Do Babies Fly Free? What You Need To Know When Flying With An Infant
Flying with an infant is no small task. There’s a lot of stuff to bring with you. Add to that hassle the fact that not every airline has the same policy, and it becomes more confusing. Traveling internationally? Change the rules again. Let’s cut through the clutter and understand how it works on domestic and international flights, purchased and award tickets. Do babies fly free? Sometimes.
One of our readers asked us last week for information about traveling with a lap infant. Each airline sets its own policies when it comes to adding a baby onto award tickets. Here’s what you need to know.
Flying With An Infant Domestically
This is pretty straightforward. Do babies fly free? Yup. Is it as simple as I just made it out to be? Not always. It depends on how you booked the ticket.
If you used Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, for example, to book a domestic flight on United within the U.S., United allows your lap infant to fly free. However, Turkish Airlines has no way to add that infant to your ticket for free, and United won’t alter your ticket (they didn’t issue it). You’ll likely need to just show up at the airport and add your lap infant during check-in. Plan for extra time when you booked an award ticket via a partner airline.
Here are the relevant details you need for flying domestically with a lap infant:
- Cost: free
- Age limit: under 2 years
- Documents required: proof of identification and relationship to adult traveler
- Ticket needed: yes, and it should say “lap ticket” so mobile boarding passes often don’t work for this
- Included in domestic policy: 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, & Virgin Islands
- Not included: Guam, American Samoa, & Northern Mariana Islands
Flying With An Infant Internationally
This is where it gets trickier. Do babies fly free? Not a chance. You will have to pay when flying with a lap infant, and how much you’ll pay varies greatly. Some airlines charge a flat fee. Others charge a percentage of the adult ticket. Some will even let you pay in miles. Here’s how the various carriers stack up and the info you need to know.
Firstly, you need to know that the airline you booked through is what matters. If you booked an international ticket flying on Delta but you used Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book the ticket, the Virgin Atlantic policy on lap infants is what you’ll follow. The ticketing carrier, not the airline you’re flying on, determines how much you’ll pay. Obviously, you want to book through a carrier that will charge you low award booking fees + a low lap infant fee.
Air Canada / Aeroplan
Aeroplan charges different fees depending on what cabin you’re flying in. Whether you’re on an award ticket or cash fare, the policies are the same. They give you the option of paying in cash or miles, as well.
- Economy: $50 or 5,000 miles
- Premium economy: $75 or 7,500 miles
- Business class: $100 or 10,000 miles
- First class: $125 or 12,500 miles
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Regardless of which cabin you’re flying in, the lap infant cost is 10% of the adult fare plus taxes & fees. This applies only to flights on Air France / KLM. They will not issue lap infant tickets on partner flights. If you’re flying on other airlines after a layover, the tickets must be booked separately. Again, do not book tickets through Air France / KLM that involve other airlines when traveling internationally with a lap infant.
Alaska Airlines not only has one of the easiest elite statuses to earn, their infant lap fees are also really friendly. When flying on Alaska Airlines’ own flights, you’ll pay only the taxes and fees to add a lap infant to your ticket.
The problem becomes flying with a partner airline. You CAN’T add a lap infant to partner travel booked via Alaska Airlines. You can try your luck calling the operating airline (the airline you’re flying on) to see if they’ll add your lap infant, but there’s no guarantee. Because they didn’t issue the ticket, most airlines won’t make these changes for you. You can try booking part of your group via Alaska and the last person via another program to get around this. Nick at Frequent Miler had an interesting experience with this.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
ANA will charge you 10% of the adult fare + taxes and fees. If you booked an award ticket with miles, you will pay 10% of the miles you used. Given that premium cabin international flights can be really expensive, 10% of your miles is probably a better deal. Giving 10,000 miles instead of hundreds of dollars is better for most people.
American Airlines’ AAdvantage program will charge you 10% of the adult fare + taxes and fees. Whether you booked with miles or cash, they will charge you according to the cash fare. Make sure you know what the cash fare is before calling, so you know if they’re charging you the right price.
Like many others, Asiana will charge you 10% of the adult fare + taxes and fees. Whether you booked with miles or cash, they will charge you according to the cash fare of the adult ticket.
As with others, British Airways’ Flying Club will charge you 10% of the adult fare + taxes and fees. You can pay in miles if you booked an award ticket using miles. This applies to all tickets issued by BA, whether flying their metal or partner flights.
Cathay Pacific / Asia Miles
Think long and hard on this one before booking. If you’re flying Cathay Pacific, they have separate pricing depending on whether or not your flight goes to/from the U.S.
- Flights to/from U.S.: 25% of the adult ticket + taxes and fees
- Flights outside the U.S.: 10% of the adult ticket + taxes and fees
25% of an international adult ticket is expensive for a child to ride on your lap. If you’re flying in business class or first class, hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lap infant fees is ridiculous. Look for a better option if possible.
Delta Air Lines
Delta’s SkyMiles program is another that charges 10% of the adult fare + taxes and fees. You can pay in miles if you booked an award ticket using miles. This applies to all tickets issued by Delta, whether flying their metal or partner flights.
Emirates has separate policies depending on what cabin you’re flying in. Interestingly, they allow for paying in miles on economy tickets but not on premium cabin tickets–even if you booked using miles. Take that into consideration if bringing a baby on your Emirates flight.
- Economy: 10% of adult cash or mileage + taxes and fees
- Business/first class: 10% of adult cash price + taxes and fees
Etihad charges 10% of the adult fare + taxes and fees. They do not distinguish between cabins or partners in their policy.
Hawaiian also charges 10% of the adult fare plus taxes and fees. This applies regardless of operating airline and regardless of class of travel.
Spain’s Iberia charges 10% of the adult fare plus taxes and fees. This applies regardless of operating airline and regardless of class of travel.
Japan Airlines (JAL)
JAL charges 10% of the adult fare plus taxes and fees. The policy applies uniformly, regardless of operating carrier or class of travel.
International flights with JetBlue have the friendliest lap infant fees around. You’ll pay only the taxes from the adult fare. Given their routes, you’ll pay less than $20 when flying with an infant on JetBlue.
Korean Air is another program that charges 10% of the adult fare plus taxes and fees. The policy applies regardless of operating carrier or class of travel.
Lufthansa Miles & More
Like JetBlue, Lufthansa charges only the taxes and fees from the adult ticket. Given that they charge hefty fees on award tickets, balance that against the money you’ll save on lap infant fees when booking through Lufthansa.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Singapore Airlines also charges 10% of the adult fare plus taxes and fees. The policy applies regardless of operating carrier or class of travel.
If flying internationally with Southwest, they do 2 things that you’ll love. First, they charge only the taxes and fees from the ticket. There are no extra costs. Second, the taxes and fees from the domestic legs don’t count. If you have a domestic flight that connects to an international flight, you’ll only pay the taxes from the international segment. That’s it.
United Airlines has separate policies for flights to Canada and flights to any other country. If flying to Canada, you’ll pay only the taxes & fees. If flying to any other country, you’ll pay 10% of the adult fare + taxes & fees.
Virgin Atlantic does 2 things differently from other carriers. First, they charge based on the cabin you’re traveling in. Second, they charge per segment. If you’re booking segments separately, this will add up.
- Economy: 1,000 miles + taxes & fees
- Premium economy: 2,000 miles + taxes & fees
- Upper Class / business: 5,000 miles + taxes & fees
- First class:7,000 miles + taxes & fees
Other Things To Know When Traveling With A Lap Infant
I mentioned looking at airline fees when deciding how to book your ticket. It can be beneficial to do the math between which program will require the least miles for your award ticket and which program will charge you the most the baby sitting on your lap. The best deal, if traveling with others, might be booking yourself via one airline and the rest of your group via a different program. Due to partnerships, you can all fly together on the same flight while doing what’s best for your wallet.
It’s also important to know what math the airline will do before calling to add a lap infant to your ticket. Why? So you don’t get overcharged. Know the airline policy and then know how they’ll calculate it. If they’re charging 10% of the cash fare on your ticket, look up the price of your ticket before calling. Sites like ITA Matrix can help. There’s even an option for lap infant fees, so you know what the right price is. Next to the number of “adults” click on “children” and you’ll see this option.
We wanted to know “Do babies fly free?” and the answer to that was “only domestically”. For international flights, policies vary wildly. The best bet is to leverage partners in a way that uses the least amount of miles while paying the friendliest lap infant fee.
Remember that the airline issuing your ticket–not the airline you’re flying on–sets the rules. The one exception to this is Alaska, which seems unable to add lap infants to flights on partners. You can try your luck booking via Alaska and then calling the operating airline to add a lap infant. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee whether this will work.
If you’re traveling with a lap infant, it’s pretty simple domestically. Show up, pay nothing, get on the flight after showing the required documents. Internationally, you need to add the child to your ticket in advance. Each airline has documentation requirements for check-in, and that will be determined by the airline you’re flying on. Their baggage policies (for things like strollers) are also the ones you’ll follow. Cost of the lap infant comes from the airline you booked your flight with. Bringing the infant and all of your baby-related stuff onto the plane is governed by the airline you’re flying with.