Infant Award Travel

It’s Wednesday, which means we’d typically have a post from my friend Travis, who had been writing a weekly series with a somewhat different perspective than mine. As a follow up to his post on traveling with a lap child, he’s been drafting a post on infant flight charges when traveling on an international award ticket.

Unfortunately, Travis was in a bit of a mountaineering accident this weekend, and while he’s going to be okay, it’s going to be a few weeks before he can get back to work, much less blogging. I don’t want to ruin the story for him, but he has promised a trip report from a Blackhawk helicopter, so it sounds like it was pretty exciting.

In the meantime, there are a few posts he’s drafted that we’ll try to publish over the next few weeks, but he probably won’t be responding to comments and such for a bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Going back to the topic at hand, flying with an infant on an international award ticket is more complicated than domestic travel. As Travis noted last week, with the exception of Southwest you really don’t have to do anything “extra” when bringing a lap-child along for travel within the US:

For domestic flights, it’s really simple. At the check-in counter, just tell them that you have a lap-child.  For some airlines, it’s possible to declare a lap-child at time of booking, but we’ve never done that for domestic flights.  The agent may ask for the child’s name and birthdate, but no formal identification is required. 

When traveling internationally, you’ll need to issue a ticket for the child, and the fees to do so vary by airline.

For the most part, you can anticipate to pay 10% of the adult fare for the cabin you’re traveling in. However, some airlines will calculate this as 10% of the fare you paid, others will quote 10% of the lowest fare available, while others insist on 10% of the full, non-discounted fare. So there is quite a bit of variation.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class
Cathay Pacific charges 25% of the adult revenue ticket, plus taxes & fees for flights to/from US – ouch!

As an overview, here is what you can generally expect to pay on some of the major international airlines:

AirlineFee
AeroMexico
SkyTeam
• $35 to/from the United States
• 174 MXN within Mexico
• Otherwise 10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
airberlin
oneworld
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Air Canada
Star Alliance
• Economy: $50 or 5k miles
• Business: $100 or 10k miles
• First: $125 or 12.5k miles
Air France/KLM
SkyTeam
• 10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
• Any segments on partners must be booked through partners
FlyingBlue will only issue infant tickets on their own metal
Air New Zealand
Star Alliance
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Alaska Airlines
non-aligned
• Taxes and fees only on their own flights to Mexico/Canada
• Can’t issue partner infant tickets, have to contact operating carrier
Alitalia
SkyTeam
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
AZ won’t issue a ticket to a child under two regardless -- they must be lap infants
American
oneworld
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
ANA
Star Alliance
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Asiana
Star Alliance
10% of the adult mileage ticket, plus taxes & fees
British Airways
oneworld
10% of the adult mileage ticket, plus taxes & fees
Cathay Pacific
oneworld
• 25% of the adult ticket, plus taxes & fees for flights to/from US
• 10% of the adult ticket, plus taxes & fees for non-US flights
China Eastern
SkyTeam
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
China Southern
SkyTeam
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Delta SkyMiles
SkyTeam
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
El Al
non-aligned
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Emirates
non-aligned
Economy: 10% of the adult mileage ticket, plus taxes & fees
Business/First: 10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Etihad
non-aligned
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Hawaiian
non-aligned
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Iberia
oneworld
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
JAL
oneworld
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Korean Air
SkyTeam
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
LAN
oneworld
Doesn’t allow lap infants on award tickets, only revenue flights
Lufthansa Miles & More
Star Alliance
Taxes & fuel surcharges only
Qatar
oneworld
• Only allows lap infants on Economy award tickets
• 10% of the adult mileage ticket, plus taxes & fees
Singapore
Star Alliance
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Thai
Star Alliance
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
United
Star Alliance
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
US Airways
oneworld
10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees
Virgin Atlantic
non-aligned
Economy: 200 miles plus taxes & fees
Premium Economy: 750 miles plus taxes & fees
Upper Class: 1,500 miles plus taxes & fees

In most cases, you’ll follow the infant ticketing rules of the mileage program that issued your ticket. So if you book through United Mileage Plus you’ll pay 10% of your fare regardless of which Star Alliance partner you’re traveling on, while if you book through Air Canada Aeroplan you’ll pay the flat rates listed above.

On top of that, my experience is that many reservations agents don’t know how to price infant tickets. So it may take a few calls to have the ticket issued.

Similarly, if you’re quoted a price that seems outrageously high it’s probably worthwhile to call again. For infant fares more than anything else in the airline industry you may find you’ll get five different price quotes if you call five times.

Which airline is best for infant award tickets?

As you can see, there’s quite a bit of variance in infant award ticket costs. For international infant award tickets, generally the airlines that are charging flat fees or a percentage of the cost of the mileage ticket are best (as opposed to those charging a percentage of the revenue cost of a ticket).

The frequent flyer programs which I find most useful for infant award tickets are Air Canada Aeroplan and British Airways:

  • Aeroplan charges just $50 to $125, or 5,000 to 12,500 miles per infant award ticket
  • Asiana and British Airways charge just 10% of the cost in miles, plus taxes & fees

Bottom line

If you’re traveling internationally with an infant, booking through the right program can save you a ton of money. For example, international first class fares are regularly upwards of $20,000 roundtrip, so it really adds up if you have to pay 10% of that in cash.

Booking a roundtrip Cathay Pacific first class award ticket between Los Angeles and Hong Kong which retails for $20,000, you’d pay ~$2,000 for the infant ticket if booking through American AAdvantage, while you’d pay ~21,000 Avios plus taxes and fees if booking through British Airways Avios. That’s a huge difference.

For those of you that have young kids, have award infant fees impacted which airlines you accrue miles with?

Comments

  1. Good post. I find that you really need to practice HUCA for infant seats. I’ve had many experience where the company you are booking with tries to charge the infant price of the airline you are flying with. For example, AA tried to charge 25% for flight on Cathay. HUCA works though.

  2. Back to your CX Example, can one book 2 AWARDS seats on CX using AA points and book an infant on Avios for 10% of the cost (I assume a third seat would need to be availabe)? Can this be done on the phone, obviously this will not work online? Or any tips on not paying 2K to HKG traveling from a N. A. Gateway on CX F?

  3. One of the most important issues for infant award travel are the cancellation policies. I was disappointed to see these not addressed here. For exapmle, if you buy an award tkt with UA and then decide to cancel, it’s free if you are 1K or plat, but how about the infant tkt? Do you get a full refund? Is there a cancellation fee. These are important issues, give the price. Also, if you cants get a full refund, when is it optimal to buy the infant tkt?

  4. This post would be more useful if you defined “infant” and “child” in terms of what the age of the infant or child needs to be to qualify for these fares.

  5. Most importantly, international one way fares are frequently ridiculously priced (e.g. coach US to EU may be priced at $4k) =>you’re paying >$400 to bring your infant to EU from the US.
    Make sure you get R/T with one program.

  6. Ben, I don’t think this information is correct. I recently tried to book an award ticket on CX using my AA miles and they charged me 25% of the fare. I’m not sure about other mileage programs, but AA definitely charges you whatever the policy is for the actual airline you are flying. An infant fee in CX first class w/ all taxes was almost $6k!!

  7. I personally wouldn’t fly first or business class with an infant–that just means you cant really enjoy the amenities ….plus talk about throwing off your feeding schedules. 🙂

  8. ” An infant fee in CX first class w/ all taxes was almost $6k!!”

    That’s a fair penalty to the parents for buying the rights to disrupting 15 hours of my life while in a captive space.

  9. “10% of the adult revenue fare, plus taxes & fees”

    What is an Adult revenue fare? Is it the cheapest fare, non-refundable, for that class? The most expensive, refundable fare?

  10. I recently booked a business class award seat JFK – KUL on Qatar Airways using US Airways miles. US Airways wanted to charge me over $3000 for the lap infant! I called 5 times and all quoted me the same price. They told me that it’s because Qatar Airways charges 20% and US Airways follows the infant rule of their partner airlines.
    I ended up calling Qatar airways to add the lap infant. Even though it was still 20%, it came up to $1100.

  11. This one seems to be devolving into a kids in business class vs. not allowing them to be there. As a passenger, I can count far more times when obnoxious adults disrupted my sleep (e.g. talking loudly to the cabin crew, working on presentations with their overhead light shining into my eyes, bumping into me while I’m trying to sleep, etc.).

    We took our kids (ages 9, 6, and 0.5) to Europe this summer in BA business class (we paid rather than using miles), and got a lot of praise for how quiet and well behaved they were. Generally, if you’re a calm parent that knows how to keep your kids calm, traveling with a kid is easy. The more difficult parts are generally when you have a 21.5 hour delay like we did, and even that was ok.

    I think we all like to think of horror stories of crying babies and crazy kids running wild through the cabins, but in my 100+ longhaul flights in business or first, I’ve never had that problem, whereas on domestic economy tickets, kids seem a lot more vocal, probably because they hate being shoved into a small cabin with little to do as much as adults.

  12. Indeed, Dylan. In fact I’d be loathe to travel with a lap infant in any cabin other than F/J. Who wants to hold a baby on their lap for 10 hours? Not me. Not when a much more spacious option exists for ~50% more miles.

  13. Your Asiana info is all wrong.. It’s worth noting that Asiana does NOT allow lap children in First Class if the attached Adult is using a milage ticket. For instance, if I use miles in F on Asiana and want to bring my 13 month son along for the trip- this is not possible. You can not use miles or Cash to pay for an infant lap child when you fly on miles. Only way around it is to purchase a F ticket then the infant can fly for 10% of adult fee. To make things worse, US airways agents (when part of Star Alliance) would often make the mistake and book adults using DM in First then charge 10% of the fee for an infant lap child. Once at the airport Asiana is notorious for not allowing the lap child to be in F citing strict policy. They then downgrade you to Business so you can bring your lap child.

  14. @ Andrew — The infant fare has to be booked in conjunction with an adult award ticket. It needs to be done over the phone.

  15. ****Your Asiana info is all wrong.. It’s worth noting that Asiana does NOT allow lap children in First Class if the attached Adult is using a milage ticket. For instance, if I use miles in F on Asiana and want to bring my 13 month son along for the trip- this is not possible. You can not use miles or Cash to pay for an infant lap child when you fly on miles. Only way around it is to purchase a F ticket then the infant can fly for 10% of adult fee. To make things worse, US airways agents (when part of Star Alliance) would often make the mistake and book adults using DM in First then charge 10% of the fee for an infant lap child. Once at the airport Asiana is notorious for not allowing the lap child to be in F citing strict policy. They then downgrade you to Business so you can bring your lap child.****

    Adam/Lucky/Readers,

    What recourse do you have when this happens? I have my 12 month old booked in First with me and my wife next month on Asiana First. It is a United Award pre-devaluation. What can I do if they downgrade me to business? Do I have recourse? I paid First Class mileage and 10% of First Class Revenue for the infant.

  16. @Jon

    I flew OZ F on a mileage ticket with an infant in March booked through United. I do not think you will have an issue bringing the kid. OZ was very friendly and did not say anything about having an infant in F.

  17. @ Marco Polo

    Were you in the F Suite product or the old? Also- how much did you pay for the infant ticket if you don’t mind me asking?

  18. @Adam

    I’m assuming he was in the old 747 product as he said he flew in March. The new suites didn’t arrive until a few months ago. Did the policy change because of the suite? I’m booked in the suite. They should be more lenient in the suite, because I can just close the door and keep my already well behaved 12 month old from disturbing others.

  19. @Jon

    The reason why I ask is because of this comment left on flyer talk

    ********* “Look at the different language on this page on regular F redemptions vs Saigon (suite) first redemptions:

    http://eu.flyasiana.com/C/en/homepag…0&menuType=CMS

    General Language
    Quote:
    A unaccompanied infant or a child under seven and an adult accompanying an infant and a child under seven cannot get the flight awards (including upgrade awards) for the First Class

    Specific to Suite redemptions
    Quote:
    Children under the age of 7 travelling alone and an adult accompanying a child the age of 7 are not qualified for first class Flight Award (including Upgrade Award)

    Seems like on a non-suite route, adult with an infant (so long as you dont have another kid under 7) is fine but in suite rule tougher because adult cant be next to minor (makes sense).” **********************************************

    Jon – So, to me it seems mixed where some people have not had an issue like Marco Polo, yet others have been turned away like several on the flyer talk thread. I actually had it booked using Dividend Miles for myself,my wife and our son who would have been was 8 months old during the flight. After doing some reading I did not want to take the chance and redeposited the miles back to my account and did an eastern Europe trip instead. Let me know what you are going to do and more importantly let me know the outcome if you decide to go and bring your little one.

  20. @Adam

    Pretty sure i was in the new F with the enclosed suite.

    I do not recall what i paid for the flight (JFK-ICN-BKK), but i think it may have been in the $600 range, but could be way off.

  21. AA charged me 25% going to Asia and 10% coming back flying on Cathay Pacific on a recent vacation. My details were:

    CX899 from EWR 1:50 to HKG
    Infant fare ~$1262 (25%).

    CX565 from TPE 14:00 to HKG
    CX890 from HKG 17:40 to EWR
    Infant fare amount ~$700 (10%).

    I believe the AA infant rule is whatever the published INF fare is. I looked up the flights on expert flyer and indeed one showed 10% and the other showed 25%. I HUCA and got the same thing from the rate desk both times.

  22. I’m in the same situation having booked business tickets from LAX-HKG using AA miles on Cathay Pacific. The agent on the phone quoted me 2k which probably is 25% of the ticket price. Let’s say if a relative came along in economy and then tagged the infant under his ticket. How strict are the airlines if we were to ‘switch’ the infant seat to business with me while boarding?

  23. @ Ben K — All depends on the flight attendants, though I wouldn’t count on that working. I’d try calling back though and seeing if another agent will quote you a lower cost.

  24. Is it legal, in order to avoid infant fees, to redeem miles for an infant to fly by himself in coach (obviously on the same flight(s) his parents are in first/business class)?

    And if so, has anybody done this?

  25. @ Ethan Dorr — Then you technically wouldn’t be allowed to hold the infant, so no. The infant would have to be in the same cabin.

  26. Lucky / Travis,

    AA is quoting me an insane amount for infant travel on Etihad (much more than 10%) and while I plan to do HUCA, could you clarify if booking infant a seat using miles is allowed ? So,just book tickets for 3 adults of which one is Infant traveler ?

  27. Neel,

    EY increased their infant fare (lap child) from 10% to 20% earlier this year. Yes, you can book an infant a seat with miles- you will pay same amount of miles as if the infant was an adult if they occupy a seat.

  28. @Adam, ah..that clarifies a bit even though AA quoted fare was much higher than 20%.. they quoted me something like $5k for a lap infant ticket on First ! So,if that’s the fare it might make sense to book a seat with miles,no ? Thanks for your response

  29. @Neel AA charge 25% for infant seat on flight originating from US and 10% from other countries. I HUCA few times last year and got the same result. Is your flight from the US?

  30. @Freddy, yes you bet ! Looks like the rules have changed as the above post indicated 10% charge if booked with AA miles even on partner airlines. From the comments above,it now appears that partner airline will drive the price per their rule.

  31. @Neel-
    It should run you roughly $4,500 for a lap child on a roundtrip in EY First class from NYC to AUH. It’s get booked under booking code “R”. To get an exact fare there are two ways to go about it. Price it directly on Etihad’s site or use ITA and make sure you check the infant in lap box not the child box.Then open the details and you will see it there. if you plan on purchasing the ticket for your infant you can first book your Award tickets through AA then call Etihad and purchase the infant ticket directly through them. You will for sure get it at 20% of the lowest first class fare being offered at that time. EY will link the PNR’s for you.
    **Yes- if you have the miles then I would save the cash and put your lil one in a seat.
    Seems like you will have 3 travelers with the lil one. As you know EY almost never releases more then 2 First class seats on any route in advance. If you can hold out until 3-5 days prior to departure they then release a bunch more seats.

    @ Freddy- Cathay’s infant policy at 25% where Etihad is 20%

  32. @Adam, thanks a bunch for your expert info. AA quoted about $5k for a one-way US to AUH and so,it might be a good idea to call EY. Still better is to try to book a seat for infant, though 3seats are not
    easy to come by.
    Side question -> Would you know if BA/AA have interline luggage transfers with EY ?
    Trying to see if I can use BA’s business fare deal upto LHR and then use EY to Asia, where there is better availability.

  33. @Neel
    Not sure how that will work for you being that the transit point is not in the US. I know from experience that AA/EY, when transiting in the US, there is no issues. Recently, we did DFW–> AUH (with an infant and 2 year old). We live in NYC so we had to get to DFW of which we bought a separate ticket for the NYC–>DFW route. We had no issues with luggage transfers at all- they checked them all the way through. What city are you originating from and whats your final destination?

  34. @Adam, originating in LAX and ending up at BLR. With EY not in oneworld, it’s not clear if BA would handle the luggage transfer at LHR. Anyway, with an infant I suppose it’s best to avoid these unknown scenarios.

  35. Hi Lucky,

    I have a question about infant fare of AA award ticket on CX. So I booked an award ticket using AA miles on Cathay pacific in business class from ZRH to HKG to PVG. I called AA and asked about the infant fare, the rate desk quotes me 1800 USD for a round trip. When I checked the adult fare, the lowest saver fare for business is 3600, and the refundable one is about 8000. Does rate desk use the refundable fare for calculation? Also, your post suggests that the non US flight is 10% of adult fare, but it seems the quote I got is based on 25% of highest fare of business class. Is this correct? or would I get a different answer if I hang up and call back?

    Thanks

  36. If I am understanding this correctly, if I use Aeroplan miles but on United metal (to avoid fuel surcharges), I would just pay Aeroplan’s flat fee for the infant. Is the same logic true with using Lufthansa miles? I fly United metal I would pay no child fees? Or is Lufthansa only without infant fees on their own metal?
    Thanks

  37. Hi ! great info here.-

    What happened if I book with Cathay miles an AA ticket? or If I book with singapore to fly with United? Both internationally

    Sorry for my bad english.-

  38. From what I can see, when booking EY flights directly with EY on points, a lap infant will cost 10% of the points needed for the adult plus extra fees. Anyone else found this? Is it possible to have the article updated if this is right?

  39. Can someone tell me what do you mean by HUCA? I have an award travel ticket using Aadvantage miles on Qatar and they are quoting me some $450 odd dollars to issue an infant ticket. The infant is not even getting his own seat. I need to know what’s the HUCA strategy.

  40. Hi

    I have a business class round trip ticketed for 2 adults on EY using AA miles. The journey is from RST-ORD-AUH-DEL round trip. I called AA to add a lap infant and they said the rate would be 20% of the “whole trip” (not the individual adult rate) and the price quoted was $3800, which I don’t think is right for business class. I plan on HUCA but would appreciate any help or advice. Since the RST-ORD and ORD-RST trips are domestic, I could simply show up at check-in and add the infant right? Next step would be to call EY and price out the infant seat. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

  41. Ani-

    Infant fare will run you 20% of the cheapest published business class for those flights. You can try to price it directly with Etihad which might save you a couple of bucks. $3,800 seems about right in the ballpark for a lap child on EY for your itinerary. I don’t think simply adding the infant at the airport is gonna work for you here as it’s an international ticket and your baby must have an actual ticket issued to travel- unlike domestically. HUCA technique won’t yield you any luck on this one I’m afraid but hey, give it a shot and report back as it’s worth a try.

  42. I priced out the tickets individually for 1 adult. Even if I were to buy 2 business class one ways, the cheapest published business fare going to AUH is around $8000 per adult and the return fare is about $2000 per adult. So even 20% should be 2000. I am not sure how they’re arriving at almost double the price. Will call them again.

  43. We booked a business class ticket on Korean Air. My wife called them, and they said it will be 10% of the POINTS we used, plus taxes. Can anyone else confirm?

  44. Has anyone had any experience on LAN with a lap infant in J. We’ve got award tix booked using aa miles. They quoted ~$350 to add lap infant, b ut I’ve read that LAN doesn’t allow lap infant at all on awards.

  45. Has anyone tried to redeem award miles on Emirates with JAL miles with a lap infant? JAL’s site seems to say it’s the same number of miles as an adult ticket, which is a deal breaker, but this post seems to indicate that lap infant tickets with awards are controlled and priced by the operating carrier, so I’d have to ask Emirates directly. Any insights?

  46. @ Nash D — If you want an award ticket, you’d pay however many miles JAL wants for the award. To attach an infant lap ticket to your adult ticket (regardless of how the adult ticket was paid for), you’d contact Emirates. The fee will be based on the ticketed cabin of the adult passengers.

    Be prepared to call a few times, as Emirates doesn’t have great phone agents.

  47. @Tiffany – Thank you so much for clarifying! Just so I’m sure I read it correctly, for a redemption like this: SFO-DXB-BOM, BOM-DXB-SFO in Emirates F (18,602 miles) would be 155k JAL miles roundtrip for 1 adult. Assuming the base F fare is somewhere in the $16k range for the adult ticket, the lap infant fare would be $1600 + taxes or so. Is that accurate?

  48. SAS doesnt charge a fee for infants at all on award tickets – including with Star Alliance partners! By far the best deal out of all the airlines 🙂

  49. Hi Everyone! Can someone help me with a quick question. If I book an award ticket through AA on Qatar in business class, does the infant rule stated above apply? I know that if I book an award ticket through Qatar, then I am only allowed an infant on economy. I did not know if I used AA miles, if it would be any different. Any help would be great!! Thanks!!!!!

  50. Has this ever been updated? Trying to figure out if there’s a good way to book award travel to europe with a lap infant using Citi Thank You Points…

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