The Basics

The Most Expensive, Difficult Passenger for Award Tickets

first class cheaper
Written by Charlie

Find out how difficult and expensive it can be to add a passenger to an award ticket – when the passenger does not even use a seat!

Like all of you, I love airline miles and points.  They have enabled me to visit some truly spectacular places and to do so in some of the world’s best airline cabins.

The Most Expensive, Difficult Passenger for Award Tickets

The lure of airline miles is being able to travel for less (often much less) than with paid travel and also to do this travel in premium cabins. We know there is some money that must be paid for international award reservations but it is almost always under $600 with most airlines – unless you are flying through London in a premium cabin!

But, there is one kind of passenger that can be the most expensive on award tickets – and because of that, end up being the most difficult passenger for award tickets.

Background for Award Ticket

Let me give some quick background of how I got stuck with this problem. I told my wife I thought it was a good time in the next couple of months to take a little vacation and visit her family. She is not a big fan of flying so I had some great ideas of how I would fly her from Greece to the US. I have a lot of AA upgrade certificates yet (but no availability to be found anywhere) and also a fair amount of AA miles so I had some interesting ideas.

The Best Plan

The first plan was to have her fly from Greece to New York on Etihad in their magnificent First Apartment. Yes, the cost of that had gone up (115,000 AA miles one way from Abu Dhabi) but I really wanted my wife to be able to try that out (I have already flown in a couple of times). I had a couple of options to get her to Abu Dhabi, but the focus was the First Apartment. Miles to  be used – 115,000 AA miles.

For the return, I was going to book her again from New York to Frankfurt aboard Singapore Airlines A380 in First Class. She had flown it before and loved it so I thought that would be a great way to go again. The taxes from the US on that leg are around $200 and it would require 57,500 Singapore Krisflyer miles (transferrable from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG Starpoints). Miles to be used – 57,500 miles.

That would be an awesome itinerary and let her completely relax on this vacation from the get-go. But, then something happened…

Bringing the Under-2 Year Old Passenger!

Our youngest child will be 2 in a few months and my wife’s family has not seen him in about a year. So, my wife thought she would take him with her (also, that made things a little lot easier for me!). If my wife were flying economy, we would have bought him a second seat but since she would have flown in first class, there was plenty of space without having to do that.

When a lap infant flies in the US, the child just needs to be added to the reservation and there is no fee. If you plan on taking the little one on your lap on an international trip, there is a fee. Typically, it is 10% of the fare plus taxes/fees. This even applies for award tickets (though British Airways will let you use points to pay – 10% of the points used on the adult’s ticket). In coach, that is normally a very little amount. In business/first class, that cost can go up very high!

Huge Costs for Lap Infant!

I knew it would cost at least a couple hundred extra to add him but went ahead and checked revenue prices to see. It was quite staggering! Basically, this great itinerary I had for my wife would cost an extra $1,400 to have my son occupy – not a seat – but my wife’s lap! Yes, it is kind of ridiculous. I mean, this little one does not eat much in food, will not be taking a seat and really not be using resources of any kind on the plane yet the fees are there!

award passenger

The cost to bring a lap infant in business class can be high!

That was not going to work, so I began to try other scenarios. Thanks to AA’s terrible award availability in business/first, it would most certainly require transiting London which adds hundreds to my wife’s ticket. Another thing to consider is that one way business class tickets to/from Europe typically can cost much more than a roundtrip ticket so the infant’s ticket goes way up as well.

For an example, I tried using United miles on Turkish Airlines. For a one way ticket, United was charging $900 for the lap infant! I literally spent hours trying all of my options to figure out what would work and nothing was providing a good option. We were close to just getting two economy tickets but that ruined my nice plan for my wife from the beginning (though she was ok with it).

The Difficult Part

The difficult part? Every airline handles this differently. United is the easiest, letting you book it right online (but they completely mess up when it comes to ticketing the infant on partners). Other airlines require you to call and have it checked by the rate department. This can vary by phone call depending on what the agent is looking for! While I am not sure if this is still the case, Delta used to require a paper ticket for the infant so you had to go to the airport to pick up the ticket!

Final Solution

So, for now, I found a route that will work and I booked it with my AA miles. Yes, it goes through London but the infant’s ticket was a low (in comparison) $300 for the roundtrip ticket. My plan now is to sit on this one and hope some good availability opens up from Munich, Frankfurt, or Paris as time gets closer. For now, I can just shake my head at the ridiculous cost of bringing an infant on your lap in business or first class – even on an award ticket!

Optimally, I am just waiting for my Membership Reward points to post and then I will be booking with Aeroplan for the best price – $100 CAD for the infant! But, they may not post in time so it is nice to at least have the AA ticket there!

Need to Book for a Lap Infant?

If you need to book an award ticket and have a lap infant, the best airlines to do that with are British Airways who let you use 10% of the Avios for the lap infant and Aeroplan which charges a flat rate in cash or miles for the lap infant.

For the record, I knew these costs could be high before – still just surprising.

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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.

5 Comments

  • I got in on the RGN first class mistake fare a few years ago. On the date I needed to fly, there was only availability for my wife and I. I ended up paying roughly $1500 for the one way lap infant in Singapore suites

  • I’m experiencing this ‘fun’ as we speak. Booked AA pre-deval First class award to Asia, flying FC to Asia, and Business return. Since it’s a roundtrip (and not two one-ways), the fees came to ‘only’ $800.
    The issue is that every time I change my flights (which is allowed by AA’s award rules as long as outbound/return cities stay the same), the infant ticket gets ‘repriced.’ Last time I tried to change to an earlier flight, the add-collect was over $400 – crazy!

  • If you were taking Turkish, 100 CAD for Aeroplan infant ticket isn’t bad.

    Etihad charges 20 percent for infant fares in business and first.

    What did you end up booking? Or is that forever a secret?

    • Actually, this post messed up and posted a week earlier than it was supposed to! 🙂 I am still in limbo waiting to see if my MR points post in time. If they do, I will be booking on Aeroplan for Turkish which will be fantastic! It will only cost about $150 USD for the award ticket taxes and the infant so I will be all over that.
      If not, I will keep the AA ticket for BA travel and then book AA awards within the week of the trip (they are opening up a few seats the week of – I don’t know if AA thinks they offer Cathay quality or what!). I will update when I finally book the end product. 🙂

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