Travel can be expensive for one, right? So, when you start adding two, three, four and onward to the booking flow, the simple joy of multiplying can become less joyful.

For smart travel companies though, the pain points of family travel are a commercial opportunity to win business over others. If one company has a kid friendly policy and another does not, it’s not too hard to narrow the list down.

In that regard, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offer one of the most generous policies of any airline, which potentially saves thousands for trips with young children.

That policy? If a child flies out as an infant, but becomes a “child” over the age of 2 during the trip, they won’t charge extra fo the return flight. They get their own seat on the way back for no additional charge. I recently took advantage of this to the tune of thousands.

One Last Hurrah

Our daughter, Olive, turns 2 at the end of January (time flies!).

Palm Springs has become an annual pilgrimage for us from London (weather, ugh!) during the winter, and we wanted to get in one last trip before Olive turns 2, and needs to start paying full freight (in points, or cash) for seats.

Well, I’ll still pay for the seats, she won’t, but you get the idea.

Anyway, a variety of factors meant it would become necessary to leave at the end of January for our one month trip, so I saw this as an opportunity to enjoy one last travel savings.

If I could find flights with Virgin or BA, Olive would fly for just 10% of the fare, instead of 100% of the fare that other airlines charge.

Many airlines offer modest discounts for kids aged 2-11, but for business class flights it’s like $1750 instead of $2000, rather than $200 rather than $2,000 that infants under the age of 2 enjoy.

Anyway, I made it work and we leave a week before Olive’s 2nd birthday, which allows her to fly with us in any cabin for just 10% of the fare in points or cash. I booked cash tickets in premium and upgraded to business class using miles, and thanks to this kid friendly policy, Olive was barely noticeable in the line items on price.

With virtually every other airline, even if the infant is under 2 at the time of departure, but turns 2 before return, a children’s ticket is required for the whole journey. On this journey, that would’ve added about $1500 to the expenses — which is significant.

Naughty, Or Nice?

In a world with hundreds of airlines, and at least 20 decent candidates for any trip, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic narrowed the list down to two, thanks to this policy.

It saved me more than $1,000, which I’m always grateful for, but did I take advantage of a somewhat “loophole” element, or did I just use this as the airlines would’ve hoped, as a way to encourage bookings. I think there’s different ways of looking at this.

In my opinion, this is a discretionary leisure trip, with no necessity. Because of this, you could call this incremental business earned, rather than a missed opportunity to earn more from me.

Had it not been for this policy, there’s no guarantee I would’ve booked with Virgin or BA. I would’ve had a much wider “net” of airlines to sift through based on the schedule, price, seats and other factors.

At the same time, I totally aimed our trip to line up with dates that would fall into this transitional period, rather than later where the offer would no longer apply, so that I could take advantage for one last hurrah, with a 2X in the price, rather than 3X.

So, did I use this policy well, or abuse it? Either way, it’s a nice nugget for parents with young children to be mindful of, in case there are any discretionary leisure trips in the next year!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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38 Comments

    1. Completely agree. The fact that anyone reads an irrelevant story, doesn’t make the story any relevant

  1. No abuse at all. This is their policy, you knew about it and used it to your advantage.

    Well done

  2. You actually undercooked this – the BA policy is if they turn 2 during the trip.. – in 2017 we did LHR-SIN(overnight)-SYD & SYD-SIN-LHR. Our daughter turned 2 in SIN so we has 4 business class legs… I was trying to make it ARN-LHR-SYD so all the long hauls were “free” for her, but it didn’t work with my 2for1/Avios etc.. .its one of the last remaining “once in a lifetime” things that makes me want to have a 2nd child 🙂

  3. Used it well. It’s their policy after all. Interested in your view on new Hilton promo. No double points just a one of 2500 bonus irrespective of nights. Staying 2/3 nights as we often do we will be out of pocket. Your article a while ago saying hotels were more focused on franchises than gUests coming true?

  4. Are you sure you were able to board after she turns two? If so, you are the lucky ones, I recently flew back to London from the US on BA and bought one-way tickets for 2 adults and 1 infant to avoid getting charged 3 full-fares… If you have a section on their site that says otherwise, that would be great! My sister was charged a full fare on the return for her kid when they turned two mid-journey on BA. Virgin advised us the same… that on the return there will be an increase in fare.

    1. The child needs to turn 2 “during the trip” – 2 x one-way tickets wont work, each is a separate trip, therefore the child didnt turn 2 during the trip.

      https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/family-travel/tickets-and-travel-documents
      “If you’re travelling with an infant who reaches the age of 2 during their journey, your child will need their own seat for any flights on and after their 2nd birthday. We won’t charge you extra for this; you’ll only pay the infant fare for the entire journey.”

      1. Thanks for sharing the URL! Definitely different from what we are told and glad I now know.

        To clarify on the comments, we purchased one-way fares to have the infant added (pay tax) and now turning two, we`ll have to buy a one-way ticket as a child – I know it’s silly and will cost more, but we went by the incorrect guidance. This article definitely helps, while we didn’t leverage this benefit for the first one, we`ll leverage for the second.

  5. I don’t see a hint of impropriety here, what’s the argument that you abused the policy?

    You did miss an opportunity, however. If you’d booked the trip LHR PSP for this winter before Olive turned two but the return next winter at end-of-schedule and then nested a PSPLHR trip inside it, with the first (PSP->LHR) leg also before she turned two, you would have gotten two roundtrips at 10% of the adult fare including one when she was a month or so shy of three years old. You would have had to move this year’s trip a few weeks earlier.

  6. I mean it’s fine; I’m not sure anyone really cares if it’s improper or not because it’s such a marginal edge case. But would you have felt that you achieved less had you taken the the trip a couple weeks earlier and not been able to take advantage of the “loophole”?

  7. Many years ago, my oldest turned 2 on a domestic trip on United. We paid for the ticket on the return. As we were ready to leave, we noticed the flight attendants counting passengers multiple times. Finally, they asked us if our son was on a paid ticket, and we said yes, and they said, he could have passed. Of course, there was no passport involved. On another flight, I think with my daughter, we had to verbally fight with the flight attendants to get a meal for her because they didn’t think she was a paid seat, and kids under 2 wouldn’t get a meal.

  8. We had a similar tripped planned, we were flying out with our twins in BA 1st, who would celebrate their second birthday in Wales. Unfortunately, that was the summer of 2020, so we ended-up cancelling.

  9. The headline vs the actual story reminds me of Christmas Story when Ralphie decodes the secret radio message “be sure to drink your Ovaltine” – “a crummy commercial” he says, let down by the bait.

      1. So through this loophole, the net result was that a child flew home for the same price as she would have had she been two weeks younger.

        Score. I guess.

        1. Well yes, it is a score, because earlier was not possible and this saved $1500. I value $1500, should buy a few dinners in LA, and so therefore it’s a win.

  10. The kid’s ticket will also earn frequent flyer miles on programmes which do not have a minimum age member restriction.

  11. Absolute best use would have been to book there before 2Nd birthday with an 11 month return and the. A separate ticket for the next year returning just before the child’s second birthday and returning 10 months out (the departing flight on the next years trip).

  12. Who cares. I read the first couple of sentences and realized that this would be a waster of my time to read.

    1. But then you went all the way down to the comments section to write this, which then wasted minutes of your life. Hope it was worth it!

  13. We are on the same situation for this summer. Can I book directly on BA website as an infant for both flights even if at the returning flight my daugther woud be 2, or we have to contact them to process this request? Thanks!

    1. Hey! It’s a contact center booking. Their IT will stop the booking from going through online, based on the birthday. It’s an easy call though and agent was very friendly and knowledgeable about it.

      1. BA charge 10% of the adult booking for infants under 2 years. Does that apply for business class tickets booked under reward flights? And is it 10% of taxes or full tax?

  14. Used it well. On this topic, have you flown club suite with yoru infant?
    I have an upcoming booking with my 4 month old LHR-JFK. I booked the basinette seat at the front but I can’t see anywhere how this looks (I know how the old club world seat worked at the back of the cabin). Doe the seat fit up in front of the suite? Any info welcome

    Thanks

    1. Hey, I have, but we didn’t use a bassinet. We typically just keep on lap the whole flight strapped in. A great experience and seat to do that though.

  15. Thinking of doing the same before my daughter turns 2 next month. Any other airlines have this same policy apart from BA and Virgin?

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