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.
- I was told no dice because I had two one way tickets.
- I was told by another agent Qantas had to do it because they want the fare for themselves
- 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!
[…] I’ve used my American Airlines AAdvantage® miles to book Qantas first class several times, because it’s the most comfortable (commercial) way to fly between the U.S. and Australia and because I have family that lives outside of Sydney. Thanks to these miles I’ve been able to stay in touch with my aunt, uncle and cousins better. I’ve visited for weddings and other major family events, and I’ve even enjoyed the long trip there and back (and back in March I even enjoyed it while traveling with my then-5 month old daughter). […]