Toddler-Friendly Skies

A mother and child smiling into the camera
The overall experience for Elsie Jordan, flying with her toddler for the first time, was positive

The time had come. We had waited two years to be able to introduce our toddler to his extended family and now, at last, it was finally going to happen. However, in order to do that we first had to become the parents I have always looked at with a mix of trepidation and sympathy. We had to become FWAT parents. You know the ones: the “flying with a toddler” parents.

Those poor souls!

When Air North first announced that they would begin seasonal routes to Toronto, I was ecstatic. Like a lot of Yukoners, I have quite a bit of family in Ontario, and having easier access to them still feels like a wonderful gift. My husband and I quickly jumped to it, booking a couple of seats for ourselves and our rambunctious two-year-old on a flight in June. I remember feeling quite proud of myself for reserving a row at the front of the plane. It just made sense, knowing that our boy would likely be revving to go when we finally arrived on the Toronto tarmac, to be able to get off the flight as quickly as possible.

The overall experience was positive. In fact, the flight from Whitehorse to Toronto was downright wonderful. Being the parent of a toddler on his first time going on an airplane, I was understandably nervous about the whole thing. Of course, it didn’t help that the morning began with a total meltdown (my son’s, not mine) in the entranceway of the airport. Lesson learned: only horrendously evil parents don’t allow their child to independently steer a luggage cart—even if it is too big for him to see where he is going.

While it was mortifying to be the parents that everyone was praying to not be sharing a flight with, things began to improve as we found the staff and crew of the Erik Neilson’s International Airport to be incredibly supportive. I was especially indebted for the wisdom we received at the security checkpoint, learning that it was best to send my son’s teddy bear through the scanner before anything else. This piece of advice helped avoid a potential tantrum caused by a long wait for the reunion of a boy and his best fur buddy.

The crew of our Air North flight was top-notch. I have, to date, only had one experience where the service from an air crew on an Air North flight provided reasons to be left unsatisfied, and this experience was nothing like that at all. The crew on the Toronto-bound aircraft was not only hospitable and accommodating, but they also seemed to be genuinely friendly people.

Our flight was one that had at least six other families with young children, a scene that could easily have erupted, with some unhappy passengers, at multiple times throughout the seven-plus hours of travel time. However, despite this, our pleasant group of Air North attendants consistently offered assistance, helpful tips and an extra snack, here and there, to nip a little one’s outburst in the bud.

Travel time and the long hours of being confined to an aircraft were additional factors that I was concerned about. Every time I have flown to Toronto (on other airlines, mind you), there was typically a stopover in either Vancouver or Calgary. This usually equated to an hour, or several, that could be used for a trip to the bathroom, a walk or a meal break. I feared that this might be something I would miss, with a toddler in tow, when I began to go over the Air North route in my mind.

Air North’s flight plan from Whitehorse to Toronto includes a very-brief (in our case it lasted approximately 30 minutes) stop in Yellowknife, NWT, to allow for passengers to board or disembark the aircraft. Passengers are not permitted to leave the aircraft if they are en route to Toronto during this time, but they are permitted time to get up, pace the aisle and stretch for a few minutes. My anxiety rose as I pictured having to keep my toddler on-board during this stopover. Would this be the factor that made flying with my little guy a miserable experience?


In my opinion this itinerary actually provided a much more enjoyable travel day. Yes, it was a longer amount of time being physically on-board a plane, but the overall travel time was cut significantly—by hours, and I know that helped immensely while travelling with a little boy who normally wants nothing to do with staying in one spot for a prolonged amount of time. I now believe that a brief break, where he could stand up and move around a little, was much easier to manage. After all, we didn’t have to repeat the process of boarding another flight and entertaining a toddler in the airport for another hour or two wait. Both pluses.

Of course I had been warned well ahead of time about substantial problems that were arising at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. There were accounts of people waiting days for their luggage to be returned to them. Images circulated of thousands of bags lying around in the international terminal. And, I had been advised to bring at least three days’ worth of supplies in my carry-on—just in case our luggage was lost. Suffice it to say, I was terrified of what to expect.

This is the moment that the crew of Air North proved themselves to be masters of customer service.

We arrived to find that the Arrivals carousel that would be receiving our luggage was also being used for the two flights ahead of us, both of which had still not been unloaded from their perspective aircrafts. My husband and I witnessed the Air North crew members handling the situation and ensuring that our luggage, which was ready to go, came out in a timely manner. Given that my son was thoroughly exhausted from our journey, we were deeply grateful and impressed at receiving our bags, getting out of the airport and concluding our journey within an hour of landing. Awesome!

Now, that being said, if I were to think about some negative aspects of the experience, it would be made up of elements that ultimately could not be helped. For instance, the small size of the washroom did make it difficult to change a toddler’s diaper—but that is the case for all airlines, and I did pack sleep diapers to help avoid having to do multiple changes. We also learned the lesson that even if you see juice on the serving cart, do not tell your toddler he can have one, because for some reason we were told that they did not have any on-board. I was left to assume that labour shortages made providing enough beverages for everyone difficult, and therefore they could not provide any to anyone. Luckily, my toddler prefers water at the moment.

In the end, would I recommend Air North for FWAT travel? Yes, absolutely I would. The staff and crew were courteous, professional and hard-working. They made us feel welcome, even when we were managing inevitable moments of distress mid-flight. I was also extremely appreciative of the sense of humour they maintained as my darling child began to sing “Hickory Dickory Dock” and continued to yell out “clock” without the “L”—over and over again. Thank goodness the other passengers found him amusing too!

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