Excellent article on redeeming miles for travel with lap infants or babies

Two weeks ago, reader Lillian emailed me to ask if I would consider doing a post on different airline policies for booking lap infants.  I agreed it was a great idea – especially as my youngest is still only 2 years old – but I was a bit nervous about the time commitment required to research it.

And then, as luck would have it, it turned out that someone else had been working on exactly the same project.

Emirates business child

If you have – or are considering getting – a child under 2 years of age, I strongly recommend that you bookmark this article by Jason Steele from the US Mommy Points blog.  It is a fantastic resource.

To be honest, I was pretty shocked to realise that some US schemes force you to buy a cash ticket for a lap infant, even if the parents are travelling on miles tickets.  10% of a $10,000 business class ticket is a lot of money!  It seems that the British Airways policy of charging lap infants 10% of the miles and 10% of the taxes is generous.

Once they turn 2, of course, you are on the hook for the full flight cost and, like my youngest above, they must have their own seat (or, ahem, Emirates A380 flat bed!).

There used to be a workaround you could do, until British Airways closed the loophole.  You would book Manchester – London (long stopover, covering the 2nd birthday) – holiday destination – London – Manchester.  As the long as the child was under 2 when the first leg was flown, BA would allocate a seat for free on the other legs.

This is not now possible, and BA will not allow a booking where a child turns 2 during the outbound.  You will still receive a free seat on the return if you are away during your childs 2nd birthday, however!

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  1. nogoingback says:

    We tried the Manchester stopover ‘loophole’ to go to LA in 2008 and my son only got a seat on the inbound…And even getting that was stressful- in the UK and the hour waiting at check in at LAX…

    • CAA rules insist that a child over 2 has its own seat. Massive breach of the rules by BA if they made you have a 2+ year old on your lap.

      • nogoingback says:

        At the time I thought it was odd but it took us so long (and numerous calls to different people) just to achieve that so we just accepted it! It kind of made us doing the Manchester bit redundant too. Our son was 2 and 5 days from Lhr to Lax…

  2. FIRSTclstraveller says:

    Very useful article indeed Raffles – my question (being child free at the moment) is…how would they know whether your child is 2 or older and trying to blag a child seat? I know they check your passport to match their name etc, and on US flights you also need an ESTA but would they actively check ages?!

  3. Johnny5a says:

    I have to put my hand up for this, I might one of the causes of the loophole closure 🙂

  4. I hadn’t realised this 2 year old “loophole” had closed… Shame… Is this covered in the t&c’s or will you simply not be able to make such a booking?

  5. I paid £104 for a newborn ticket on virgin Lhr to Cpt. The adult cash price on the same day was around £850.

    Both parents travelled using miles.

    Still don’t have an idea how that amount was calculated!

  6. PTM101 says:

    With BA we have not really had any problems with booking our now 22 month old Son a lap ticket on our trips to date. Our first experience of this mess came just last week, when we redeemed the miles from the MBNA AAadvntage promotion from last year. We booked Etihad First from Abu Dhabi to Manchester via Heathrow. Having spent over an hour on the hideously expensive AA booking line, we were quoted 40,000 miles + £55 per adult, and £174 for the infant in lap ticket which had to be calculated by the ‘support desk’. My wife made the initial call, so the booking was held for five days as they required my authority to debit the 40,000 miles from my account. Following a second lengthy call the next day, as the agent had to ‘reconfirm’ the lap seat ticket price, we made the booking. Tickets had to be issued manually, so about 48 hours later we received email confirmations. Our Son was showing on my Wife’s booking, and also on BAEC, where we could reserve seats on manage my booking.

    All good, until I called Etihad to link the bookings, reserve seats, and arrange the chauffeur service from Dubai. They advised that our Son had not been ticketed, despite showing in the booking there was no ticket in the system. Etihad would however sell us one. I explained that it was an award booking and that we had already paid AA, but as is always the case with such matters Etihad would not contact AA so we had to do it. My Wife contacted AA who promised to investigate, they called back the following day, advising that we had been quoted the wrong fare for the infant ticket and that they needed a further £750! My Wife refused, and requested the ticket that we had paid for. After a few days of backwards and forwards, and refusal to issue the ticket, I spoke to the reservations manager who accepted that it was their mistake, and the ticket was eventually issued.

    I had to explain that obviously I was not paying for their mistake, that 5 AA representatives had the opportunity to spot the mistake, that the last one must have known when they didn’t issue a ticket and should have immediatly been in contact. I added that it is not reasonable to quote a price and then change it once the booing has been accepted, and that had we not spoken to Etihad this would have only become a problem in Abu Dhabi at check-in, where I would have little choice but to pay the Etihad cash fare.

    The fact that the infant showed on the booking, echos the problems raised in the linked article above. It appears as a booking to all be correct, the infant shows, you can select seats and add passport details etc, but it seems to be certain that everything is correct you have to specifically seek out the ticket, which in this day of etickets is not exactly straight forward. It’s more alarming that the reservation agents themselves don’t understand the rules on these bookings or how to apply them, so I really don’t see this problem going away anytime soon.

    • pauldb says:

      Yep I was all set to book EY F from SYD-LON until I spotted that this would go wrong. Well done getting AA to accept their mistake!
      The 10% charge is AA’s for it’s own flights. For their partners, it is the partner’s policy that counts: you have to pay the cash infant fare. On EY the infant fare is 15% not 10%. And worse than that, most EY discounted F/J fares can only be issued by EY/AB. On an AA ticket, you’re stuck with 15% of the full fare! Would have been >£1000 in my case!
      In the end our AA miles are taking us from HKG-NZ (CX and QF). I’m hoping this will price on a full but acceptable QF JOW fare and come out at about £300. But so far on my one attempt AA told me to call QF to book it. I don’t think so!

  7. Nathan says:

    My wife and I have exploited the ‘get a free seat on the way back’ rule this summer with our Avios BA CE flights to/from AGP! I’m pretty chuffed that my 2 year 7 day old son will be travelling up front basically for free!

  8. Article appeared right on time, in a couple of months Frenske Jr will arrive.

  9. Matthew says:

    A point worth noting regarding lap infant bookings (which I recently came across) when redeeming Flying Club miles for a Virgin Atlantic reward flight. The online booking engine will charge UK APD for the lap infant as if he or she has their own seat. But this is not correct as APD is not applied to lap infants and when you phone the Flying club hotline, they will correctly quote without. Apparently it’s a bug in the online system but I imagine a few have paid more unnecessarily. Note that cash tickets don’t have this error, just reward flights for a lap infant from the UK.