If you want to test an airline for customer friendliness, level of service, and flexibility, there is nothing better than to throw some kids at them. If you want to test them for basic humane treatment, try throwing a sick kid at them. The ultimate test is to throw a sick kid plus a sick mother, hard.
Czech Airlines is wonderful. They will take your child from you, they will cluster around you and the kid and a flight attendant will find an empty row and prepare a little bed for your child. When the kid finally sleeps and you sink back into your seat, the same flight attendant will come along and ask, "And now, what can I do for you, Ma'am? Do you want to eat now? Or would you like some coffee?"
Lufthansa, not exactly known for Germanic exuberance, will actually provide a wheel chair to get onboard, will place you carefully in your seat, and ask you multiple times if there is anything, anything they could do for you, are you quite sure?
United will give you extra crackers, and steal milk from First Class, and cast worried looks into your direction, until they find a seat with an empty one next to you, so that you and your below-2-year-old are comfortable.
Tarom will take the kid and you won't get it back from the gushing flight attendants until you land at your destination. They will unfold the stroller and help you with the kid, and are you really all right now?
Air France will take your stroller from you and insist on checking it in with the luggage. No, you cannot get the stroller at your layover in Paris. Absolutely not. You cannot walk with the sick child on your arm? Well, maybe we can get a wheel chair for you. We will see but do get on board and not on our nerves now. You want a meal for your child? But your child does not have a seat, pardon, we can't give you food for your baby, and no, we have no milk. And sorry about that pesticide we spray you with before take-off but that is actually in accordance with international regulations, and completely harmless to you, we are sure. Oh, the wheel chair person didn't show up in Paris? Quel malheur. Oh, this means you have to carry your sick child and your sick self from one terminal to the other, by foot, a twenty-minute walk? You have to stand in line for half an hour at the immigration, with two of eight counters open, and your kid struggling in your arms – and you can't put the kid down because he will run away, and remember, you don't have your stroller? That is too bad. Then you get to the check-in and you actually think of checking whether your luggage and the stroller have made in onboard because you remember past experience, and they say yes, madame, all is okay, all is accounted for. You sigh a breath of relief until you get to Frankfurt and the stroller is not there. You bring yourself and your child to the hospital, and hope for the best, only to hear that the Air France person rang the door bell at your parents at 11:30 at night to deliver the stroller. When nobody opened, they rang out the neighbors and dropped the stroller off there. Imagine your surprise when you find out that the stroller is – completely and irreparably trashed. (Which is, incidentally, the fourth stroller they managed to destroy in as many flights.) When you call the number they attached to the stroller, you get a list of things they want you to do, including an estimate of the stroller damage (when the wheel rim is ripped off the base and all sorts of spiky metal things threaten to slash everything in vicinity, I don't actually think you need a damage report). And when you say, this is the fourth time we get a stroller trashed, and I just had a miscarriage and don't feel up to finding a repair shop, they get all snippy at you. And when you say, "I don't feel treated very well by Air France" the answer is "We treat all passengers like that", really, what is there to say?
Or maybe this: Don't ever fly with Air France when you fly with kids, or even if you don't have kids with you. Just don't. The food is lousy, the service is arrogant and condescending, the baggage handling resembles torture techniques, and every single employee treats you like a pest. They suck worse than tsetse flies. And Charles de Gaulle, needless to say, is the worst airport in the world.
I am going to write several letters of complaint to Air France, and I'm going to assemble a web page filled with horror stories about Air France, because I feel it's necessary to warn parents about this incredibly horrible airline. If you have any similar experiences, please write to me. I will include all valid (i.e. real) stories. Yes, I'm pissed. Yes, I'm bitter. I have a right to it.