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!
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:
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.
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.