I haven’t had to struggle with diapers for about a year now (hooray for a potty-trained toddler!), but I distinctly remember just how hard a simple diaper change could be when traveling with a little one. Believe it or not, there are a LOT of airplanes flying the friendly skies these days without a single changing table aboard. And these are not just regional jets. I’ve been aboard many larger jets flying cross-country without a single changing table (I’m talking about YOU, USAirways flights between SFO and CLT!)
When you find yourself without a changing table, whatever you do, don’t change your baby’s diaper on the tray table. People eat there. And it isn’t meant to support that kind of weight either. I’ve seen it happen and it gives all of us traveling parents out there a bad name. (This is also why I always carry Wet Wipes and completely wipe down all of the tray tables in my row at the start of every flight I take. You never know what has been on those tables.)
And you really shouldn’t change your child’s diaper on the seat either. That said, emergencies happen and I’ll admit to having done this a few times. I’ve been aboard a few flights where we’ve had turbulence and I couldn’t leave my seat, but my daughter also just couldn’t wait for a diaper change. I’ve very discretely put down a changing pad or blanket and done a quick change, usually with my husband holding my daughter’s head to keep squirming under control. And this is only when my husband and I have had a whole row with our child. I would never do this when others are in the seat next to me!
So, absent a changing table, where do you change your child’s diaper? There are not a lot of choices. If your child is smaller, the best option is to put your changing pad or a blanket on top of the closed toilet seat and make the change there. If you have a toddler, there just isn’t enough room to lay the child on the toilet seat, so your best bet is often to do a standing up diaper change on top of the closed toilet lid. Although I’ve never used them, I’d guess that the new Huggies Slip-On Little Movers diapers would be a good choice for this kind of change. Some flight attendants will also let you put a blanket down on the galley area floor and change there as well.
Unfortunately, there is simply not a guide out there to tell you in advance whether a flight that you are choosing will have a changing table. I really wish that SeatGuru, which provides all sorts of information about aircraft layout and amenities, would include reliable changing table information. Alas.
So until someone compiles a definitive guide, here’s my experience with the various airlines so far – please add your experiences in the comments:
- American: The vast majority of the larger planes (i.e., anything that is not a regional jet) have at least one lavatory with a changing table. Better than most airlines.
- Delta: Mixed fleet. Some have tables and some do not.
- JetBlue: EVERY lavatory is equipped with a changing table. We love JetBlue!
- Southwest: Although Southwest is considered pretty family friendly, their changing table situation is hit or miss. The good news is that Southwest doesn’t fly too many long hauls, so you are more likely to be able to get away with not doing a change on board.
- United: Large airline flying lots of different plane types, so it is hit or miss as well. Most of the two aisle airplanes (747, 767, 777) seem to have changing tables. According to this Flyertalk thread, only the 757s and 737s (one aisle jets with 3-3 seating) don’t have tables.
- US Airways: By far the worst in my experience. I don’t think I’ve been on a US Airways domestic flight yet with a changing table, and I fly a lot on the SFO to CLT route, which is about as long as it gets domestically.
- Virgin America: My memory is a little fuzzy, but I do believe Virgin America flights all have changing tables. According to this Flyertalk thread, they all do. We love Virgin too!