I did not know that I would do the same thing – taking a long distance travel with a baby all by myself. I did not know that I could do it.
Some facts about the airline and the aircraft
Helsinki (HEL) – Shanghai (PVG)
Finnair. A350 XWB, a new and beautiful aircraft.
There is only one baby cot seat, which is 41H (Row 41 is an exit row). The baby cot can accommodate a baby weighting up to 11 kg (although Finnair website says 9 kg). Length is unknown, but my 72cm baby could fit in. The baby cot is mounted once the seatbelt sign has been turned off.
There are two seats beside 41H. And the arm between those two seats can be lifted. If the plane is not fully booked, the airline typically blocks all three seats for the mom.
There are four restrooms in front of Row 41,so it is a bit noisy. But where else is not?
Helsinki airport terminal T2
I put my baby into the baby-carrier, and went to the family gate at the security check. After taking out all liquid products and cell phone, I took my baby out, because I had to carry the baby to go through the security gate. Unopened baby food is fine. Even water is OK. After the security check, I saw a high chair, so I let him sit there while I was collecting belongings. What if the baby cannot sit? I feel there has to be some sort of assistance.
Our gate is 53. What a long walk! The passport control is around gate 30, meaning gate 32-60 are for flights that exit the Schengen region. There are two lines, one for EU passport holders, and the other for all (other) passport holders. Of course the latter is longer. We waited for about 20 minutes. The officer needs to see passport, residence permit, airline ticket, and face. The officer was nice and quick. After the passport control, it’s still a long walk to gate 53. Very long walk.
When I finally reached gate 50, it was already the boarding time. Anyway, I saw a changing station, and took advantage of it. God knows where the next one will be. So diaper was changed, we were ready to board! Gate 53! People were already in the line. However, thanks to the baby, I could directly go to the priority line. For boarding, they check both the ticket and the passport.
A350 is beautiful! Inside is elegant and spacious. I settled down to 41H, the only front row seat that can have a baby cot mounted on the wall. One Chinese flight attendant helped me to watch the baby, so that I could store my carryon bag in the overhead bin. It was then I noticed that the arm between the two seats beside me could be lifted. Apparently those two seats were not taken. Most likely they were blocked out by flight attendants for my convenience. I got a baby cot and three front row seats! Can’t be any better, right?
Before takeoff, the baby cot was not there. I put seat belts on myself and my baby, waiting for the takeoff. Had not because of a curious baby, I wouldn’t have felt the delay was that long. It’s only about half an hour — but to me it’s like ages. Luckily, other passengers helped me to entertain or distract him.
As soon as the plane started to move, I was getting ready for breast feeding. From the screen I could see where we were heading. A350 is a fancy aircraft. The taxing took long, and I had to start feeding to shut him up. Since he was tired, he was drinking slowly. He didn’t stop until we were 3000-4000 meter high in the air. Woohoo, he slept, so that’s it! Was not it too easy? As expected, my unpredictable baby woke up after only five minutes. But thanks to that five minutes, I could get some stuff out from the carryon bag. He was very excited, smiling to every body. The meal service started really early. I had to delay it, but not for very long, because they can’t keep the food warm for too long. When I was hesitating, the lady sitting across the walkway offered me a hand. She took the baby, then I quickly finished my meal. The food was delicious! Meatball, mashed potato, and a little bit carrot. I didn’t eat salad. But I saved the fazer chocolate for later. I took back my baby, and tried all kinds of ways to make him sleep. He was clearly sleepy. After all, he only slept for five minutes since his last nap. He wouldn’t sleep. He was still smiling to people; he played the lifted arm and bagged blanket; he climbed the seat; he looked around. He sometimes showed signs of sleepy, but he just would not sleep. His eyes were wide open. Maybe because it’s too bright? Once the lights were out (almost three hours after the takeoff!), his eyes started to close. And then, he dozed off fast, while I was rocking him with small steps. I waited for about five minutes before putting him into the baby cot. I let him sleep on the side, and used a pillow and clothes to stabilize him. After an hour, he wanted to rotate to be on tummy, so I helped him. Although he moved some times due to noise (toilet flushing), he seemed to be sleeping well. Only five more hours to go! Maybe he would sleep till we arrive at Shanghai? (Now I should sleep. Four hours to Shanghai — so fast! But I couldn’t sleep! At all!)
100 minutes before landing, they started to serve breakfast. It was delicious too! Scrambled egg, spinach, mini hash brown, strawberry yogurt, and orange juice. Yummy!
Shortly after I finished the breakfast, my baby was waken up by light and noise. Still 1.5 hours till landing! Since he had some decent sleep, he was beaming to everybody. I wanted to save breast feeding for the landing. Therefore I only gave him a fruit bag. He continued to play on the seats.
About 40 minutes before landing, the captain announcement came. Soon the plane would be descending, and thus people should remain seated and seat belt fastened. I kept my baby on my lap, and put on the seatbelt for both of us. He didn’t like to be restrained, so he was trying to be free and of course he screened a little. He was fuzzy also because he needed more sleep. After all it’s still midnight time in Finland. He was supposed to sleep. Anyway, to prepare for landing, I had to hold him, and constantly distract him. I kept checking the clock, hoping we would land right away. Finally, about 20 minutes before the estimated landing, I just couldn’t “fight” with him any more. So I started breast feeding. He was drinking well, but at some point he was scratching his ears. Perhaps he was suffering from the pressure change when the plane was descending. He did not cry, so it was not that bad. Since he was sleepy, he kept drinking for long time, which was good. Soon after we landed, he stopped feeding. I don’t remember much about what happened after landing, maybe because I was too happy that this journey was almost done.
After the plane reached the gate, people were busy gathering their belongings. They helped me to get my bag, so I could prepare to get out. I don’t think I used too much time, but when we exited the plane, the cleaning ladies have also reached the gate. Were we that late? When did all those passengers leave?
Shanghai Pudong Airport
There’s again long walk to the passport control. But I did not mind much. After the overnight flight, my legs were longing for a walk. On the way I spotted a changing station, so I changed his diaper. At the passport control, there’s no line at all! At first one needs to pass a temperature check gate. What if I had fever? I showed our passports to the officer. Interestingly, my baby’s travel document did not work. The officer asked about our flight number, checked the information, and let us go.
Next stop was baggage claim. I used 10 seconds to spot my suitcase, and someone helped to get it for me. The final stop was custom clearance. Since there was a long line, I went to the restroom first. After coming out, the line was much shorter. I remember they only do random check in the past, so there’s usually no line. But now, every bag needs to go through the security check. What happened? Again, somebody helped me to handle the heavy suitcase.
Finally we could go out. Only less than twenty people were waiting outside for picking ups. My mom was not among them. I went to an info desk, hoping to get a WiFi code. And I was told to go to a WiFi kiosk to get one. The kiosk is close to a purple column. If you exit the arrival gate, and take a left, you will find it. I used my passport to get a code. Then I was able to contact my mom. Within ten minutes, I found her! By the way, while I was dealing with the WiFi code, my baby dozed off at some point. It’s the first time to see him sleeping in the carrier.