For tips on booking a multi-city itinerary like ours, see my previous post here.

I find almost all American legacy carriers (Delta, United, American, etc.) to be about the same domestically.  The difference is usually in the flight attendants.  Since there are thousands of them for each airline, it doesn’t seem practical to write reviews for flights within the US that are three hours or less.

Therefore, in this post, I’ll specifically focus on the United international flight (United from Frankfurt to Dulles).

If I haven’t said so before, I’ll say so now.  I LOVE European airlines.


Simply put, everything’s better.  The service, the food, the entertainment, all of it is almost always top notch, even in economy class.

American carriers, on the other hand, are nothing to write home about.  That is, unless you had an extremely atrocious experience.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with us this time.

But, if I could sum up my international United flight in one word, I’d choose forgettable.  Nothing set them apart or gave me a reason to choose United over another carrier in the future.

My travel nerd is showing when I tell you that one of my favorite parts of flying internationally is the “dinner and a movie” in the sky.  Unfortunately, dinner (actually, lunch) on United Airlines from Frankfurt to Dulles was a straight-from-the-freezer-aisle TV dinner: chicken, mashed potatoes, and frozen vegetables.  My boys ate the alternative, lasagna with tomato puree (one could hardly classify it as “sauce”) and three diced mushrooms.  Wow.  Thrilling.

Why didn’t I order kids meals for the boys?

For the simple reason that my kids never eat them.  In my experience, kids meals are usually soggy chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes or limp french fries, and previously frozen peas and diced carrots.  The meal tray usually has a full-size candy bar and a sweetened drink on it as well.  Doc Sci and I have to swipe the sugar as fast as possible, and leave the kids to pick at the rest.  Unless I know exactly what the kids meal is going to be, I don’t order it anymore.

As for the movie part of the “dinner and a movie,” this particular United flight had small screens in each seat.  And when I say small, I mean about four inches.  Teeny weeny would be more like it.  One could choose from about 7 channels, only one of which was for children.  This channel showed The Muppets over and over.  Not a great selection for the under-five crowd who has no idea who the Muppets are and only want to know why on EARTH there is no Thomas the Train or Bob the Builder!

The one remarkable aspect about this flight to Dulles was the fact that both of my boys slept like pros.  I’m getting even more into travel dork territory here… I was SO proud, especially of Screech.  My two year-old went potty in the lavatory, took his shoes off, leaned back in his car seat, put his pacifier in his mouth and his eye mask on his face, and went to sleep.  For hours.

My littlest pro-traveler-in-training.

I love my kids.

(Okay, Screech had a little help with some of those tasks, but the sleeping part he did all on his own!)

On the flip side, the one beef I did have with United Airlines is that they changed aircraft on the international flight (which affected where we sat), and they changed our seats on at least one of our domestic flights.  Without telling us.  Luckily, I caught the international flight and was able to make it work to our advantage.  But, I was rather annoyed to have our seats separated on both domestic flights with no options to remedy the situation.  Not cool, United.

So would I fly United again?  Eh, only if it’s the cheapest.

Have you flown United Airlines internationally with children?  What was your experience?  Signature-Marigold



15 thoughts on “Flying United Airlines Internationally with Kids

  1. Pingback: Ticket Talk: The Open Jaw « Thrifty Travel Mama

  2. We are taking flight 431 in July and I have been trying to find out it the plane has been retrofitted with the upgraded entertainment system yet?

  3. Pingback: Flying Lufthansa Internationally with Kids | Thrifty Travel Mama

  4. We’ve been flying United from the States and back each time solely to build up air miles within one airline for free trips home. The hubs usually flies BA back to the states for work. Night and Day. But it really is flight to flight. I’ve had flights from London to Houston that were old planes without Direct TV and really rude flight attendants. And I’ve had flights that were modern, tons of TV to choose from, Flight Attendants who went out of their way to help us with our kids (even moving people around to get us an empty seat so one kiddo could lay down). It just seems like a crap shoot with them. And we get priority boarding, etc. Now Lufthansa is usually better. But still it’s no BA. I think British Air is the best, most customer-friendly airline out there. They now have a direct flight from London to Austin, Tx and we plan to try that on our next trip hopefully. We’ve flown several other smaller airlines within the UK and Europe…but I almost don’t even care about a less-than-3-hour-flight anymore. So unless it were terrible, I’m not sure I’d pay attention to how good or bad of a flight it was! LOL.

    • Hi Kristen, I totally agree that it’s really flight to flight. I love Lufthansa, but we rarely can afford them (especially now with 5 tickets to purchase!). I’ve heard great things about BA, but it never worked out price- or schedule-wise for us to use them. How awesome that you now can go direct from London to Austin! Happy travels~

  5. i flew with 6 kids on united from korea to slc. oh my laws. awful. that plane was old, it had ashtrays for pete’s sake! no personal tv’s. try keeping 6 kids 8 month-14yrs busy, happy, and fed with their terrible service, food, and amenities. i wanted to cry. wait, i did. now we beg borrow and steal to get on the delta flight. love your blog. can’t wait to read more.

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