The Strange Way to Ticket Infant Travel on Qantas When Redeeming American Miles (How I Saved $1800 Traveling With My Daughter)

A couple of times last year I wrote about Qantas first class award availability between the U.S. and Australia and how to book it.

Australia is one of the destinations I’ve traveled to most because I have family that moved there 40 years ago. That’s the reason I got my very first passport as a kid. I’ve made it a practice of attending family events, and just visiting, since my aunt, uncle, and cousins are among the family I’m closest to. So when my elder cousin there announced she was getting married, I made plans for my wife and I to travel.

I managed to book two first class awards on Qantas, Dallas Fort-Worth – Sydney and return, on the exact dates I wanted. The flights did not show up at AA.com but American agents had no problem seeing the space when I called.

  • This was before my daughter was born. So I did not book an infant ticket when I first booked the awards.

  • I booked through American AAdvantage because travel was pretty far into the future, and I get free changes as an Executive Platinum. Would we feel like we could make the trip with a new baby? Would we want to break up the trip somehow?

It’s often a bad idea to book infant travel with American AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, or Delta SkyMiles. US airlines do not have ‘infant award tickets’ (in contrast, British Airways for instance will let you redeem 10% of the miles for an infant, and you pay 10% of the surcharges if any). Instead they will sell you an infant ticket.

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. If you buy a ticket for yourself, adding an infant ticket is usually 10% of the cost (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.

Here’s what my award would have cost if it was a paid ticket: This is the discounted ‘A’ fare and not full fare.

My wife and I took our daughter to New York at a little over 2 months, Paris at a little over 3 months, and she did wonderfully. We decided we’d make the trip, so I rang up American to book the infant ticket.

I’ve booked a lot of awards but I’ve never had occasion to book an infant through AAdvantage against a Qantas first class award. So I was surprised when successive agents told me it wasn’t possible.

  1. I was told no dice because I had two one way tickets.

  2. I was told by another agent Qantas had to do it because they want the fare for themselves

  3. I was finally told that American doesn’t sell Qantas first class and therefore cannot book first class infant tickets.

Now it’s actually possible for an operating airline to issue infant tickets despite adult travel being on another airline’s ticket stock. It’s just unusual and many won’t do it.

I rang up Qantas and was told American had to do it. I rang up Qantas again and was again told that American had to do it.

I finally got American Airlines back, confirming that they could not and the correct procedure was for Qantas to do it. Since I couldn’t find an agent at Qantas willing to do it (frustratingly calls to Qantas meant about 20 minute hold times each time) I needed to get creative. That meant conferencing American Airlines in with Qantas. Together they figured out that yes — Qantas needed to do it — and it was possible.

This meant finding a Qantas agent willing to talk to a supervisor, and finding a supervisor familiar with the process.

  • They created a new Qantas reservation just for the Dallas – Sydney segemnts. They put my wife in the reservation along with my daughter. It was basically a dummy booking. We added secure flight and passport information to that booking.

  • Then they issued the infant ticket tied to that reservation. They took a credit card and charged me US$16.73.

Qantas doesn’t charge an infant fare, so I was just on the hook for some very modest taxes. Instead of paying about $1800, I paid $17. That was for the Dallas – Sydney segments. For Austin – Dallas there’s no cost, that was added to our reservation.

It meant that at check-in American was only able to issue boarding passes for my wife and daughter to Dallas. Once there we went to the Qantas gate and they pulled up my daughter’s reservation. Crucially I had the ticket number as well, and they were able to verify that everything was correct and issue boarding passes. (On the return Qantas couldn’t issue boarding passes for the Dallas – Austin segment, again because of how our daughter was booked.)

Once our daughter had her ticket booked we were able to request the bassinet seat, which is 5A on the Qantas Airbus A380 in first place. It’s more of a cubby.

The middle seats open towards the seats on the opposite side of the aircraft, so we wanted 4A. Unfortunately by the time this was all sorted 4A was already taken both ways. I booked myself in 1A both ways, and had no problem upon boarding introducing myself to the passenger with that seat and offering,

It’s nice to meet you. My wife is seated behind you with our 5 month old daughter. I’m actually in 1A, and I’m wondering if you’d be willing to trade so I can help out with our daughter? That will let you sit as far away from our baby on this 17 hour flight as possible.

As you might imagine both flights they were keen to accept my proposition.

And our daughter slept at least 10 hours of the flight each time. The upstairs lounge at the front of business class was a great place to take her when she was awake, where she could play in a lit space and not disturb anyone. We got great compliments from other passengers and from crew after both flights.

I’m fully aware by the way that it’ll be much harder to travel long haul once she’s a little older and more mobile, but it’s great to be able to do so without bothering anyone else in the cabin while we still can!

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. I had a similar issue booking an infant ticket on Emirates after I booked my wife and I on a JAL award. Took a few calls, but eventually got it done.

  2. Gary, great report on the vague ambiguities of infant international awards travel.

    I recently noticed that Alaska has a warning that pops up when booking an international award saying that lap infant bookings are temporarily available and they recommend booking the infant on his/her own award ticket. Sorry, but I’m not paying 80k miles to fly a 6mo old somewhere!

    Do you have any datapoints about the success of booking these awards through Alaska and then adding the lap infant through the carrier on which the flight occurs?

  3. @Gary, How did you convince them a conference call & supervisor escalation was necessary? Any tips? Just a lot of HUCA?

  4. “Now it’s actually possible for an operating airline to issue infant tickets despite adult travel being on another airline’s ticket stock. It’s just unusual and many won’t do it.”

    It’s not all that unusual, and I have not yet encountered an operating airline in any of the big 3 airline alliances that wouldn’t ticket the lap child ticket when the accompanying adult’s ticket was issued by AA, DL or UA miles. If the answers on the phone don’t work at first, then I’ve found HUACA (at the same number or another number) or dealing with the airline/airline contractor’s airport ticketing agents at the airport (or sometimes travel agencies/ticketing offices) has worked.

    I’ve done it with many dozens of carriers, so I don’t find it unusual at all. 😀

  5. JonNYC,

    Are you still smarting over your repeated FT suspensions over your obsession with me? 😉

    You are free to make up your lot of stuff, including your dreaming that I have limited or no experience in the area of lap child tickets. 😉

    I also have done this with at least 9 carriers over the course of the last two years when using AV miles. 😉

  6. You got very lucky that you were not charged 10% of the fare. That is not the proper procedure at all!

  7. Omar,

    For international lap child on Qantas flights using Qantas points, the lap child has been charged zero dollars for the lap child fare plus taxes, at least that was the case a couple of years ago. If the Qantas rep thinks that the ticket for partner airline award tickets are to be handled the same way as for Qantas-issued award tickets, this kind of outcome isn’t entirely surprising, inconsistent as operating airlines can be when it comes to lap child tickets for a lap child traveling with an adult companion whose own ticket has been a partner airline-issued award ticket.

  8. @GUWonder, the key word is using Qantas points you would be correct. For partner awards they should pay the infant lap fare (usually 10% though some QF first class fares don’t allow lap infants period). Of course, mistakes are made all the time in the travel industry since the rules are so complicated.

    IMO, this result was 1 in a 1000 probability of finding an agent who would/could do that and thus, not that useful as a blog post for others to emulate.

  9. Omar,

    To save $1000+ dollars, it could be worth it to try and try and try again and again with an operating carrier until getting whatever best deal the operating carrier (or its reps, contracted out or not) provides that is acceptable.

    As I’ve said repeatedly when it comes to lap child tickets in conjunction with partner airline award tickets for an adult, money can be saved by repeatedly trying to do the lap child ticket with the operating carrier by jumping on whatever best deal seems to happen over the phone or at the airport/brick and mortar ticketing places. How easily or frequently an approach can be replicated is often a guess — as there is a lot of inconsistency in what goes on with lap child tickets — so just because you get one answer one time doesn’t mean you’ll get the same answer the next time about the lap child ticketing costs even when it involves the same very adult travel for which a lap child ticket is needed and was asked about earlier.

    The key thing in this area is to get the ticket number and have it ready for use — because until the lap child ticket is issued, there is a not insignificant risk of the ticket not being issued for the lap child despite what an operating carrier’s agents may have told you over the phone.

    I did a quick run of the lap child tickets I’ve had issued for travels where the accompanying adult was using partner airline award tickets, and here’s a partial list of the operating carriers of relevance to my family within just the past several years where I’ve had lap child tickets issued for accompanying adult travel on a ticket using partner airline miles for adult ticketing: A3 AM SU AC CA CX AF AI AZ OS BA SN OK MS EK AY IB KL LO LH QR RJ O6 SK SQ LX TP TG CM EY SV SA TK AA DL AS QF UA 9W VS LA EI JL NH

    The amount of lap child bookings for which we have had ticketing done at the airport could be considered an embarrassingly high number by some, but, oh, does that provide for some very enriching experiences at times. And, unfortunately, too many airlines still mess up lap child ticketing from time to time, and thus this also often times requiring ticketing/ticket-reissue/push-out at the airports to make things fly.

    I consider it critical to get the lap child ticket number and the detailed ticket/receipt for the lap child ticket before I am confident that at least ticket issues won’t be the issue at check-in attempt.

  10. Tangentially related: My approach on a recent CX award booking with AA.

    httpss://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showpost.php?p=30721684&postcount=12

    Got CX to issue INF ticket only on CX segments saving me over $1000 from what AA wanted to extort.

  11. JonNYC, thank you for your confession about your certifiable status when it comes to your obsession with me over the years. As with an alcoholic or other drug addict, confessing the problem can be critical in getting the help needed and onto the path of recovery. I used to find it interesting to see you get trolled. Now, it’s just pity for you, especially at your age, but I hope you move on and improve yourself.

    Some may say that an adult’s lack of proper anger-management skills in interpersonal dealings with people who don’t kiss up to them are a sign that the person is likely to be poorly tuned to being a proper custodial caretaker, temporary or otherwise, of young children, no less so as young children are emotionally immature and still developing skills required to control their emotions when things don’t go their way. How many flights have you taken where you were the only caretaker of a lap-child? I can only hope it’s not been too many, if any, given what I’ve seen over the years. Not everyone is cut out to being able to do it, do it well, and do it a lot.

    Behaving like a baby to seek more attention at your age is not the sign of being a normal man. Grow up and move on. You may feel more liberated when you stop obsessing about people whom you can’t master.

    Best wishes, from your well-wisher.

  12. @GUWonder : You mentioned ticketing at the airport : how does that work, exactly? Are you going to the airport in advance of the flying date and going to a ticketing desk there, or are you doing it the day-of at check-in? If the latter, how do you manage the risk of the ticketing not working?

  13. Day of, day before, or even days, weeks or months earlier.

    At-airport ticketing has always worked for us as long as ticketing counter was available and there was enough time to get the ticket issued before ticketing or check-in cut-offs hit. There have been some close calls on the day of, but the biggest lap infant ticketing mess ups for us have all been when the lap child tickets were supposedly issued well in advance of day of travel and those were done online or over the phone.

    I would suggest doing the lap-child tickets days before or even way earlier, but not everyone always has the luxury of only having trips with lots of long term advance notice and planning.

    The lowest risk of a major mess up on lap child tickets is to use major OTAs for regular paid adult tickets and choose to book a lap child ticket at the same exact time as booking a regular paid ticket for the accompanying adult. But I have seen even some of those come with some problems or other potentially concerning close encounters at check-in counters even on single-carrier itineraries where I would have previously not expected there to be any problems.

  14. So I booked a American business award ticket MEL–>SIN on Qantas and also needed to add an infant lap ticket.

    I got in touch with Qantas (via their new SMS contact method) and they told me that I need to pay 10% of the business fare not just the infant taxes.

    When you spoke to Qantas did they ever try and charge you 10% of the ticket? Or did they say straight away Qantas doesn’t charge an infant fare

    Thanks for your help

  15. If I use QF or CX miles to book a flight on BA for a EU-USA flight, which program should I call/use to add lap infant? BA? or the booking one of QF or CX? WHich would cost the least in terms of miles and cash?

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