January 2, 2008

Dad Finds Out The Hard Way: Car Seats Have No Business In Cathay Pacific's New Business Class


A dad named James took his family--wife, two sons (5 and 2), and the nanny--along to Hong Kong for a combo business trip/vacation, Cathay Pacific both ways. On the way home, he's told that little Rex's car seat is not allowed in New Business Class. A debate with the crew--and then the captain--ensues as Rex demonstrates his inability to stay put by himself in the giant, isolated seatpod, and the entire family is literally voted off the plane.

From James's account, the HK airport manager for Cathay Pacific gave them a really rough time, accusing them of being a security threat and not following flight attendant instructions. [Which sounds incredible to me; we've never had anything but stellar service on CP.] And while the situation sounds like it'd be superannoying, I have to say, CP seems to be totally in the right.

Though Cathay's website states that forward-facing car seats are allowed, it also states no less than three times, in a highlighted box, that "no baby car seat can be used in the new Business Class."

The family was eventually rebooked on another flight, on a plane that has not yet been upgraded to the new, kid-proof Business Class. A valuable lesson to be learned: doublecheck your airline's kid travel policies before spending even $200 on a ticket. But if you're going to spend $20,000, make sure you get stranded at an airport with the best soup dumplings of any Business Class airport lounge in the world.

Cathay Pacific Thinks Your Kid's Car Seat Is A Security Threat [consumerist]

related: No surprise, but CP's site makes no mention of the CARES safety harness


Full fare tickets (which he claims to have had) are refundable. Assuming a couple seats were available, he could have downgraded the 2yo and the babysitter to coach. Ta-da! 2yo is safe, the other pax in J sleep better, and daddy gets a few thousand bucks back.

Or he could have simply walked off the plane, cashed in his $20k worth of tickets and bought seats on another airline that allows carseats.

Instead he whines that they never offered him a seat in first class. Poor guy.

[yeah, I tend to agree. Angling for first class on Cathay Pacific is a worthwhile goal, but it's like another world altogether. I just can't imagine them proposing it. If he suggested it, he clearly didn't say. Anyway, $20,000 for five tickets actually sounds like a decent business class fare, maybe even a slight discount, so maybe something else was going on. who knows? Meanwhile, CP could start selling that baby-free business class section as a feature and get a premium. -ed.]

we are about to fly air tahiti akl-lax and i was told no kids in business class - and i don't think this is some new-fangled business class. the ticket guy made me feel stupid for asking - like whats business like about two kids sitting next to you. we may buy an extra seat in coach.

Gee - lots of assumptions being thrown about.

"he could have downgraded the 2yo and the babysitter to coach. Ta-da! 2yo is safe, the other pax in J sleep better, and daddy gets a few thousand bucks back."

Yeah 'if' there are seats available in coach - an no, dont tell me there are always seats left available. That is not true.

"Or he could have simply walked off the plane, cashed in his $20k worth of tickets and bought seats on another airline that allows carseats."

JUST LIKE THAT! How simple! A day or two in a airport hotel, find another airline, get the entire family settled, cancell everything back home.

He isnt whining about going to first class - he is complaining that the airline staff are inflexible. Not ready to come up with a solution.

As for 20k US being a deal...what?

Staff should be ready for such emergencies at a moments notice. For that amount of money paid for tickets where were the staff to support the family?

He removed the car-seat when asked (no problem) the child would not remain in its seat - no 2 year old would - and probably not on their laps either (not for the cost of that seat).

Another black mark against Cathay in my book. Not ready and not flexible.

[I definitely agree he got a raw deal from the CP ground crew, and who knows what the flt crew told them. Frankly, I think the real problem IS CP, for designing a business class that doesn't accommodate legal, approved safety devices. And they're rolling it out on more planes. Just one more hodgepodge of specs and regulations that complicate the world of kid travel. Somewhere, someone should have given a heads up to the family when they were booking the tickets or before they got on the plane. -ed.]

I'm having a hard time feeling too bad for anyone who cannot only afford FIVE business class tickets, but who also can bring the nanny.

FTR, we had a difficult time 2 years back getting Cathay (on the Hong Kong side) to okay the car seat in regular old economy. We didn't bring it this fall, but I will say that both ways we had major problems getting the in flight entertainment systems to work (ny-hk the flight attendant gifted us a box of chocolates for our troubles. ???). Not pleasing to the 5 and 12 year olds. The two year old spent the next few weeks at home insisting that any television watched was done so with headphones, but unplugged.

Well, that rambled. Point being, not crying for this family.

[I'm also assuming that some non-insignificant portion of the tickets were for the business trip, and thus a company expense. Frustration's frustration, no matter what cabin you're in, and getting booted off a plane is a PITA in any case. You can probably take some FTR pleasure in imagining that getting booted from a $20k seat is exponentially more annoying, though. -ed.]

Now that I think about it, he almost certainly did not pay full fare. Full fare business class on Cathay is more like $9k/person, not $4k.

So maybe the tickets weren't fully refundable...

After my 18-month old daughter's performance in business class on our United flight back from Paris to Chicago yesterday, I wouldn't at all be surprised to learn that United is going to ban kids from their business class cabins, too. She was fine for the first four hours, then had a meltdown that lasted nearly FIVE hours. Didn't know that was possible for a person that small to scream that loud, and for that long. The flight attendants and passengers were at first mostly patient and understanding. But by the end of the trip, everyone's nerves were frayed. I even lent out my Bose noise cancellation headset to the nearest passenger. The worst part of it was that there were two other babies in the same business class cabin, so when one let up, another started.

Oh, and $4k for a business class seat on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong sounds like a relative bargain to me. But personally, if I'm bringing the nanny on a trip, she's riding in coach along with the kid.

All this is making me nervous about our planned trip in late spring from Los Angeles to Auckland via Air New Zealand. We're thinking about booking their new Premium Economy seats. I guess a phone call is in order to verify that’s even possible.

When are airlines and hotels going to get the fact that people want to travel with their kids and, if they have the means, travel well.

I see an opening in the market...

The airline was 'inflexible' how? The website says that no carseats are allowed in business class. They have those rules for a reason. Pander to one person, then they have to pander to the rest. They got rebooked on another flight. Case closed.

[Staff should be ready for such emergencies at a moments notice. For that amount of money paid for tickets where were the staff to support the family?]

Emergency??? A carseat not allowed in Business Class is an emergency? Are you kidding me? If that is an emergency, what would a terrorist act on a plane be?
And no matter what they paid for their tickets, it is not up to the staff to 'support' the family because they couldn't be bothered to READ the airline's rules posted on its website.

No sympathy here.

Take a close look at those seats (very similar to Virgin's business class). They're angled sideways.

Placing a forward facing car seat in an airplane seat that's angled sideways just won't work. It would be the equivalent of installing the seat sideways in your car.

So whether or not Cathay's staff handled the situation professionaly, they were in the right about not using car seats in these business seats.


hey, you know what? i think that the staff did a pretty good job about it. i think its right to do that so good job cathay pacific!

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