Changing Tables on a Plane? Don’t be so sure.

I promise that every post won’t be centered around travel, but this seemed timely with the holidays coming.  Before I had kids, like most folks, I didn’t give a second thought to whether or not planes had changing tables. I had never noticed them before but just made the assumption that they had to be on board somewhere. After all, a toddler couldn’t be expected to last an entire flight without a diaper change. Right? Wrong.

The first few times we travelled, it was smooth sailing in the potty realm.  We discovered that while we hadn’t ever noticed a changing table in a bathroom, they did indeed exist.

However, this past summer we travelled with my toddler to Hawaii, quite the distance from Boston. That meant two six hour flights each way.  A handled the flight like a champ but when it came time to change her diaper I was horrified.  We noticed that there wasn’t a changing table in the bathroom nearest to our seat.  My husband politely asked the flight attendant where the changing table was on board. Her response “There isn’t one. Just get creative.”  I asked her (kindly) what exactly that meant.  How were we supposed to “get creative?”  She looked at me blankly and said with a look of disgust “Well you can’t change her here. Food is prepped here.” Was it really a better suggestion that I change her on the tray table? Or in my lap while a stranger was literally touching my elbow?

I wrote to United Airlines when I returned. I got a cookie cutter email in response. No shock there.   I looked into it further and there is no mandate that an airplane must have a changing table. If you read the fine print, United actually tells you that you shouldn’t count on it on all flights  and that only certain models have them. (  This is not something that is under federal regulation, so it is something that needs to be addressed on an airline by airline basis.

I shared my experience with other moms. I found that quite a few families had experiences like ours. One mentioned that she had tried to bring the issue to light but the airline response was that it was too costly to retrofit planes.  I’ll be totally frank: I don’t understand why this hasn’t become a bigger issue. Maybe it’s my “mommy haze” but this really affects parents and non-parents alike. If there isn’t a place to change my child, it’s an uncomfortable situation for EVERYONE in my row. Airlines need to get with the times, or at least ensure any flight that is longer than 2 hours is equipped with a sanitary changing space.

Today’s tidbit: I was putting daughter to sleep one night this week and we were reading stories. She kept saying “one more time ” even though we had already read the book 5 times. Then I paused for a minute and reminded myself that this stage won’t last forever. I snuggled her closer and read the book another 5 times.


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