Many airlines have structured boarding sequences, often prioritizing disabled persons, those in need of special assistance, families with small children and occasionally military personnel as “pre-boarding” customers.
Here’s some advice on knowing how and when to request pre-boarding during your pregnancy.
Can pregnant women pre-board airplanes? Airlines are not required to allow pregnant women to pre-board the aircraft. However, pre-boarding can be specifically requested based on need.
Typically, restrictions on flying while pregnant are not applied until the third trimester.
Many airlines require documentation for pregnant flyers, and some even specify flight policies for pregnant women based on whether they are traveling domestically or internationally.
Pre-boarding can be requested if you need assistance; however, there are some points to consider before doing so.
Pre-boarding While Pregnant
The short answer is yes.
But… there’s more to it than that. Many women have shared their stories on whether they chose to pre-board during their pregnancies and their reasoning. It’s clear that there are many reasons to request pre-boarding status. For instance, if you…
- Need assistance lifting luggage over your head into the storage bins. It would be a lot wiser to request pre-boarding instead of trying to ask an attendant to squeeze through a sea of shuffling passengers to assist you after general groups have boarded.
- Will find it difficult to walk through the aisles along with general boarding groups. Of course, this depends on your stage of pregnancy.
Some airline agents will help you without needing to be asked first, sometimes going as far as to offer blankets, water, and even baby toys to expectant moms.
Agents will also specifically advise pregnant customers to request pre-boarding if they happen to observe her waiting at the gate.
However, consider a couple ways a request for pre-boarding could backfire:
- Potentially delaying boarding for a disabled person who falls behind you in line.
- We all know the sensitivity of pregnant women’s bladders! Early boarding could mean the difference of upwards of 45 minutes to less than 10 minutes in the wait to use the restroom.
- Having to stand and sit repeatedly for others to find their seats, if you have reserved an aisle seat.
Remember that you can fall into more than one category as a pregnant traveler, and may not have to request pre-boarding.
For instance, if you happen to be traveling with your family and a child under 2 years old, or have a coincidental health condition that requires special assistance, you already qualify for pre-boarding.
Major Airline Policies for Pregnant Women
For examples of airline policies for pregnant flyers, here’s a handful of major US airlines’ requirements and restrictions on customers traveling for two:
|American||General||Domestic Travel||International Travel|
|Delta||For flights under 5 hours, you will not be permitted to travel within 7 days (before or after) of your delivery date.If travel during this time is unavoidable, you will need a physician’s approval and a special assistance coordinator. You will need your special assistance coordinator to send the necessary medical form directly to your physician.||For flights within 4 weeks of your due date, you will need clearance from a special assistance coordinator and a physician’s note stating that you’ve been cleared for flight within the last 48 hours. 7 days before or after delivery may be permitted with a physician’s note.|
|Southwest||Pregnant fliers, no matter the stage of pregnancy, should consult a physician before air travel and should not travel by air beginning at the 38th week of pregnancy. Pregnant women may be asked to sit in the emergency exit row in some cases.|
|United||Before 36 weeks of pregnancy, flight is allowed without medical documentation. After this 36 week mark, there must be in hand an original and two copies of an obstetrician’s certificate, dated within 72 hours of the flight departure. It is preferred, however, to have this dated within one day of flight departure. (Certificate must state that obstetrician has cleared customer for travel between specified dates and that the estimated due date is after the date of the last scheduled flight.)|
|JetBlue||Air travel is not allowed within seven days of expected due date unless documentation from a doctor is provided. This documentation must be dated no more than 72 hours prior to departure. Documentation must specify that the doctor has cleared the customer for flight and that estimated due date is after the date of the last flight in the itinerary.|
TPG provides a brief look at what a typical medical certificate should include:
- Number of weeks of pregnancy
- Estimated delivery date
- Single or multiple pregnancy
- Any possible complications in pregnancy
- Doctor’s approval for flight
Other details that should be included in the medical documentation include the official clinic/hospital letterhead, signature of doctor or midwife, and date of no more than 72 hours of flight departure.
Today noted that restrictions for flight are often much tighter for women carrying multiples.
Instead of being disallowed to fly at 32-38 weeks, pregnancy with multiples can hinder air travel as early as 20 weeks.
What to Know Before Flying for Two (or More!)
Many sources have suggested taking full advantage of the second trimester.
During this time, weeks 13 to 26, the risk of miscarriage is significantly reduced, and morning sickness will have likely disappeared.
This time is also when many women experience increases in energy.
Choosing Your Destination
Be smart about where you choose to travel, some things to consider about travel destinations include:
- Any necessary medication: certain medications may be advised against during pregnancy.
- Key, location-specific activities, such as hikes/walks or guided tours (walking or by vehicle) may not be suitable. Consider the physical exertion of some activities, and the time you will have to be still and/or confined… and away from a restroom.
- Hospital locations in case of emergency (i.e. proximity of a hospital to your hotel).
- Climate/weather: you may want to avoid humid destinations! Or those that pose health risks such as malaria or Zika.
Health and Comfort Tips
Other details to be cognizant of include hydration (dehydration in an aircraft can increase your chances of experiencing nausea, dizziness or faintness!), duration of the flight (consider adding a layover!), excluding salty foods from your in flight snack menu, and the possibility of reserving an aisle seat for frequent bathroom breaks.
Keep your temperature regulated by layering up: you don’t have to wear a thick coat – a light cardigan will do.
Bring any travel accessories you may need to ensure your utmost comfort: sleep masks, small blanket, travel pillow (neck or lumbar) are just a few examples.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly: pregnant women are prone to developing deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) during flight, so any small movements you are able to do will help you tremendously in avoiding blood clots.
QUICK TIP: Elevate your feet if possible.
Health Concerns and “Invisible” Conditions While Traveling for Your ‘Babymoon’
When you’re planning a trip that involves flying, you’ll want to be extra prepared. There are a couple of steps you can take to ensure that you have a comfortable and easy flight.
Prepping Before the Flight
Cheapflights suggest exercising before travel to maintain your circadian rhythm and adjusting your sleep schedule far ahead of time (sleep and wake up two hours earlier if traveling East, two hours later if West).
In addition to avoiding salty foods, as mentioned earlier, it would also be best to avoid:
- Raw vegetables
- Typical nausea-inducing foods, specific to you and your pregnancy
It is important to notify the flight attendants of “invisible” conditions.
This includes stages of pregnancy at which you are not yet showing, or coincidental disabilities, such as anxiety, the symptoms of which may become intensified during flight or due to your pregnancy.
If you need extra time to get settled and calm before take-off, be sure to request pre-boarding.
Know Your Insurance
Research your insurance! It is highly recommended to confirm that your insurance covers any complications during travel, or even early birth.
Read up on your current insurance or consider purchasing a plan for travel.
Some policies will include pregnancy as a reason for trip cancellation or interruption; however, this policy will include a lot of fine print depending on whether or not the agency recognizes pregnancy as a Pre-Existing Condition or if you experience complications during pregnancy.
According to TravelInsurance.com, pregnant travelers are typically covered for complications to pregnancy rather than “regular labor,” given that they were cleared for air travel by a physician.
Furthermore, pregnancy with multiples may be more difficult to find coverage for.
Arch Insurance suggests purchasing the proper insurance within 21 days of purchasing your trip and verifying that your trip is insured, in the event that it must be canceled.
Allianz Travel travel insurance covers complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
However, they specify that the “illness, injury, or medical condition you’re experiencing must be disabling enough to make a reasonable person cancel their trip,” and that the cancellation must be advised by your doctor.
History of prior pregnancies will affect your coverage as well.
For example, if you’ve experienced premature births in the past, you may be advised against traveling during the “at-risk” stages of pregnancy. However, this would not be considered a complication, and therefore would not be covered.