Strollers on a plane

September 24 2007 by Ellen Roseman

My kids are older now, but I remember wheeling them in their strollers onto an airplane before putting them in their seats. Now Air Canada has changed its policy, requiring strollers of a certain size to be checked as baggage.

Here’s a letter from Bruno, who discovered this policy at the airport. He found nothing posted at the Air Canada website when he bought his ticket.

My girlfriend bought a one-way ticket from Toronto to Vancouver on Air Canada for herself and our seven-month-old son. I was not travelling with them that day. When checking in at the airport, we were told that all strollers 30 inches long couldn’t go onto the plane. This policy is not printed on the e-ticket or receipt.

It got worse when we were told by Air Canada that if my girlfriend wanted help getting to the gate carrying an infant plus two carry-ons (her purse and a bag for the baby stuff), she would have to go to the Greater Toronto Airport Authority desk and request a wheelchair. My girlfriend started to cry and a sympathetic Air Canada employee offered her and the baby a free ride on a wheelchair. We weren’t given any reasons for this policy and witnessed other parents having the same problem at the check-in area.

I sent this letter to Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, who gave the rationale for checking large strollers at the airport instead of carrying them onto the plane.

Starting Sept. 4, we began implementing a new policy for carry-on and checked luggage as part of an overall campaign to streamline our processes and ensure better delivery of baggage. The main thrust of the changes is to more rigidly enforce our pre-existing, two-piece carry-on rule with the goal of ensuring the limited luggage space within the cabin is shared equally by all passengers and that boarding is done as efficiently as possible.

As you may know from travelling, one of the issues people often encounter upon boarding an aircraft is that the overhead bins fill quickly leaving no room for people arriving later to store their items. We are aiming to improve the situation by ensuring people only have limited carry-on, so there is enough space for all.

As part of these changes, we now count fully collapsible, umbrella-style strollers as one piece of the two-item carry-on allotment, where before they were waived. The same now applies to car seats. You will find this on our website, aircanada.com, under “Information and Services,” although I should note that we recently launched a new website format so we are updating this to provide more information.

Larger strollers will be deemed checked luggage to be checked at the check-in counter and will count as one piece of the two-piece checked-luggage allotment. Apart from space considerations on the aircraft, this is also a health and safety issue for our staff and a measure to accelerate aircraft loading. In the past, people have been able to drop off all types of strollers just before entering the plane and one of our ground handlers would take it and place it in the luggage hold. However, strollers are getting increasingly bulky and heavy. It is dangerous and time-consuming for our people who have to carry them down the narrow steps to the tarmac and then find room for them in the luggage hold.

Despite the new requirements, Air Canada continues to meet the needs of customers by offering a generous two-piece carry-on baggage allotment while remaining competitive with current industry practices. For example, a mother travelling with two children may still carry on up to six items, including a car seat or fully collapsible stroller. We believe that is more than adequate for a person’s travel needs.

Bruno thinks a small collapsible stroller isn’t safe for a small infant and I’m sure some parents agree. The whole exercise of travelling with little ones is already fraught with frustration because of flight delays and turbulence. This will only complicate things further.

While Air Canada isn’t great at communicating with passengers, I went to the website as Peter instructed and found very detailed information here. Parents, what do you think?

15 comments

  1. FourPillars

    Sep 24 2007

    Sounds like they didn’t think this policy through.

    I can see their point that large strollers should be luggage since they probably wouldn’t fit inside the plane but they have to provide some way for parents to get the kids to the plane without the stroller. Can’t they get some cheap strollers for the parents to use once they drop theirs into luggage? Both for newborns and older?

    Mike

  2. Joren

    Sep 25 2007

    For example, a mother travelling with two children may still carry on up to six items, including a car seat or fully collapsible stroller. We believe that is more than adequate for a person’s travel needs.

    Okay, getting your stuff to the gate is one thing, but just how is one person, travelling with two children, supposed to carry up to six items, including a car seat or fully collapsible stroller, down to the aircraft?

    As a former long time Flight Attendant, I don’t have a problem with efforts to reduce the size and amount of carry-on luggage, as long as it’s enforced across the board, which in my experience, has never been the case, no matter which carrier was involved.

  3. Ben

    Sep 26 2007

    I think they need to look at the age of the infant; e.g. if an infant is 7 months or younger, let the parent take the stroller inside.

    By the way, where can a 76 cm length stroller be found?

  4. Bruno Feldeisen

    Sep 27 2007

    Dear Ellen,
    I am very happy that you were able to look into AC’s new policy and publish it on your web site.
    But I would like to point that the new policy is about the ability for parents to bring their babies in a stroller up to the gate of the plane, not inside.

    Up to Sept, 4, a parent was able to bring an infant in a stroller up the gate of the plane, then an AC employee would take the stroller and place it in the baggage compartment located under the belly of the plane. Upon landing, the parent would be able to get the stroller back at the plane’s gate, as is done with passenger in a wheelchair.

    My concern is not about bringing the stroller inside the plane, but to the gate.

    If you check Air Canada’s website, it is very confusing about any policy. The only stroller you can bring up to the plane gate is an “umbrella type” stroller, where a smal infant cannot sit nor travel properly.

    I sincerely thank you for your help in highlighting this bad policy.

  5. Tawnya

    Oct 5 2007

    As a parent who travelled frequently with a newborn while my partner stayed home, I can’t say I disagree with Air Canada’s policy. Personally, I found it harder to navigate security, boarding, etc. with a stroller in tow. It took longer (and took up more space) and I didn’t have my hands free to deal with diaper bags and all the other items you need to bring on board when travelling with an infant.

    Use a sling or a baby carrier and check your stroller at check-in. Trust me, navigating airports worldwide is a lot easier when you’re wearing your baby instead of pushing a pram.

  6. Kara

    Oct 22 2007

    The issue I have is that you can’t get the umbrella stroller at points before your final destination. That means you are stuck in a foreign airport holding your baby for who knows how long until you can board your next flight. For people traveling far, you never get a chance to put down your baby. That means potentially holding a child for many, many hours on end – ouch!

    I have canceled plans to travel with my three year old and six month old from Seattle to Halifax because of this new policy. Air Canada loves kids? What a joke!

  7. Autumn

    Oct 24 2007

    We are going to England (from Winnipeg) for christmas, so I called the airline to check what I need to know about traveling with my 4 month old son….well I have never been so mad off in my life…The lady on the phone was SO rude!

    When I booked our flights I booked with the understanding that we would have his stroller with us to the gate, now I find out that I am unable to take it and his stroller is classed as a carry on, along with his car seat and base. Our total flight time is 14 hours (with layovers), so they are now telling me I have to “carry” my son for that whole time as I have no stroller, no car seat – nothing!! This is totally unpractical for us as parents as one, let along a parent with other children.

    I also asked about the carry on for my son, she said nothing was allowed – when I asked about his diaper bag she said “that is yours, he is not allowed one – can he carry a bag? No”. So I would like to know how the quote below is possible for a mother traveling with a newborn (who has not paid for a seat)

    “For example, a mother travelling with two children may still carry on up to six items, including a car seat or fully collapsible stroller. We believe that is more than adequate for a person’s travel needs.”

    I was also told by the rude lady on the phone that I wasn’t allowed to take on pre-boiled water for my son’s bottles, so I asked how he is suppose to eat she said the airline water – I said that is no an option as he need pre-boiled room temp water, so she gave me the airport number and they said yes indeed I can take on as much water as he needs, I also called Heathrow and they confimred it is standard with most airlines that a mother travelling with an infant can take liquids that are needed.

    I will NEVER travel with AC again and feel this new policy is utter ridiculous and sadly they will lose many current and future customers…currently we are looking into other airlines and cancelling our tickets with AC.

  8. shana

    Nov 4 2007

    Hi Ellen, I read your article about this new policy and have had a number of customers call about it as well. It seems that it’s harder and harder to travel with infants these days.

    I wanted to let you know about our company, Wee Travel Baby Equipment Rentals. We rent baby equipment and have offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria. We make it very easy for traveling parents. We deliver the equipment to their accommodation and have it waiting for them upon arrival and pick it up after they depart. We also deliver to the airport.

    In Vancouver, in fact, they can rent strollers and car seats directly from the airport from CDS baggage storage on the International side. If they have a long stopover in Vancouver, a reclining stroller can come in very handy!!

    We also rent a product called the GogoKidz Travelmate. It is an attachment to the car seat, with wheels, so you can wheel your child right onto the plane and it can remain attached to the seat while on the plane. We have had great feedback about it thus far. Thanks very much.

  9. Karina

    Nov 5 2007

    I hate Air Canada. Not only because of this new rule, but also because of the terrible experience that my one year old and I had when they cancelled the trip (Lima to Toronto) because the plane was not in good condition. And they never ever wanted to give me back the stroller. I had to carry him and our bags for more than 5 hours in the airport, we both were crying……..and they had to cancel the trip for one day. The next day I had the same problem……..That was horrible!!!

  10. Jacquie

    Nov 5 2007

    Okay, so they’ve implemented this new policy where you are required to check your stroller. It was something I learned upon arrival to the airport on our way to Thunder Bay for Thanksgiving, and we dealt with it. Thank goodness my partner was with me to help out.

    I’ve travelled to Vancouver twice on my own with my infant before the new policy was implemented and wouldn’t have coped well hearing I wasn’t able to bring my stroller and car seat to the doors of the airplane.

    Anyway, we checked the stroller as directed. But when it came down the baggage belt, the wheel of our pricy Baby Jogger was dangling off the axis, completely broken off! Fine, we were starting to lose our patience but understanding that accidents do happen, we borrowed a stroller while in Thunder Bay. We assumed the situation would be remedied once we arrived home to Toronto.

    We were told to take the stroller to a baggage repair place, where they would assess if it could be fixed or repaired — but when we dropped it off in Mississauga, they told us that they have to send it to Montreal for assessment. Ok, again, we understood that it was not the baggage repair shop’s fault that they don’t do the stroller repair themselves. We left our decrepit-looking stroller with them assuming Air Canada would provide us with something in the interim while we waited for the stroller to be fixed.

    Can you believe they DO NOT provide you with anything!!!! No monies to purchase a substitute stroller, no monies to rent a stroller, NOTHING! Even though they broke my property! They won’t even let you talk to anyone in Air Canada’s baggage division in Quebec that is in charge of the matter. You have to write them a letter!!!

    So, now I’m furious! To date, over a month and a half since the stroller was broken, they have said that they are fixing it but I haven’t seen any results! I have spent about $200 trying to find a cheap but usable stroller I can take my daughter for walks in. The $25 Umbrella stroller just doesn’t cut it.

    I feel like my freedom has been compromised and I will NEVER fly Air Canada again. I advise all parents to avoid it at all cost. If you do have to fly on the airline, I recommend renting at your destination, as you run a huge risk checking in your stroller.

    Sorry for my rant but I’m really upset by this whole situation!

  11. Patrick

    Nov 13 2007

    Here is my experience with this “Pamela Paul”. Seems like she just regurgitates the same e-mail!

    Ms. Paul,

    I must say your second response was even more useless than your first!! I now see that my correspondence is falling on deaf ears as I might as well have been talking to the wall. Nowhere in your response do you address the issues raised in my writing. I understand that you have a job to do and must stick within corporate policy but at least try to appease me and respond to the queries raised.

    You are directing me to your web site, which is what I used to draft my query and where I originally logged my query.

    I sense the issue has been swept under the rug with a blind eye now turned to the problem. Who cares about parents traveling with children? Obviously not Air Canada! You need not worry I will never be flying your airline again and I hope is the case with many other parents. I will direct my business to the American carries that firstly know the definition of customer service and secondly understand what it is to travel with kids.

    I am sure I am not the first parent who has contacted your airline about this new policy and I can only assume they have received the same lackluster responses as did I.

    Regards,

    Dear Mr.

    Thank you for your response.

    Firstly, I apologize for the response in the last para of my previous correspondence.

    I can empathize with your feelings of disappointment with our new stroller policy. Please visit our website : http://www.aircanada.com for additional information regarding checked baggage allowance for infant with ticket and infant without ticket. You will find this under the Information and Services Tab on the top page; click on ‘infants – children’.

    Thank you once again for your feedback. We hope your travel is smooth and trouble-free.

    Sincerely
    Pamela

    Dear Ms. Paul,

    Thank you for your attention to my writing. I must say your response was disappointing at best! Many of the points raised in my correspondence were completely ignored with only the company rhetoric spewed back to me!

    Let me give you a little hint next time you reply to a message. In the last paragraph where you copy and paste the company’s blurb, delete (name) and insert the consumer’s name. It at least makes it appear that you have some interest into the letter submitted to your organization! Oh, but you did say that my feedback is valuable.

    You state that Air Canada continues to offer a generous checked baggage allotment? Yes, the 2 bags of 50 pounds are in-line with industry standards but how much do passengers have to continue to give up. Over the recent period, checked baggage allotment was reduced 20 pounds, in-flight meals have been discontinued, with airfares continuing to increase. Now your airline is striving to make travel even more difficult for parents.

    My wife and I are expecting another child in February. Since umbrella type strollers cannot accommodate an enfant carrier similar to what you refer to as a “Sports-Utility type” stroller (which are still collapsible), how are we to travel with the carrier, which is required to transport an enfant in a vehicle? It’s obvious that your airline does not care about this; we are only obligated to get you there. If consumers cannot be mobile when they arrive at their destination then we might as well not travel at all or travel via car.

    If my wife or any parent for this matter needed to travel with an enfant and a toddler how are they to accomplish this?

    Nowhere in your explanation did it make any mention of your new policy giving any thought to the traveler. It was to your company’s complete benefit. It is interesting that you would make mention of employee safety. The airline has been in existence for how many years? It is only after all these years it has become a safety factor? No, it is another way for the airline to try and reduce costs at the expense of the consumer.

    One thing that the airlines completely forget is that the traveler is the consumer and without us your product is not needed.

    Regards,

  12. Darcy

    Feb 20 2010

    Hi,
    It’s hard to keep up with all the new restrictions on baggage and carry-on items these days. The best advice I can offer is to rent your baby equipment whenever possible.

    If you are travelling to Montreal with little ones, check out our site http://www.bebegogo.com. No need to haul around all that extra stuff. We can even meet you at the airport to deliver most equipment!

    I actually found that the Trunki ride-on suitcase is a good alternative to a stroller at the airport for little ones over 2. Then you can rent your equipment at your location.

    Darcy
    BebeGoGo -Travelling Tots
    Baby Equipment Rentals, Montreal

  13. Alexandra

    Mar 1 2010

    OMG! I read Jacquie’s comment and that’s exactly what happened to me TODAY!

    We were allowed to check our stroller at the gate, but it came back…completely broken. Can’t even lock in after unfolding, the mechanism is warped and even the BUTTON to close it is gone.

    How a solid aluminum Mutsy frame can be ruined is left unknown. I was told to go to a repair shop. After reading the comments here, I don’t even know what to expect.

    Did Jacquie ever got her stroller back? And no, I don’t have a replacement stroller. Afraid that’s where more money will come out of my pocket to wheel around my infant, who (sure enough) doesn’t walk yet.

    Did I mention we flew business class?!!

  14. moogie

    Mar 1 2010

    The policy seems accommodating, if one plans ahead. The checked stroller (if in original shipping packaging) should arrive undamaged. (You just have to keep one more big box around now! That’s inconvenient, I know!)

    Those who cannot manage two or more children should request a wheelchair. That should help with the extra bags that ticketed children are allowed, too.

    Infants 7 months and younger can be carried, or, maybe a wheelchair should be requested if that is not possible.