Just when you thought flying with kids couldn't get any worse, it did.
The recent tightening of security (not to mention the weather) left many of us facing hours of delays while trying to appease fractious offspring over the New Year holiday, and the situation is not likely to let up. The Department for Transport has warned us to allow for extra delays if we're flying. So collapse those pushchairs, throw out that baby milk (unless it's under 50ml) and prepare for pat-down.
I predict more tantrums and foot-stamping (and that's just the parents). UK airports are not known for their child-friendliness, and there are no plans for improvement. Kids' zones and soft-play areas are few; in fact, BAA, which runs most of our airports, has recently removed free soft-play spaces, "for operational purposes".
This is all the more annoying considering that many airports in the rest of Europe seem to be going out of their way to keep younger visitors happy; fly from Zurich or Madrid Barajas, for example, and you won't be able to peel your kids away from the free fun and games they provide.
So what's a parent to do? BAA gives out crayons and colouring books free to kids at its desks. There are arcade slot machine games, too. But that's it. Hardly Disneyland, is it?
If you want something more substantial, you're just going to have to shell out. Plenty of posh lounges are popping up, and many of them will take children – at a price. For anything between £15 and £20 per person, you and your tots can sit in VIP comfort for up to three hours before departure. You'll find details of individual airport lounges and prices at holidayextras.com.
Among the most ubiquitous are pre-bookable Servisair lounges (executivelounges.com). Others include the newly refurbished 4Deck Lounge at Heathrow's Terminal 4, where the kids can eat biscuits, visit the Flight Deck Observatory, watch Sky TV or play games in special kids' areas (available through holiday extras.com, £18.50 for adults, £9 for children). There's Virgin's V-room at Gatwick, if you are travelling with Virgin Holidays (£17 per adult, £10 per child; virginholidays.co.uk/ extras), which has large areas dedicated to families, including soft play, PlayStations, table football and internet services, as well as cakes, pastries and fizzy drinks.
And how are you meant to handle your children once they're on the plane and sugared up to the eyeballs on free treats? Well, that's a whole new column.