Rumor Control: American Will Still Issue Infant Tickets When Booking Awards on Partner Airlines

When you travel with an infant domestically there’s no charge when the child (under 2) travels in your lap. Internationally infants have to have their own ticket.

Some programs like Aeroplan and British Airways Executive Club make it cheap to secure an infant ticket when you’re spending miles for an award ticket. However US airlines do not have ‘infant awards’. Instead – just like on a paid ticket – you have to pay the ‘infant fare’ that’s associated with your itinerary. That’s usually 10% of the paid fare (although some airlines like Cathay Pacific have fares where the infant costs 25%).

What US airlines do is charge you the infant price of the applicable fare. Sometimes, with partner awards, the only fare that is available is full fare and infant tickets become very costly.

Alaska Airlines will no longer issue infant tickets at all. If you want to travel with an infant, they tell you there needs to be award space for another passenger and you have to redeem for another ticket.

American Airlines doesn’t issue infant tickets for all of its award partners. For several months they’ve no longer been able to issue infant tickets for travel on Etihad. I recently shared my experience getting Qantas to issue an infant ticket against an American AAdvantage first class award which American would not issue. Fortunately instead of being charged $1800 I was charged about $17 in taxes.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to get the operating airline to issue an infant ticket. I’ve seen it done by Cathay Pacific, for instance. However convincing the operating airline to do it can take several hang ups and calls back.

The Points Guy is reporting that due to a policy change March 14 that Etihad is now willing to issue infant tickets against American AAdvantage awards for travel on the Abu Dhabi-based airline. (Here are the tricks you need to know to book AAdvantage award travel on Etihad.)

That’s great news! However TPG passes along this piece of erroneous information,

However, the policy recently changed; now American Airlines only issues infant tickets for British Airways-operated flights when travelers are making an award booking. For other partner awards booked with American miles, the operating carrier must now book the infant ticket.

According to the Points Guy website American Airlines will no longer issue infant tickets when you redeem miles for awards on any of their partner airlines except British Airways.

If this were accurate it would be huge news. I had heard nothing of the sort, so I decided to test it out. I went ahead and issued an infant ticket for an Air Tahiti Nui reservation I made in February when I shared that there was great award space on the French Polynesian carrier. I had no problem getting American Airlines to do this.

American confirms for me hat they “will make every effort to issue” infant tickets for travel in conjunction with AAdvantage awards. There are times when American cannot issue infant tickets. For instance since they don’t sell revenue tickets in Qantas first class for Dallas – Sydney, they couldn’t issue a ticket for 10% of the fare. However where they’re able to do it they still do it, and in that sense nothing has changed.

My advice is to check with the frequent flyer program you’re going to be issuing awards with before committing to travel to ensure they will sell you an infant ticket if you need one. Have the agent call their ticketing department or rate desk to verify. And if they won’t you’re going to want to check to see if the operating carrier will do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I went through this last year. Tried AA atleast 10-12 times and they said just to call Etihad to get infant ticket issued. One time they quoted me an incorrect amount. Etihad was able to issue the infant ticket at the first try and got the pricing right too.

  2. EY-issued lap-child tickets for EY-operated flights for adult passengers flying EY with AA mileage tickets has been around for at least nearly as long as EY has been an AA redemption partner. Doing it at the airport (with whomever is handling EY ticket-issues and ancillary fee collection for excess baggage too) has always worked in my experience of this, as long as there was enough time for it to be done. Getting AA to issue lap child tickets over the phone for AA mileage tickets for partner-only itineraries has generally been a worse deal for us than the alternatives.

  3. FYI, just called AA to try to get an infant ticket added to my Air Tahiti Nui flights in December and after a bit of holding and the rep talking with another rep, they told me I need to do it directly with Air Tahiti Nui. My flights are with AA rewards, but are from AKL to PPT so I don’t know if it being a route that AA doesn’t fly makes a difference, but just wanted to share.

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