In this post I wanted to provide a rundown of what you can generally expect when trying to add lap infants to airline award tickets. While I’m a new parent, over the years I’ve helped people book a countless number of award tickets with infants, so I do have some experience with this. I of course still welcome feedback and thoughts from parents, who may have more firsthand experience with actually traveling on these kinds of tickets.
In this post:
Basics of flying with an infant in your lap
Let’s start with the very basics. Generally speaking, airlines will let you travel with an infant in your lap as long as they’re under two years old (meaning under 24 months old, not until their third birthday). Generally speaking:
- The infant won’t cost you anything when traveling domestically
- The infant will cost you 10% of the adult fare when traveling internationally
Let me emphasize that if you travel with an infant in your lap, they won’t be entitled to a seat. In other words, you’re going to be holding them the whole flight, and that might not be fun, especially if they’re not newborns. Some long haul planes have bassinets, but you can’t consistently count on that working out.
Many people prefer to just buy a seat for their infant, both because it’s safer and more comfortable:
- It’s safer because you can put the infant in an approved car seat, so that they’re properly secured
- It’s more comfortable, as you’ll have more room to stretch out, and don’t have to worry about holding the baby the whole flight
- Oh, this is also a great way to get your infant into miles & points, so they can start earning rewards with their own travel 😉
If you do buy a seat for an infant, you can generally expect it will cost the same as an adult fare. So as I talk about airline infant policies below, I’m talking specifically about if you choose to have them travel in your lap.
Infant award tickets usually cost 10% of revenue fare
Want to add an infant in your lap to an award ticket? Generally you can expect that you’ll be on the hook for paying 10% of the revenue fare for the class of service you’re traveling in. There are some airlines and frequent flyer programs that have much better deals policies, which I’ll address below.
10% might not sound like a lot, but it sure can add up, especially if you’re redeeming miles for first & business class. Booking a roundtrip international first class ticket that would cost $20,000? Well, you could be out of pocket $2,000 for the privilege of traveling with your infant.
Adding infants to award tickets can be frustrating
While the cost of adding an infant to an award ticket is one thing, I think it’s also important to note how frustrating the process of adding an infant to an award ticket can be:
- I’d highly recommend adding an infant to an award ticket during the actual ticketing process, rather than after the fact (even though it can be done)
- I’d highly recommend booking through a program that just lets you add infants to award tickets online, rather than having to book by phone
While you absolutely can add infants to award tickets after the initial ticketing, it can be extremely frustrating. Why?
- If you have an award ticket involving travel on a partner airline, you might find that you’re bounced around between the airline you booked through and the airline you’re actually flying with, as to which airline should ticket the infant reservation (it should be the airline you booked with)
- While the general policy is that an infant costs 10% of the revenue fare, you’ll find that pricing can vary significantly; sometimes agents try to charge you 10% of the current lowest fare, sometimes they try to charge you 10% of the full fare ticket cost, etc.
The best frequent flyer programs for infant award travel
The above covers the basic policies you can expect for adding infants as a lap child to an award ticket. As you can see, the general policy is that an infant will cost you 10% of the revenue fare for the cabin you’re traveling in, even if you’re redeeming miles.
The great news is that some frequent flyer programs have especially infant-friendly policies, which could save you a lot of money. So let me share the very best programs for booking infant award travel. I’ll specifically be sharing programs that partner with at least one major transferable points currency in the United States, so that the points are at least somewhat attainable for the average traveler.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada Aeroplan is the best frequent flyer program in the world for adding an infant to an award ticket. You’ll pay just 2,500 Aeroplan points or 25 CAD to add an infant to any award ticket one-way. This includes for travel on all of Aeroplan’s partners (and Aeroplan has more airline partners than any other frequent flyer program).
This is simply an unheard of good deal, and the best part is that you can ticket the infant award online the same time you book the adult’s ticket. For example, take a one-way business class award for travel on Lufthansa from Chicago to Frankfurt. As you can see, the cost to add an infant is just 2,500 points.
Air Canada Aeroplan is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club
While not as good as Air Canada Aeroplan, All Nippon Airways Mileage Club is another Star Alliance program with pretty good infant award policies. For infant lap travel, ANA Mileage Club charges just 10% of the mileage of an adult traveler, plus taxes & fees. ANA has some great sweet spot redemption opportunities, so for some this could be a worthwhile opportunity.
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards.
British Airways Executive Club
British Airways Executive Club is the best oneworld frequent flyer program for adding an infant to an award ticket. You’ll pay just 10% of the cost in Avios for adding an infant, and this applies whether you’re traveling on British Airways or a partner airline. You can add infants to your ticket during the initial booking process.
For example, take a one-way business class award for travel on British Airways from New York to London. As you can see, the cost to add an infant is just 5,000 Avios plus $38.30 in taxes & fees.
British Airways Executive Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Turkish Miles&Smiles is a program with lots of sweet spot redemptions, especially for travel on Turkish Airlines. The program is great for infants as well. For travel on Turkish Airlines, Miles&Smiles charges just 10% of the mileage of an adult traveler, plus taxes & fees. These awards can be booked directly on Turkish Airlines’ website.
For example, take a one-way business class award for travel on Turkish Airlines from Atlanta to Istanbul. As you can see, the cost to add an infant is just 4,500 miles (since the adult award costs 45,000 miles).
Turkish Miles&Smiles is transfer partners with Capital One and Citi ThankYou.
While I wouldn’t consider the policy to be quite as good as that of Air Canada Aeroplan, United MileagePlus still has a good infant award travel policy, especially for first & business class. United charges 10% of the revenue fare for lap infants, but that’s capped at $250 total. This applies both for travel on United and for travel on partner airlines, and these awards can be booked directly on united.com. When you consider that many first & business class tickets regularly cost $5,000+, that represents quite some savings.
For example, take a one-way business class award for travel on United from Boston to London. As you can see, the cost to add an infant is exactly $250, including all taxes & fees.
United MileagePlus is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is another great program for infant award travel. When traveling on Virgin Atlantic flights, you’ll pay the following for adding an infant to an award ticket one-way:
- In economy, you’ll pay 1,000 points, plus taxes & fees
- In premium economy, you’ll pay 2,000 points plus taxes & fees
- In business class, you’ll pay 5,000 points plus taxes & fees
There are also fixed costs to adding infants to partner airline award tickets, with the cost varying anywhere from 1,000 points to 14,000 points one-way, depending on the partner or class of service. In the grand scheme of things, I’d consider that to be reasonable, but it’s not quite as good as some other programs.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.
The worst frequent flyer programs for infant award travel
As you can see, worst case scenario you’ll generally be on the hook for up to 10% of the adult revenue fare when taking a lap infant on an award. Some programs are significantly more generous than that.
Then there’s a program that takes it to the other extreme — Cathay Pacific Asia Miles charges up to 25% of the adult revenue fare to take a lap infant with you on Cathay Pacific flights. That can be really, really expensive, especially in a premium cabin (and I suspect that might be by design).
If you’re traveling internationally with an infant, booking through the right program can save you a ton of money. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect that traveling with an infant in your lap on an award ticket will cost you 10% of the revenue fare for the cabin you’re traveling in.
Fortunately there are some programs that do much better than that. You can’t beat Air Canada Aeroplan, which charges just 2,500 points or 25 CAD to add an infant to your award ticket, regardless of which airline you fly with. Meanwhile programs like British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club have great policies as well.
Booking through the right program can make a huge difference, especially if you’re traveling in international first & business class.
For those of you that have young kids, have award infant fees impacted which airlines you accrue miles with?