Privacy Please — Best US Airline Seats for Lap Babies and Nursing Moms
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If ever you fly with a lap baby, you’re going to want as much of your own space on the plane as is realistically possible. Whether you want privacy for nursing, or you simply want to minimize disruptions so your baby can stay asleep in your arms, some seats are much better than others.
For nursing moms and couples with young children seeking in-flight privacy, we’ve rounded up the best business-class seats on US airlines and provide ideas for the miles you can use to book them. You can also take a look at our general guide to seats and airport facilities for nursing mothers on the go, as well as our rankings of the international airlines with the best business-class options for families of various ages here.
While we’ll concentrate on the best seats available on each airline, which tend to be on international and long-haul flights, don’t forget about small regional jets that have single seats in many cases.
If business class isn’t in your budget, we’ve got suggestions for economy and premium economy, too. Also remember to double-check your airline’s rules on lap infant awards to make sure bringing baby along is in your budget, especially if your flight is taking you across international borders. And, use a rewards credit card to purchase your tickets or pay for any fees. Here’s TPG’s list of best airline credit cards for families.
Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines doesn’t have a ton of great seats, since the Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s that make up most of its fleet tend to have seats two abreast in first class and three in economy.
Still, the Embraer E175s among its planes have four single seats in their first-class cabins that might just be ideal for new mothers who don’t want to contend with a seatmate. The airline tends to use these aircraft on flights like this one from San Jose (SJC) to Tucson (TUS), which you can book for 25,000 miles. That’s probably not worth it, but if you have elite status, you might be able to book a paid economy fare and upgrade for free.
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Given the size of its fleet, it’s no wonder that there is little consistency to American Airlines’ business class. That said, the carrier does operate plenty of aircraft with seats that are pretty perfect for parents traveling solo with an infant, or couples traveling together with a young one.
The best business-class seats on the airline are aboard its Boeing 777-300ERs, 787-9s and some 777-200s. These are the popular reverse-herringbone style of seats that are configured in a 1-2-1 pattern so that every seat has direct aisle access. The single seats on the side are angled toward the fuselage and have decent privacy screens from the aisle. Those in the middle are angled toward one another with a large flat surface on the armrest that separates them. These could be handy for couples traveling together.
These seats tend to be around 21–22 inches wide and recline to lie-flat beds that are 78–79 inches long. Their entertainment screens are 17–18.5 inches, depending on the type of plane. American tends to fly these jets on long-haul international routes such as from Los Angeles (LAX) and Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG) or London (LHR).
However, the airline will operate a 777-300ER with this type of seat on its route between Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) starting in June. So instead of the 30,000–80,000 miles you’d need for a longer flight, you can consistently book this route for just 32,500 miles each way. Here are tips to maximize American Airlines awards.
Among the American Airlines business-class seats to avoid are the Boeing 777-200s configured with front- and rear-facing seats, as well as 787-8s with the same style seating, though the airline is reconfiguring these. The mix of forward- and backward-facing seats means you could be head-to-head with the person next to you or across the aisle, cutting down on privacy.
Speaking of which, the airline’s 767s have staggered, front-facing business-class seats that are pretty much open to the rest of the cabin and don’t even have seatback entertainment screens, meaning you’ll just have more hardware to juggle.
Apart from business class, the 777-300ERs and 787s with premium economy cabins are arranged so that there are two seats on each side of the aircraft, which might suit couples traveling together with an infant who don’t want to share their space with another passenger.
In economy, some rows toward the back of its 777s and 787s are two-seaters, which could be a good option for couples who don’t want to contend with other passengers as they care for a baby.
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Like American, the experience in business class on Delta can vary dramatically depending on what aircraft you fly. For the most privacy, you’re going to want to focus on the planes with the Delta One Suites aboard.
Those include the Airbus A350 and a few Boeing 777-200s so far as well as the airline’s forthcoming A330-900neos. Aside from stylish finishes and roomy bed mode (21 inches wide and 79–81 inches long), what sets these seats apart is their closing doors for privacy. Like Delta’s older business-class seats, they are arranged in a 1-2-1 pattern, so lone travelers bringing along bébé should prefer the seats on the side.
The airline currently flies jets with Delta One Suites aboard from its hub in Detroit (DTW) to various cities in Asia, including Tokyo Narita (NRT), Seoul Incheon (ICN), Beijing (PEK) and Shanghai (PVG), plus Amsterdam (AMS). It also operates flights from Atlanta (ATL), Los Angeles (LAX), Seattle (SEA) and Minneapolis (MPS) with them. Check out this post for more information on routes, and this one for maximizing Delta awards.
Unfortunately, Delta has made Delta One Suite awards exorbitantly expensive in most cases, with some mileage requirements ranging between 280,000–465,000 miles…each way! However, you can find decently priced awards ranging from 50,000–60,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles thanks to the two airlines’ partnership. The routes to/from China seem to have the best availability, like this example from Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai (PVG). Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase, Citi and Marriott, so it’s relatively easy to stock up on Flying Club miles, even if you don’t fly the airline.
In terms of regional jets, aim for Embraer CRJ900s, Embraer E170s and E175s since these aircraft all have single A seats in first class. Avoid Boeing 767s since the business-class seats aboard are open to the cabin.
The airline’s new Premium Select premium-economy seats have two-seaters on the sides of the aircraft for couples traveling together. If flying economy, the A330 and 767 might be better, though, since their cabins have seating in 2-4-2 and 2-3-2 patterns, respectively. The new A220 also has economy seats with just two per row on each side of the aisle.
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First class on Hawaiian’s A321neos is 2-2 recliners, and its flagship service aboard the A330 is 2-2-2, though these are lie-flat seats. Neither option is ideal if your main goal is privacy to nurse, so you might as well save your miles.
If you are flying the A330 on Hawaiian’s routes from Honolulu (HNL) to the mainland US, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, though, consider booking an Economy Extra Comfort ticket. There is a mini-cabin just behind first class with one row on each side of the cabin and two rows in the middle. If you can snag 11 A, B, H or J, you’ll basically have a semiprivate two-seater to yourself that’s staggered from the center rows. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good option. Otherwise, regular economy seats on the sides of the cabin are also in two-seat blocs.
Consider signing up for the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclays to earn 3x miles on all Hawaiian Airline purchases and 2x miles on gas, dining and grocery store purchases.
JetBlue Mint is hands down the best domestic option for nursing moms who want a little privacy on flights. That’s because it is consistently available on the airline’s transcontinental and Caribbean routes, including between New York (JFK) and Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA). What’s more, it is often priced lower than the other options on American, Delta and United.
What makes Mint so special is that rows 2 and 4 are single seats with sliding doors for even more privacy, making them perfect for in-flight nursing sessions and blocking the activity on the aisle from disturbing a napping infant.
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points to JetBlue TrueBlue and redeem them directly for tickets. The program also allows points pooling among members, which is especially useful for families traveling together. (Here’s TPG‘s guide to points pooling across airlines, hotel and flexible points programs.) TrueBlue points are a fixed-value currency where the award pricing is predicated on paid airfare, so the more expensive a paid ticket, the more points you’ll have to redeem for it.
While points pricing can thus be high for airfares that range up to more than $1,200, there are some routes with regular deals, like from Seattle (SEA) to New York (JFK). Here’s an example where you’d only need 29,800 points plus $5.60 to fly this route in Mint.
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The best options for nursing mothers seeking a bit of privacy on United are clearly going to be the airline’s Polaris business-class seats. We’ve covered them from top to toe in this ultimate seat guide.
But to give you a snapshot, the seats are currently available on the airline’s 777-300ERs, 787-10s, and some refitted 777-200s and 767-300s. Most of these jets fly international routes with many 777-300ER flights operating out of the airline’s hub in San Francisco (SFO).
However, the 787-10s fly transcontinentally between Newark (EWR) and both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO), and will commence service on six routes from Newark to European cities, including Frankfurt (FRA), Tel Aviv (TLV), Paris (CDG), Barcelona (BCN), Brussels (BRU) and Dublin (DUB), in the coming months.
Polaris seats are arranged in a high-density 1-2-1 configuration. Although each seat has direct aisle access, some on the sides are closer to the wall versus the aisle, and those in the middle are alternately closer together or farther apart, depending on the armrest placement.
If traveling alone, you’ll want the most private side seats that are closest to the windows. Specifically, those are the A and F seats in odd rows on all these aircraft. On the 767s in particular, avoid the center seats since they are singles that run down the middle of the cabin and afford little privacy.
If you’re a couple, you might opt for the center seats on the 777s and 787-10s that are huddled together in the middle. Those are the D and F seats in odd rows on all these planes.
Passengers on regional and domestic routes should look out for Bombardier CRJ-700s, and Embraer E170s and E175s, all of which have single A seats in first class.
Avoid un-refitted 777-200s and 767s in the airline’s fleet, as well as the 757s, 787-8s and 787-9s, because their business-class seats are mostly either 2-2-2 or 2-4-2 arrangements and are not configured for privacy.
If flying economy, 767s have two-seaters on the sides of the plane, or you could try booking the new Premium Plus section on the airline’s 787-10s, or some 777-300ERs and 777-200s since there are two seats on each side in this cabin and it could be ideal for couples traveling together with an infant.
In terms of booking United mileage awards, check out this post for tips on maximizing the airline’s routing rules. Saver-level business-class awards on routes with United’s Polaris seats can be scarce, but not nonexistent.
Here’s an example award at the saver level on a 777-300ER from Newark (EWR) to Hong Kong (HKG) in April for 75,000 miles and $5.60.
To earn more United miles, pick up the United Explorer Card (earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.) or the United Club Card (50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months).
The information for the United Club Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The prospect of traveling with an infant can be daunting for new parents, especially for moms and babies who crave privacy while nursing. Apart from the extra baggage and any accouterments that you might need for a tiny human, there’s the added stress of finding lactation facilities on the ground and a bit of privacy on your flight. Knowing which airlines and, more specifically, which particular aircraft types offer the most private seats can make a huge impact on both your travel plans and your experience on board.
Luckily, as US airlines have undertaken dramatic improvements to their business-class cabins in recent years, many premium seats have become both more luxurious and more private, providing potential havens for new moms to nurse in peace. Even folks flying in economy have some good choices, and it pays to consider them all before your next flight with a nursing baby.
Need more advice for flying with baby? Here it is:
- Flying With a Baby Checklist
- Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Flight: A Survival Guide
- How to Fly With Breast Milk in the United States
- Flying With Babies and Toddlers: 10 Tips to Make Your Life Easier
- The Definitive Guide to Surviving Jet Lag With Your Baby
- How to Get a Passport Photo of an Infant
Updated on 11/3/21.
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