Our daughter, Olive, is coming up on nearly a year with us now, and despite spending far more time at home than usual, we managed to get away for some low key, socially distanced travels with her twice this year.
Despite literally thousands of bookings for myself through the years, these were the first with adding an infant to the reservation, and I’ve learned much, much of which is more useful than usual, given the constantly changing restrictions and amendments to plans.
I’ve Stopped Adding An Infant Right Away
I’ve made bookings with Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance adding an infant, and in just about every case, there’s been a frustration with adding an infant and needing to make any changes whatsoever.
When a flight is inevitably changed or cancelled, many airlines have online processes you can follow to change your booking online, but in most of those cases, not if you have an infant on the booking. If you’ve managed to do so easily, congrats, but it’s not been my experience at all.
Instead, I’ve learned that adding an infant is an incredibly easy thing to do.
For domestic trips in the USA, adding na infant has been as easy as sending a singular Twitter message to an airline. For international trips from Europe, or Asia, it’s typically a short phone call, but Twitter or WhatsApp in some cases can get it done too. I added Olive to an American Airlines flight from JFK-LAX in all of 15 seconds on Twitter, with no fees to pay.
One caveat to be aware of, is that some airlines charge 10% of the fare for an infant, and sometimes they base that on the current fare, rather than what you paid. This is mostly just for international flights.
If you’re flying an airline or journey where this is the case, it’s worth the extra hassle of phoning in to make changes down the line, since it could be the difference in $50, or $500, depending on ticket price in a sale when you book.
Adding Olive to an international flight from London to Santorini required 10% of the fare, but I was able to do this on the phone. I would’ve saved marginal money if I’d added her at the time of booking, when fares were lower. Either way, infants can be added close in, so don’t fret, just don’t cut it too close.
You Might Need Extra Miles
For a future trip to Tokyo on ANA with adults booked with Virgin Miles, Virgin charges 2,000 points for an infant under 2 years of age in economy, 10,000 points for business and 14,000 for first class – all prices round trip. It’s good to know, since that’s the most effective way to add an infant, and if you’ve spent all your points, well…. yeah.
The main point is that knowing what you’re in for before you book anyone’s – even the adult ticket matters – and the more likely plans are to change, the less inclined I am to add my infant right away. If you disagree, that’s cool. I’ve found it extremely easy to add an infant later, with easier moves to make changes in the interim.
If my plans weren’t bound to change, I could easily add the infant at booking and save myself future effort to add down the line and in the future I may, but what plans aren’t subject to change right now? I’ve much preferred being able to use online features and change, or refund tickets with ease, and then add an infant a couple weeks out once plans solidify.
Takeaways For Infant Travel
Part of me wishes there was just one uniform charge agreed by all airlines, regardless of where you were flying, like $20 per round trip. But then again, that’d be $20 more than US airlines charge for domestic trips, so maybe not.
Though infants joining on a trip are for more inexpensive than tickets for children 2+, some journeys can still be a couple hundred bucks, or a few thousand miles.
Until that day, it’s best to dive into each airline policy, and see what you’re facing first. If it’s a set miles cost, or no fee at all, I’ve found waiting on booking infants to be a bit easier, particularly via Twitter, Text, Messenger or WhatsApp. It’s just nicer to make any changes on the fly, without the errors that pop up from infant tickets.
Our mega post with 25 things to know before your first flight with a baby includes the individual policies of many airlines, and also a lot of other things you might want to know, like the fact that many US airlines don’t actually provide any harnesses or separate oxygen for infants, whereas most of the world does!