The Basics Travel News

United Infant Ticket Problems

Infant Tickets
Written by Charlie

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Our family took a trip last week and we were traveling on miles (of course!) in business class. So, four tickets and one lap child (had considered getting our infant a seat as well but there were no more award seats and the cost of the taxes/infant ticket was only $280. It was a great trip (for the most part) and one that I will have a trip report of soon. It was great to be able to travel all together in Lufthansa business class (although the old product) – the kids loved every bit of it! 🙂

However, the trip was not a total success thanks to United Airlines and their inability to ticket infants correctly. This is not the first time this has happened to us. They did the same exact thing to us twice last year when we traveled. I do not know if this would apply to any of you, but I thought I would put my experiences here and the solution so that you can avoid these problems when you travel!

For international award tickets, airlines operate in different ways for lap children. United Airlines actually has the best online system for ticketing lap children. With Delta, you have to call it in to add the infant to your reservation and then wait for their rates department to give you the amount to be paid. Then you need to go to an actual Delta counter to get the paper ticket. With most of the other airlines (especially international airlines), you will need to call in to get an infant ticket for your reservation.

United Infant Ticket Problems

With United, you just select the infant in arms as one of your passengers when you are making the reservation. Then you select your flights like normal and continue to your reservation page. There, you will see the total that you owe for your ticket in miles, your taxes and fees, and the infant taxes and fees. For infant tickets, you will be paying all the taxes and fees that you pay for a regular award ticket plus 10% of the fare for the cabin you are traveling in. Keep that last part in mind if you plan on traveling in international first class as your infant ticket could be as high as $1,000! Actually, check out the below photo that shows a price that I got when I was constructing an example ticket – they are never this high!

Infant Tickets

 

Infant Tickets

Since when does it cost $3,000 to leave Madrid?!?!

Here is a sample itinerary that is more in line with what the cost for an infant ticket would be with the infant fare and taxes:

Infant Tickets

Infant Tickets

So, while it will cost you a bit to take your infant along, it will not cost you the same amount of miles as it will for your ticket! Not only that, but it may not even be possible to find a ticket for your infant if you are traveling in a larger group (such as with my family).

Pretty straightforward, right? United makes it appear so easy that you think you are ready to go! In my case for our reservation, I actually had to wait three weeks for the rate department to call me back because the last leg of the flight kept saying the seats had just sold out whenever I added the infant to the reservation. So, they finally ticketed it and sent me the ticket number for my infant. Important: Keep that ticket number handy! That is your proof that you have ticketed the infant should a partner airline not see the infant on the reservation!

My Infant Ticket Problems Begin

Our ticket was a little complicated – we used United miles to book a ticket that started with US Airways, then Lufthansa, then Aegean. So we were dealing with 4 separate airlines as a part of our reservation! When I went to check-in, it would not allow saying that our tickets were “out of sync” – it told us to call US Airways to get it sorted out. When I called them, they said that United Airlines had never put the secure flight data in the infant ticket information. I called United and spent 1 hour on the phone with them to try and get them to add it. They kept having problems doing this (something which should have been done a long time ago by them) so it took quite a while.

They finally got it done so I went back in and checked-in. When we got to the airport in Rochester the next morning, US Airways told me they could not print out tickets for the infant on Lufthansa because it appeared that the infant was not on Lufthansa’s reservation – ahhhh! Fortunately, we had enough of a layover (6 hours) so that I had some time to take care of that in Philadelphia. Well, it took them over an hour to get it done and they had to reissue a new ticket number for our infant. While the manager was taking care of it, the other representative was mentioning that they see this problem with infants all the time on tickets issued by United. When it finally got done, Lufthansa told me they were unable to check me in for my last leg on Aegean Airlines and that I would have to take care of that in Stuttgart. We only had a little over an hour layover there so I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out.

We got to Stuttgart later the next day and it took us 1 hour there to get the ticket problem sorted out. In fact, the agents were really upset with United for leaving this mess on them. The departure was delayed because of this issue. As irritated as they were, I was even more irritated. I had spent over 3 hours over a day and a half because United did not do their job in the first place. Trust me, I love what I can do and where I can go with United miles! I love how easy their award system is for most reservations. But they have a huge fail when it comes to infant tickets. They really need to step up their game and do what they are supposed to. When I pay for the ticket and am given a ticket number, I am under the impression that everything is done.

The Solution

I could have avoided all of these problems had I done a couple of things. Hopefully these will help you!

1) Call United after you get the ticket number for your infant and check to make sure the secure flight data (sex of the infant and birthdate) is on the reservation

2) Take the reservation number for the partner airlines you may be traveling on and use them to call each airline to see if the infant is listed on their reservation

3) If the infant is not listed, ask them to call United right then while you hold so they can sort it out.

4) Ask the partner airline for the ticket number for the infant (it should be the same as United’s but if they give you a ticket number, that is a good sign that they now have it on the reservation)

Good luck with your travels! It is a great experience to travel with your family on a trip with miles. While it is great, it can be a headache with little ones as well with delays/cancellations/changed seat assignments/etc. Minimize the headache by taking care of these things ahead of time.

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

7 Comments

  • I had the same issue last year when I used united miles to book a flight from Budapest to Slovenia to Dubrovnik to Venice. Almost every leg with the partners took forever to get sorted out. Having the eticket number would have helped in each case they said.

  • I barely made each flight. They called and waited forever on the phone at each check-in. 2 of the 3 flights were direct. I actually filed a complaint (forget the government web site) because they never would give me a receipt for the infant ticket. The first flight from Budapest to Zagreb (We drove to Slovenia from there) was on Qatar airways, I booked it right before they stopped allowing award bookings. They sent someone to escort us through security and held the plane for us.

    Now my daughter is over 2 for this year’s trip so I had to get an actual ticket. First fly to Chicago to joggle (running and juggling) the Chicago marathon and then on to Vienna, Prague and Paris all on award miles. All but 3 nights are hotels points.

    • Sounds like you had a nightmare of transits! That is the part that makes it all the worse – it is already hard doing this travel with an infant/toddler, but to have to throw these wrenches in it is worse. Thanks for sharing your trip part so I know I am not alone! They contacted me and asked me to give details so hopefully I can update with something favorable or they can work harder at issuing infant tickets.
      Your Joggle sounds really cool! How does it work, do you juggle at different points, do it throughout the whole race, what? I cannot imagine how difficult that must be! Awesome trip you have lined up! Do you have any Club Carlson hotels booked? There are quite a few good ones around here and if you have their credit card(s), you get the last night free on any award stay of 2 nights or more. Could help with those 3 nights. Let me know if I can help at all!

  • Here is the email I got from united after filing the complaint. Notice they basically said I don’t get a receipt.

    Dear Mr. XXXX,

    We received notification from the Department of Transportation, that you have filed a formal complaint with regard to the lap child receipt. This matter was sent to my attention, and I take this opportunity to respond to you.

    You will not have a eticket receipt for the lap child, the lap child is listed on your reservation also.

    Thank you for choosing United Airlines.

    Kind regards,
    Ms. T. McGlothen
    Corporate Customer Care Manager

    • My lap child was listed on our eticket receipt for the whole reservation but he also had his own receipt. It shows his ticket number and the breakdown of the taxes and fees. I know I had that last year to which is what saved us both times. They must have made the switch since your trip.

  • I have this problem every time I fly AA. They say my lap infant is on our reservation when we call in advance, but they never have it at the airport. Best case scenario they find us new seats, but usually they say we’ll have to get our seats at the gate because – surprise! – there are no seats. We had confirmed seats before, but somehow can’t keep them with the lap infant despite calling ahead. Then we get bumped from our flight and last time had to wait 24 hours. Nightmare

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