Bringing a child under two with you in your lap when you travel on international award tickets just got a whole lot cheaper in some cases.
United recently made a change to their award ticket policies that’s a real improvement and ahead of other U.S. frequent flyer programs – and oddly they haven’t even announced it. Live and Let’s Fly noticed the change in United policy on booking award travel for infants.
Infants traveling without a seat between the U.S. and Canada, or from Mexico to the U.S. or Canada, only pay taxes on the ticket. Infants traveling without a seat to other international destinations, including Guam, are required to have purchased an infant ticket and are subject to infant fares between $20 and $250 plus taxes depending on area of travel and cabin of service.
Domestic travel with an infant in lap is free. It’s not free to bring a baby with you internationally, even when they’re in your seat.
When you buy a ticket for international travel, the standard charge for an infant is 10% of the paid adult fare. On a roundtrip first class international ticket that can get expensive. A $20,000 airline ticket means a $2000 infant fare.
Some international frequent flyer programs make accommodations for award travel with an infant. Qantas for instance just charges basic taxes. Air Canada charges 40 Canadian dollars. Air France KLM’s Flying Blue charges 10% of the equivalent paid fare plus taxes but doesn’t add fuel surcharges to this.
Domestic U.S. airlines haven’t been as friendly. United, American and Delta haven’t offered special infant awards, so it’s been 10% of the corresponding fare. Alaska Airlines stopped issuing infant tickets for international award travel altogether.
United though now has a sliding scale, which they haven’t published details on yet. The charge runs $20 – $250 plus taxes “depending on area of travel and cabin of service.” We know though that the most you’ll pay for an infant fare with them now is $250 plus tax, so the maximum amount is much lower than it used to be.
Sometimes you can book an international award ticket using miles from a U.S. program like American AAdvantage and get the partner to issue the infant award for less than the U.S. carrier would charge. For instance I’ve had Qantas issue infant tickets against an AAdvantage award, costing me less than $20 in taxes rather than paying 10% of the fare.
One of the most frustrating parts of travel is dealing with infant fares. The amounts quoted seem to vary all the time, depending on whom you speak with (hang up, call back!) and that’s when you get someone who knows how to issue the infant ticket properly to begin with. Offering flat-rate pricing is a nice relief, though it would help for United to actually publish the chart of their new pricing.